Theoretical Foundations of Digital Strategy

Updated: about 6 hours ago
Deadline: 28 Apr 2023


Theoretical Foundations of Digital Strategy

Professor Kalle Lyytinen (visiting faculty at CBS)

Course coordinator
Professor Michel Avital, Department of Digitalization, CBS.

The week before the class sessions, each participant is expected to introduce themself to the class by posting an up to a two-page profile of the research project they wish to work on during the course. This project profile should include 
(i) a research motivation for the study,
(ii) the anticipated research question,
(iii) an overview of the proposed data collection and analysis methods,
(iv) the insights that are anticipated from the completed study, and
(v) a brief bio. 
Considering the course objectives, class preparation and class participation are essential. In preparation for each session, each student is expected to read at least the required articles and write a one-page summary of at least one of the required readings assigned for the session. Ideally, the summary should be on the reading that has the most relevance to the student's research project. The reading summaries for a given session need to be posted to the designated Discussion section in CANVAS before the start of the session during which the reading in question will be discussed.
The purpose of the reading summaries is to articulate the assigned reading's core arguments and apply them to the student's research project. It should address the following questions:
(i) What is the reading's core argument?
(ii) What questions does this reading raise?
(iii) What does this reading mean for my (i.e., the student's) research project?
During the last class session, students will present the research proposals that they have worked on throughout the course.
This is an opportunity to gather feedback from peers and the instructor. The suggestions and ideas offered during this presentation should be used to improve the students' actual dissertation projects. 

Aims and Objectives 
This doctoral course explores the role that digital materiality and related technologies play in strategy and organizational change research. The course examines how the character of digital objects can and should be theorized as part of developing strategies in the new full-fledged digital environment. The course is designed to familiarize doctoral students in business and management disciplines with current theorizing on strategy at the firm and industry level. Considerable attention will be paid to ontological, epistemological, and theoretical issues related to conceptualizing the relationship between the digital and physical assets and how they relate to firm-level organization, activities, value creation and extraction, and effects of scope and scale. Theories through which strategies are formulated will be discussed covering industrial organization, resource-based view, dynamic capabilities, and emergent ideas related to digital, combinatorial, and complex value generation, platforms, digital reversal, and agility.
In addition to exploring theories that are currently used in research associated with the strategic deployment of technologies, the course also allows students to advance their research projects and clarify how the digital aspect plays a more prominent role in their theorizing. A primary aim of the course is to lay novel theoretical and methodological foundations that assist the participants in developing and writing their theses and conduct research in ways that align with contemporary interests on the role of digital phenomena in theorizing about the foundations of firm and industry level strategies. 

Course content
Structure and Format
The course covers a broad literature on the foundations of strategy in the disciplines of industrial organization, strategy research, technology and innovation management, entrepreneurship, and information systems in order to provide students with a grasp of the primary motivations for and challenges with theorizing foundations of firm-level strategy. Students will have an opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of the conceptual turns associated with strategy research. Participants will also review the main theoretical strands for theorizing strategy and the role of material and organizational elements in enabling and supporting strategy. Subsequently, they should be able to determine how to conceptualize digital phenomena and their properties in the most appropriate way for their research. 
To render the learning in this course as relevant as possible, each participant will be asked to identify an empirical research project—ideally related to their research—for which s/he will develop a proposal that theorizes the digital aspects in a strategic phenomenon of interest. Throughout the class sessions, participants will examine how the arguments, theories and concepts articulated in the readings might advance their research proposal.

Teaching style
The course is designed as a sequence of 6 three-hour meetings spread across three days. Each session covers a theme related to theorizing strategy in organization and information systems research. The meetings are designed in a research seminar format, which includes guided discussions, mini-workshops, and teacher and student presentations. In addition to a critical and appreciative review of existing work, the seminar emphasizes constructive discussion aimed at helping students to design research that builds on and extends the current body of knowledge on the role of digital phenomena in social life.

