Disentangling digital transformation : mechanisms of change in institutional logics

Abstract: Digital transformation (DT) is en vogue, but vague: while consultants, policymakers and researchers stress that it is a major challenge to organizations of all kinds and sizes, how DT unfolds, or even what it entails, remains elusive. Previous research on DT frames it as a problem of strategic technology adoption or information technology (IT)-related change associated with business models and processes. While contributions in this vein are informative, they are suspiciously similar to previous studies in the information systems field of the effects of information technology on organizational workings. Further, this focus backgrounds potentially novel issues of institutional and wider societal change, such as the interaction between distinct social spheres and technology implicated in any setting affected by its introduction. Promising emerging research has adopted institutional theory to address these issues, but central questions at the intersection of digital technology and institutional change remain unanswered. In this dissertation, I draw on the theoretical perspective of institutional logics to theorize, explain, and illustrate digital transformation as a phenomenon cutting through diverse analytical levels and societal contexts. To this end, the research question guiding both the dissertation and the empirical studies (presented in four appended papers) that it is based upon has been:How do technology-associated generative mechanisms drive digital transformation in institutions? The research has identified generative mechanisms as non-deterministic forces that shape the outcomes we observe in the world around us. In this dissertation, I address DT of the public sector as an investigative institutional context to answer my research question. This setting has a long and ongoing history of digitalization characterized by shifting and often conflicting institutional demands. The first of the four appended research papers illuminates how research on digital innovation has informed the study of innovation in a problem setting characterized by institutional complexity (the public sector). The second examines how actors under differing institutional pressures and worldviews organize to innovate with digital technology. The third shows how technology-associated generative mechanisms drive DT in the public sector, and the fourth theorizes a novel perspective on digital transformation. Synthesizing and moving beyond the findings of the individual papers, in the dissertation I define the role of generative mechanisms in DT, explain how, when, and why mechanisms come to cause the phenomenon in institutions, and discuss their effects and implications for research and practice.