How to develop suppliers within an Extended Enterprise towards a Digital Enterprise
University of Cambridge
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Hacker, P. (2020). How to develop suppliers within an Extended Enterprise towards a Digital Enterprise (Doctoral thesis). https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.58555
Complex supply chains span the world connecting a heterogeneous network of firms. Digitisation offers them the opportunity to improve by leveraging, for example: leaner interfirm workflows, swifter data sharing, smarter analytics and knowledge management, greater automation, and empowered decision-making. However, an onerous organisational development and change programme is required to adopt such innovations and move towards a digital enterprise. Research into organisational change tends to be set within the confines of a single firm. Occasionally, it includes clusters of collaborating firms, but rarely does it cover the whole of an extended enterprise supply network. An exception is the supplier development process; yet, studies into its use for digitisation are very shallow. Moreover, research into the adoption and diffusion of enterprise-wide digital technologies has, to date, mostly had to consider them as piecemeal appendages. Suppliers will have choice and may be supportive, ambivalent, or outright hostile to the extent or pace of digital transformation. They may adopt different strategies in response to the investment, capability development, open access, and other such demands placed upon them by the focal firm. This 3-year longitudinal research programme studies Rolls-Royce and a tiered cross-section of 24 of its suppliers, in the aerospace sector, as they confront and embark upon the journey towards a digital enterprise. Literature is synthesised to create a 9 step process, with 28 implementation guidelines, which is given the descriptive title of supplier development for digital transformation (SD/DT). The SD/DT process begins with a strategic review and ends by embedding practices into routine business. The guidelines are used to initiate action research cycles which coalesce around 21 workshops held at various international locations. A theoretical framework is established using a combination of institutional and organisational learning theories. Close to 100 interviews are conducted with buyers and suppliers. Furthermore, supplier scorecards capture quantitative data on a quarterly basis across the supply base. Data is triangulated between supplier outcomes and their relative absorptive capacity. Digital minimum standards are created which provide a shared vision, common vocabulary, and framework for heterogeneous change management. Two interim waypoints are set on the journey towards a digital enterprise and progress is measured for the 24 suppliers in the cohort. Overall, an encouraging success rate is achieved. Also, the use of supplier scorecards to operationalise and measure relative absorptive capacity shows promise. There are only 3 suppliers for whom the results do not triangulate. Transferability is explored together with recommendations for further work.
Supply Chain, Digital Transformation, Supplier Development, Organisational Change, Knowledge Transfer, Action Research
This research was funded by Rolls-Royce. The thesis has been cleared by Rolls-Royce for release on an open-access basis.
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