Lecture plan
Day 1 - 26 April 2023
Time: 09:00 - 16:00
Key ideas and notions of strategy — A  historical review
The evolution and foundations of strategy research
Day 2 - 27 April 2023
Time: 09:00 - 16:00
The development of IT and Business alignment as a strategic framing
Theories of digitalization and properties of objects
Day 3 - 28 April 2023
Time: 09:00 - 16:00

Digital objects as a foundation of digital strategy
Research proposal workshop
See course litterature for further information on the sessions. 

Learning objectives
At the end of the course, students should be able to: 
  • Articulate the benefits of theorizing IT and digital phenomena at firm-level strategies
  • Identify key contributions that IT and digital innovation research has made to strategy research
  • Take a position on disciplinary controversies and debates regarding the nature of digital phenomena
  • Identify and discuss the main theories associated with the foundations of strategy
  • Apply the theories and methods covered in the course in their thesis projects
  • Position their own thesis project vis-à-vis current research on digital phenomena in strategy research


Exam Preparation
To assess each participant's understanding of the topics covered in class, there will be a take-home exam that each student is expected to complete independently, without assistance from anybody. The exam will be posted on CANVAS during the last class session. Student responses are limited to five standard pages of text (and an unlimited number of optional appendices consisting of references, tables, graphs, and diagrams). The exam is due within three weeks of the course's conclusion through the 'Assignments' section in CANVAS. Re-take exam, if necessary, will be administered about a month later. 
A Pass/Fail grade will be based on the timely submission and quality of the oral presentation in the last session and the final exam. A passing grade on all the course assignments (i.e., the project profile and the five reading summaries uploaded to CANVAS) is a prerequisite for taking the exam. 

Instructor Bio 
Kalle Lyytinen (PhD, Computer Science, University of Jyväskylä; Dr. h.c. mult including CBS) is Distinguished University Professor at Case Western Reserve University and a distinguished visiting professor at Aalto University, Finland.
He is among the top five IS scholars in terms of his h-index (96); he has the highest network centrality among the IS scholars, and he is the LEO Award recipient (2013) and the former chair of IFIP WG 8.2 "Information systems and organizations." He has published over 400 refereed articles and edited or written over 30 books or special issues.
He currently conducts research on digital innovation concerning its nature, dynamics and organization, complex design work, requirements in large systems, and emergence and growth of digital infrastructures. Kalle Lyytinen's Google Scholar page: 

