CALL FOR PAPERS
Special Issue of the Journal of International Management
The Impact of Digital Technologies on Firms’ International Strategies
Seung-Hyun Lee (University of Texas at Dallas, USA)
Deadline for submission: January 31, 2021 (submission open from January 1)
Digital technologies and their applications have been dramatically transforming the world economy and global businesses (UNCTAD, 2017). As noted by scholars and business leaders, it seems the shifting forces and forms of globalization, rather than de-globalization alone, that characterizes todays’ international business (McKinsey, 2014; Strange, 2019). Recently, international business (IB) scholars have drawn significant attention to digital-native firms—those born in the contemporary Internet age and offering value propositions based primarily on digital technologies—and their internationalization (Banalieva & Dhanaraj, 2019; Brouthers, Geisser, & Rothlauf, 2016; Chen, Shaheer, Yi, & Li, 2019; Coviello, Kano, & Liesch, 2017; Hennart, 2019; Li, Chen, Yi, Mao, & Liao, 2019; Nambisan, Zahra, & Luo, 2019; Shaheer & Li, 2018).
This special issue is intended to investigate the phenomena and mechanisms regarding how digital technologies influence traditional firms’ international strategies. As digital technologies infiltrate almost every sector (Alcácer, Cantwell, & Piscitello, 2016), traditional firms are facing mounting pressures from digital-native firms which could emanate from anywhere in the world. Rising to the challenge requires, on the part of traditional firms, sometimes painstaking transition to new business logics and value propositions, e.g. the Internet of Things, as well as to digitized business processes, including artificial intelligence (AI), robotic automation, cloud computing, big data analytics and additive manufacturing (Hannibal & Knight, 2018; Strange & Zucchella, 2017). While technology may be necessary to enable digital transformation, it is hardly sufficient without the matching organizational changes (Kapoor & Lee, 2013). But, with challenges also come opportunities. As coordination and communication costs continue to decrease, orchestrating geographically dispersed operations lends rising advantages to digitally empowered multinational enterprises (MNEs), and may consolidate their position as the hub of modern international business (Chen & Kamal, 2016).
By lowering the costs of communication and transactions, digitization opens up new possibilities for traditional firms venturing abroad. With digital infrastructures in place like mobile devices, Wi-Fi networks and online payment systems, search costs and transaction costs between far-flung firms and customers are diminished to the extent that even microenterprises and individual sellers can enjoy the advantages of global span from inception. An explosive myriad of traditional firms, particularly small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), are engaged in international business to serve niche yet global markets without attaining the minimum scale once required. Platform-based marketing channels allow for more substantive and timely interactions between firms and their customers. As a result, traditional firms are required to foster new capabilities more suited to digital strategies. For example, the success of small manufacturers in B2B marketplaces is increasingly a function of their online marketing capability, flexible manufacturing capability and content management capability (Wang & Cavusoglu, 2015).
Deepening digitization is forcing established MNEs across all industries to rethink their operations and organization, and to become more customer-centric. Traditional manufacturing capabilities are recombined with digital components to offer renewed value propositions, often based on sophisticated data analytics. Technologies such as Internet of Things help international coordinators enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of logistics, and precisely track operations and goods transits along the global value chain. Product modularity gives firms the opportunity to coordinate culturally-distant co-specialized partners without investing in relational governance (Lew, Sinkovics, Yamin, & Khan, 2016). Service firms, such as those in the tourism sector, are particularly conditioned by online user-generated reviews and ratings. The ability to design products and business models in ways that harness the power of social media and opinion leadership may be a crucial capability for firms in some traditional industries (Aral & Walker, 2011; Susarla, Oh, & Tan, 2016).
On the other hand, digitization also poses unprecedented challenges to established MNEs in a several aspects. First, some received logics about foreign expansion may no longer be relevant. For example, new manufacturing technologies such as 3D printing may render unnecessary the vertically fragmented, globally dispersed value chain that characterizes modern MNEs (Laplume, Petersen, & Pearce, 2016). As design can be digitally transmitted, intermediate goods may be simply “printed” where they are needed, rather than shipped from one plant to another via international trade. One implication is that location decisions about the final stage production would be driven by proximity to end customers, rather than labor cost. Second, technological architecture and modularity help further reduce vertical and horizontal asset specificity, creating fluid industry boundaries across which start-ups can disrupt traditional sectors and create fast-changing competitive landscapes (Nambisan, 2017). Third, digitization has important implications for the organizing of the MNE. New approaches are required to take advantage of communication technologies for the ease of knowledge transfer within the MNE and beyond. Internal digital platforms and electronic HR management are also reconfiguring the way in which stakeholders, business units, teams and employees of the MNE interact with one another. The extent to which they are implemented in concert with the redesign of organizational procedures determines the ease of knowledge transfer across the MNE network.
Aims and Scope
This special issue is interested in research that examines the digital transformation of traditional firms in the global context. We welcome theoretical papers as well as empirical papers across a variety of methodologies, such as longitudinal case studies, survey, secondary analysis and simulation. We particularly welcome multidisciplinary research that draws on insights from a broad range of disciplines, including strategy, innovation, information systems and marketing. We also encourage submissions that investigate the implications for global businesses of contemporary digital phenomena such as AI, IoT, automation, 3D printing, robotics, big data, blockchain, platform ecosystems, and clout computing. Possible topics and research questions include, but not limited to:
About the Guest Co-Editors
Roger Strange is Professor of International Business in the University of Sussex Business School since September 2009. He was previously Professor of International Business at King’s College London, where he was Head of Department from 1990 to 1995. Roger is a former President of the European International Business Academy (EIBA) and was the UK National Representative on the EIBA Board from 2009 to 2017. He is currently a Visiting Professor at the University of Pavia (Italy). Roger is the Editor-in-Chief (elect) of the International Business Review, a Senior Editor of the Asia Pacific Journal of Management, and on the Editorial Boards of the Global Strategy Journal, the Asia Pacific Business Review, and the Journal of Management & Governance. Roger is the author/editor of twelve books, and over eighty journal articles and book chapters.
Maria Tereza Leme Fleury Full Professor in the area of International Strategy and Director of FGV SP. She was Dean of FGV EAESP - School of Administration of São Paulo at the Getulio Vargas Foundation, during 2008-2015. She is Vice-President and Fellow of the Academy of International Business (AIB). She is a Senior Professor at FEA/USP and former Dean from 1998 to 2006. She was a Visiting Scholar at the IFM (University of Cambridge), Visiting Professor at ESSEC (France) and Visiting Researcher at IDS (University of Sussex) and IDE (Japan). She is a member of board of Instituto de Empresas Madrid, Center for China Latin America Management Studies (Tsinghua University), Columbia Global Center Latin America (Columbia University).
Liang Chen is Senior Lecturer in Management at the Department of Management and Marketing, The University of Melbourne, Australia. He received his Ph.D. from the Centre for International Business at the University of Leeds. His recent research examines distinct phenomena in the digital economy, including design iteration, user-led internationalization, ecosystem complexity, product modularity, among others. Liang’s empirical work on the internationalization of platform businesses is published in JIBS. His paper on ecosystem-specific advantages appears in the JIBS 50th anniversary special issue. Other recent work on digital innovation is forthcoming in SMJ and JOM. Liang is on the Editorial Board and a Best Reviewer for JIBS, and an incoming Senior Editor for the International Business Review.
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