Understanding organisational digital transformation: towards a theory of search
As new forms of digital technologies continue to proliferate, Information Systems (IS) scholars argue that we are witnessing a paradigmatic shift in the nature of technologies and their potential in profoundly changing organisations and ways of working. These technologies and changes have implications across the information technology and marketing functions. Scholars have only thus far developed a rather partial understanding of these technologies and changes, adopting either a single disciplinary lens (IS or Marketing). To throw light on the nature of these transformations, this thesis produces an interdisciplinary study that draws insights from not just IS but also Marketing. The thesis studies the emergence of an exemplary digital organisation which appears to be heralding in a new form of data manipulation. Drawing on qualitative data and through developing a practice-oriented approach, this research shows how: i) the technology is remaking the organisation internally, leading to ii) the development of new roles and expertise outside Information Technology (IT) departments, and iii) recreating the organisations’ relationship with its customers. Whilst existing discussions have primarily looked at the implications of such technologies for organisations and their interactions with customers, they have not studied ‘how’ customers have been made more central within organisations. This study develops the idea of the ‘extended user’ and shows how these users (or data about these customers) are leading to the reconfiguration of work practices. The main contribution of the thesis is to articulate how there is a new ‘search’ logic emerging. This logic contains three elements: (i) the work organisations do to foster and facilitate the ways customers are accessing and searching their offerings (remaking the organisation customer relationship); (ii) how they handle this search processes through building new internal knowledge and expertise (adapting and changing, disrupting routines); (iii) how this new expertise within the organisation is responding to platform developments (elastic reactions to platforms). The more theoretical contribution of this thesis is to extend practice-oriented studies of technology and organisation by proposing a new analytical approach to study the digital transformation of work and organisation. In responding to recent calls (e.g. Orlikowski and Scott 2016) for the development of approaches to understand how “algorithmic phenomena” have the potential to transform how work is done, the thesis proposes a multi-level analysis of the ‘search’ logic mentioned above.