Start date

End date




Course Literature

Sessions Plan and Readings

1. Key ideas and notions of strategy—A historical review
This session will focus on the evolution of strategy concepts in organization and information systems
research. Specifically, we will focus on the history of strategy, the significance of coordinating scale and
scope economies, and how firms position themselves in their respective industry by pursuing specific
Required readings
The introductory chapters from each of the following books:
- Chandler, A., Jr. (1977). The visible hand: The managerial revolution in American business. Belknap Press of
Harvard University Press.
- Chandler, A., Jr. (1990). Scale and scope: The dynamics of industrial capitalism. Belknap Press of Harvard
University Press.
- Porter, Michael E. (1980). Competitive Strategy. Free Press. ISBN 0-684-84148-7.
Recommended readings
- Porter, Michael E. (1985). Competitive Advantage. Free Press. ISBN 0-684-84146-0.
- Hambrick, D, (1983). "An empirical typology of mature industrial product environments" Academy of
Management Journal, 26: 213-230.
- Murray, A.I. (1988).
2. The evolution and foundations of strategy research
This session will focus on two dominant theories when theorizing about strategy and its theoretical foundations: Resource-Based View and Dynamic capabilities. We will focus on strategic positioning and the pursuit of competitive advantage.  
Required readings
- Barney, Jay (1991). "Firm Resources and Sustained Competitive Advantage." Journal of Management. 17 (1): 99–120.
- Barney, J.B. (2001). "Is the Resource-Based "View" a Useful Perspective for Strategic Management Research?". Academy of Management Review. 26 (1): 101. doi:10.5465/AMR.2001
- Teece, David J. (2007). "Explicating Dynamic Capabilities: The Nature and Microfoundations of (Sustainable) Enterprise Performance". Strategic Management Journal.
Recommended readings
- Teece, David; Pisano, Gary; Shuen, Amy (1997). "Dynamic Capabilities and Strategic Management." Strategic Management Journal. 18 (7): 509–533.
- Makadok, Richard (2001). "Toward a synthesis of the resource-based and dynamic-capability views of rent creation". Strategic Management Journal. 22 (5): 387–401. doi:10.1002/smj
- Helfat, C. E., and Martin, J. A. (2015). "Dynamic Managerial Capabilities: Review and Assessment of Managerial Impact on Strategic Change," Journal of Management (41:5), Sage Publications Sage CA: Los Angeles, CA, pp. 1281–1312. 4
- Mata, F. J., Fuerst, W. L., and Barney, J. B. (1995). "Information Technology and Sustained Competitive Advantage: A Resource-Based Analysis," MIS Quarterly (19:4), pp. 487–505.  
- Wang, C. L., and Ahmed, P. K. (2007). "Dynamic Capabilities: A Review and Research Agenda," International Journal of Management Reviews (9:1), Wiley Online Library, pp. 31–51.
- Wheeler, Bradley C. (2002). "NEBIC: A Dynamic Capabilities Theory for Assessing Net-Enablement". Information Systems Research. 13 (2): 125–14
- Helfat, Constance E.; Finkelstein, Sydney; Mitchell, Will; Peteraf, Margaret; Singh, Harbir; Teece, David; Winter, Sidney G. (2009). Dynamic Capabilities: Understanding Strategic Change in Organizations 
3. The development of IT and Business alignment as a strategic framing Session Focus
This session introduces the key theories used to make information technology and digital phenomena explicit at a firm-level strategy.  
Required readings
- Wade, M., and Hulland, J. (2004). "The Resource-Based View and Information Systems Research: Review, Extension, and Suggestions for Future Research," MIS Quarterly (28:1), pp. 107–142.
- Piccoli, G., and Ives, B. (2005). "II-Dependent Strategic Initiatives and Sustained Competitive Advantage: A Review and Synthesis of the Literature," MIS Quarterly (29:4), pp. 747–776.
- Drnevich, Paul L. and Croson, David C. (2013). "Information Technology and Business-Level Strategy: Toward an Integrated Theoretical Perspective," MIS Quarterly, (37: 2) pp.483-509.
Recommended readings
- Ives, B., and Learmonth, G. (1984). "The Information System as a Competitive Weapon," Communication of the ACM (27:12), pp. 1193–1201.
- Bharadwaj, A. S. (2000). "A Resource-Based Perspective on Information Technology Capability and Firm Performance: An Empirical Investigation," MIS Quarterly, pp. 169–196.
- Kohli, R., and Grover, V. (2008). "Business Value of IT: An Essay on Expanding Research Directions to Keep up with the Times," Journal of the Association for Information Systems (9:1), p. 1.
