Seeking the Configurations of Digital Ecodynamics: It Takes Three to Tango

Vol. 21, No. 4, December 2010, pp. 835–848 ISSN1047-7047, EISSN1526-5536 10 2104 0835

14 Pages Posted: 20 Dec 2013

See all articles by Omar A. El Sawy

Omar A. El Sawy

University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business

Arvind Malhotra

University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School; University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill - Management-Strategy Area

YoungKi Park

University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business

Paul A. Pavlou

Temple University - Department of Management Information Systems; Temple University - Department of Strategic Management

Date Written: July 1, 2010

Abstract

This paper starts from the premise that the simultaneous increase in environmental turbulence, the requisite speed of organizational change, and the intensified ubiquity of digital technologies are spawning a phenomenon that is messy, complex, and chaotic. Accordingly, we need to change the way we examine how information technology (IT) can help organizations build a strategic advantage in turbulent environments. We propose a more systemic and holistic perspective to theory building and testing in the information system (IS) strategy area and correspondingly appropriate methods that capture the complexity of this phenomenon. We term this phenomenon digital ecodynamics, defined as the holistic confluence among environmental turbulence, dynamic capabilities, and IT systems — and their fused dynamic interactions unfolding as an ecosystem. We believe that a more holistic understanding of digital ecodynamics will fuel the next leap in knowledge in the IS strategy area.

First, extending the strategic management literature that has mainly focused on two-way interactions between environmental turbulence and dynamic capabilities, we foreground IT systems as a third central element. We use a “threesome tango” analogy1 with strong mutual interdependence to accentuate our view of digital ecodynamics — while also stressing the emerging role of IT systems in triggering environmental turbulence and shaping dynamic capabilities to build a strategic advantage. Second, we propose a different paradigmatic lens (configuration theories) as an appropriate inquiring system to better understand the complexity of digital ecodynamics. The paper articulates the key aspects of configuration theories as inquiring systems, compares them with the more common variance theories and process theories, and illustrates the power of recent advances in configurational methods. Third, we create a preliminary roadmap for IS researchers to better examine digital ecodynamics using novel structural properties afforded by configuration theories (i.e., mutual causality, discontinuity, punctuated equilibria, nonlinear change). Fourth, we reflect on the broader opportunities that the configurational perspective of digital ecodynamics can create for IS strategy research. The paper ends by highlighting the double-barreled opportunity that digital ecodynamics renders, both as an energizing vision for IS strategy research and also as a reshaper of strategic management research and practice in a turbulent and digitized world.

Keywords: Digital ecodynamics, information systems strategy, digital disruption, configuration theory, holistic perspective, environmental turbulence, dynamic capabilities, IT systems, ecosystem dynamics

Suggested Citation

El Sawy, Omar A. and Malhotra, Arvind and Park, YoungKi and Pavlou, Paul A., Seeking the Configurations of Digital Ecodynamics: It Takes Three to Tango (July 1, 2010). Vol. 21, No. 4, December 2010, pp. 835–848 ISSN1047-7047, EISSN1526-5536 10 2104 0835. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2369388

Omar A. El Sawy

University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business ( email )

701 Exposition Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States

Arvind Malhotra

University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School ( email )

Chapel Hill, NC
United States

University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill - Management-Strategy Area ( email )

Chapel Hill, NC 27599
United States

YoungKi Park

University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business ( email )

701 Exposition Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States

Paul A. Pavlou (Contact Author)

Temple University - Department of Management Information Systems ( email )

1810 N. 13th Street
Floor 2
Philadelphia, PA 19128
United States

Temple University - Department of Strategic Management ( email )

Fox School of Business and Management
Philadelphia, PA 19122
United States

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