• Action-Fields-Digital-Transformation-Header
  • Strategic Action Fields of Digital Transformation
    An Exploration of the Strategic Action Fields of Swiss SMEs and Large Enterprises

    Prof. Dr. Marc K. Peter, Corin Kraft and Dr. Johan Lindeque

    School of Business, University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland FHNW, Olten, Switzerland

    Journal of Strategy and Management (2020), Vol. 13, No. 1, pp. 160-180. https://doi.org/10.1108/JSMA-05-2019-0070

  • Abstract
    The purpose of this paper is to capture the collective understanding of digital transformation (DT) across Swiss businesses and establish a reference framework based on the strategic action field (SAF) theory.

    The large sample includes 2,590 participants from 1,854 organisations and delivered over 4,200 descriptions of DT, categorised into seven SAFs. A cross tabulation of SAF combinations by firm size identified 127 possible SAF combinations which constitute the common understanding of DT. The data set allowed the identification of SAFs and the conceptualisation of DT based on a shared understanding.

    Drivers and SAFs of digital transformation are process engineering, new technologies and digital business development, supported by digital leadership and culture, the cloud and data, customer centricity and digital marketing.

    For practitioners, the study provides the SAFs that should be considered for DT strategies. For academic scholars, a unique data set has allowed the study of DT by analysing action field combinations, revealing a nuanced constellation of SAFs. Limitations are the focus on Swiss organisations and a convenience sample for collecting the analysed data.

    With this research, the shared understanding of DT in Swiss businesses – based on SAFs – has allowed for the first time a conceptualisation of DT in order to provide guidance to businesses managers and employees.


    Primary Strategic Action Field Constellation of Digital Transformation
    Figure 1: Primary Strategic Action Field (SAF) constellation and membership of Digital Transformation by firm size (n=2,590) (Peter, Kraft & Lindeque, 2020).

  • Conclusion
    The identification of these SAFs provides an opportunity for organisations to master the various dimensions and topics associated with DT. A distinction can be made between two perspectives, external and internal. The external perspective covers the market and organisational value creation. This includes the action fields of customer centricity, the utilisation of data and the cloud, and identification and implementation of new technologies, linked to digital business development. The internal perspective also includes the use of new technologies, data and the cloud, but emphasises digital leadership and process engineering. Finally, the action field of digital marketing provides the bridge between organisational value creation and the market, providing a feedback loop into the organisation.

    With regard to future research areas, further investigations are necessary in order to identify and describe a possible connection between the relevance of projects surrounding DT, innovation capabilities and the financial success of organisations, in addition to those mentioned beforehand. Finally, further research shall determine to what degree the identified action fields are applied in a holistic strategic initiative as opposed to individual, stand-alone activities in businesses. Overall, strategy and DT go hand-in-hand, as many of the topics covered by DT nowadays seem to be those of modern management topics and strategy.

    Strategic Action Fields of Digital Transformation
    Figure 2: Strategic Action Fields of Digital Transformation (Peter, Kraft & Lindeque, 2020).

  • Authors

    Marc K Peter

    Prof. Dr. Marc K. Peter

    Marc K Peter has research interests in strategy development, digital transformation and digital marketing. Following a career at eBay, E*TRADE and LexisNexis, he is now a Professor of Digital Business and Head of the Competence Centre Digital Transformation at the School of Business at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland FHNW. He studied Electronic Business Engineering at BFH (CH), Corporate Finance at UC Berkeley (USA), obtained his Master of Marketing from the University of Basel (CH), Executive MBA from BFH (CH) and Doctor of Business Administration from Charles Sturt University (AUS).

    Corin Kraft

    Corin Kraft

    Corin Kraft has research interests in digital transformation, in particular the interfaces of digital transformation in society and culture. She is a research associate at the School of Business at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland FHNW. In addition to her research, consulting and teaching activities at the FHNW, she is a PhD candidate at the University of Basel (CH), where she is completing her dissertation on the Internet of Things in contemporary literature. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in German and English studies at the University of Basel (CH).

    Johan Lindeque

    Dr. Johan Lindeque

    Johan Lindeque has research interests in the institutional embeddedness of international businesses, specifically business-government relations. He is a senior research associate at the School of Business at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland FHNW and also affiliated with the University of Amsterdam Business School, where he previously held the position of assistant professor of strategy. His first position was as a Lecturer in International Business at Queen’s University Management School, Belfast (UK). He obtained his Bachelor of Business Administration (BSc (Hons)) and PhD degree from the University of Bath School of Management (UK).

    Corresponding author
    Marc K. Peter can be contacted at: marc.peter@fhnw.ch

    Full reference
    Peter, M., Kraft, C. and Lindeque, J. (2020), “Strategic action fields of digital transformation: An exploration of the strategic action fields of Swiss SMEs and large enterprises”, Journal of Strategy and Management, Vol. 13, No. 1, pp. 160-180. https://doi.org/10.1108/JSMA-05-2019-0070

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