Using Alliances to Increase ICT Capabilities

University dissertation from LUSEM

Abstract: Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is perhaps the most important, emblematic and ubiquitous technology of contemporary society. ICT is used increasingly in new product areas and help resolve problems and challenges to mankind; it has even gotten to a point where life without ICT is hard to imagine. Over the last decades ICT has become a core technology within the music, literature and media and many other industries, and reshaped the way we consume these services. For many incumbent firms, the infusion of ICT into their industries poses both threats and opportunities. It might drive significant shifts of financial wealth and make firm performance change drastically. It entails managerial challenges of a kind we might not have seen before, but where knowledge of what possibilities and limitations reside in ICT will be a key success factor. There are several possible ways to approach this challenge from ICT: recruitment, education, training, socialization and M&A are but a few examples. Another way is for the incumbents to team up with ICT firms and seek to learn, or at least access, the knowledge required to utilize the inherent power of ICT. This means that having an alliance, or even an alliance capability that lets you develop an ICT capability will be important. This thesis deals precisely with the challenges that arise when incumbents ally with ICT firms – our case is the security industry, which has had a strong analogue technology base in the past, but where ICT offers opportunity for business development now as well as in the foreseeable future. Based on a theoretical frame of reference, this book then uses empirical observations from four alliances within the evolving, global security industry to validate and develop an alliance framework that can be a great help to both practitioners as well as academia. Even though we suggest to approach the question of alliances with a three-legged model including Transfer Capacity, Relationship Governance and Cultural fit the framework in essence the framework caters for attempts at accessing knowledge and, thanks to the empirical conclusions made, alliances where the main benefit in the end might differ from initial aspirations. It also highlights the sometimes serendipitous and unexpected results of alliances, and that higher aspirations might have to be replaced by more modest ambitions. The fact of the matter is that that sometimes, grand visions of knowledge exchange and accumulation are simply not reachable. In fast-moving industries such as ICT, there might not be time and incentive enough to actually transfer knowledge, but instead ally to access finished products.

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