- Wessel, L., Baiyere, A., Ologeanu-Taddei, R., Cha, J., and Jensen, T. (2020). "Unpacking the Difference between Digital Transformation and IT-Enabled Organizational Transformation," Journal of Association of Information Systems. 
4. Theories of digitalization and properties of digital objects
This session explores the current notions of digital phenomena and digital objects and how they materialize as physical and social resources.  
Required readings
- Kallinikos, J., Aaltonen, A., and Marton, A. (2013). "The Ambivalent Ontology of Digital Artifacts," MIS Quarterly (37:2), pp. 357–370. (
- Faulkner, P., and Runde, J. (2019). "Theorizing the Digital Object," MIS Quarterly (43:4).
- Yoo, Y., Henfridsson, O., and Lyytinen, K. (2010). "Research Commentary—the New Organizing Logic of Digital Innovation: An Agenda for Information Systems Research," Information Systems Research (21:4), pp. 724–735. 5D S IGITAL
Recommended readings
- Nambisan, S., Lyytinen, K., Majrzchak, A., & Song, M. (2017). Digital innovation management: Reinventing innovation management research in a digital world. MIS Quarterly, 41(1), 223–238.
- Tilson, D., Lyytinen, K., and Sorensen, C. (2010). "Digital Infrastructures: The Missing IS Research Agenda," Information Systems Research (21:4), pp. 748–759.
- Yoo, Y. (2010). "Computing in Everyday Life: A Call for Research on Experiential Computing," MIS Quarterly (34:2), pp. 213–231.
- Hanseth, O., and Lyytinen, K. (2010). "Design Theory for Dynamic Complexity in Information Infrastructures: The Case of Building Internet," Journal of Information Technology (25:1), pp. 1–19. (
- Baskerville, R., Myers, M., & Yoo, Y. (2020). Digital first: The ontological reversal and new challenges for information systems research. MIS Quarterly, 44(2), 509–523.
5. Digital objects as a foundation of Digital Strategy
We will review emerging notions of digital strategy and related analysis of digital objects' capabilities and impact on strategy formation and execution. We will identify the emerging digital strategy theory's core concepts and methodological lenses.
Required readings
- Constantinides, P., Henfridsson, O., & Parker, G. G. (2018). Introduction—platforms and infrastructures in the digital age. Information Systems Research, 29(2), 381–400.
- Baiyere, A., Grover, V., Gupta, A., Woerner, S., and Lyytinen, K. J. (202x). "Digital 'x' – Charting a Path for Digital-Themed Research," Manuscript Under Review.
- Piccoli G, Rodriques J. Grover V. (2022): Digital Strategic Initiatives and Digital Resources: Construct Definition and Future Research Directions, Manuscript Under Review.
Recommended readings
- De Reuver, M., Sørensen, C., & Basole, R. C. (2017). The digital platform: A research agenda. Journal of Information Technology, 33(2), 1–12.
- Henfridsson, O., Nandhakumar, J., Scarbrough, H., and Panourgias, N. (2018). "Recombination in the OpenEnded Value Landscape of Digital Innovation," Information and Organization (28:2), pp. 89–100.
- Alaimo, C., Kallinikos, J., and Valderrama, E. (2020). "Platforms as Service Ecosystems: Lessons from Social Media," Journal of Information Technology (35:1), SAGE Publications Sage UK: London, England, pp. 25–48.
- Bharadwaj A. Sawy O., Pavlou P, Venkatraman N. (2013). "Digital Business Strategy: Toward A Next Generation of Insights" MIS Quarterly Vol. 37 No. 2, pp. 471-482.  
- Gawer, A. (2014). Bridging differing perspectives on technological platforms: Toward an integrative framework. Research Policy, 43(7), 1239–1249.
- Karhu K, Heiskala M, Rital P, Llewellyn T. (202x) "Platform Externalities", Manuscript Under Review. 
6. Research Proposal Workshop

Session Focus
We will work on each student's research proposal. Students will present the research proposals they have worked on throughout the course. The presentations are limited to 10 minutes, allowing considerable time for discussion. The workshop offers an opportunity to gather feedback that can be incorporated into each participant's own dissertation projects. 

DKK 3.900,- (course fee, coffee/tea and lunch)

Minimum number of participants

Maximum number of participants

Copenhagen Business School
DK-2000 Frederiksberg
Room: TBA

Contact information
Administration of the course:
PhD Support
Nina Iversen
Course content:
Professor Michel Avital

Registration deadline

Please note that your registration is binding after the registration deadline.
In case we receive more registrations for the course than we have place, the registrations will be prioritized in the following order: Students from CBS departments, students from other institutions than CBS.
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