چشم انداز ارزش رابطه ای سرمایه اجتماعی در شبکه های نرم افزاری شرکت های کوچک و متوسط
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی||تعداد کلمات|
|4103||2008||10 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید||محاسبه نشده|
Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Industrial Marketing Management, Volume 37, Issue 5, July 2008, Pages 492–501
Utilizing theories on social capital, business networks, social networks and relationship value, we explore the aspects that provide specific value in relationships with different actors in the software industry. The motive for the study is the assumption that some relationships are regarded as more important than others, and companies strive to focus on fewer relationships with greater outcomes. The study is guided by the premise that social capital is a foundation for relationship value, and its identified elements differ among relationships. We take the perspective of software companies and classify their relationships with business partners into three distinctive types according to their function in the value creation process. The findings of our empirical analysis, based on a qualitative case study of eight software SMEs indicate that the aspects of social capital, like the sources of relationship value, vary systematically by the types of relationships. Thus, we are able to provide some theoretical and managerial implications on the management of small- and medium-sized companies.
The relationships that firms have with other actors and the embedded knowledge are increasingly vital sources of competitive advantage when operating in turbulent environments (Burt, 2000, Griffith and Harvey, 2004, Hitt and Ireland, 2002, Luthans and Youssef, 2004, Moran, 2005, Van Der Merwe et al., 2004, Van Laere and Heene, 2003 and Ulaga and Eggert, 2005). This observation is especially valid for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), where entrepreneurial networks and knowledge are often the most critical assets. The importance of these assets to the performance and success of a company has been recognized in numerous studies on SMEs (Adler and Kwon, 2002, Anderson and Jack, 2002, Luo et al., 2004, Sheth and Parvatiyar, 2002 and Yli-Renko et al., 2002). The relevance of networks in the SME context is mainly a consequence of the resource limitations arising from the small size of companies (Liao & Welsch, 2002). In order to remain competitive and to take advantage of new market opportunities, SME firms need resources that they do not possess (Hitt & Ireland, 2002). Evidence suggests that small- and medium-sized firms need to utilize external resources effectively through their entrepreneurial network relationships (e.g. Chetty and Campbell-Hunt, 2003, Cross et al., 2002, Elfring and Hulsink, 2003, Hanna and Walsh, 2002 and Yli-Renko et al., 2002). In addition, from the perspective of SMEs, social capital is a key driver in providing access to these resources (Hitt and Ireland, 2002 and Moran, 2005). Some relationships are arguably more important or valuable than others and firms with limited resources need to build fewer relationships with greater outcomes (Batt and Purchase, 2004, Ford and McDowell, 1999, Gadde and Snehota, 2000, Leek et al., 2003 and Ritter et al., 2004). The value of firms' relationships is both tangible and intangible, and needs to be cultivated and managed carefully (Baxter & Matear, 2004). This calls for a perspective that distinguishes the relevant dimensions of value in the relationship (Batt and Purchase, 2004 and Ulaga and Eggert, 2005). The evaluation perspective is a fundamental research approach in the emerging literature on relationship value, which explores those aspects that add value to relationships. Such studies of relationship value have focused on dyadic buyer–seller relationships between manufacturers and their customers. Specifically, they emphasize those relationship-specific aspects that provide explicit value either to the seller or to the buyer (Baxter & Matear, 2004). However, this strict focus on buyer–seller relationships does not contribute sufficiently to the understanding of relationship value and its sources in other relationships constituting firms' entrepreneurial networks. Thus, although the evaluation perspective in the industrial relationship literature is not new, research on relationship value in multi-actor networks has been scarce. Our study addresses this important topic by analyzing relationship value in the networks of software SMEs. The software business was selected because it is one of the key industries in the global knowledge economy and is characterized by many small- and medium-sized companies. Our main objective is to explore the formation of social capital in the networks of software SMEs as a basis for relationship value. In particular, we examine how social capital differs among different types of business partner relationships in software SMEs' entrepreneurial networks. This study is organized into six sections. After the introduction, we discuss the theoretical foundations of the study, more specifically, the concepts of social capital and relationship value in the context of entrepreneurial networks. In the third section, we construct our preliminary conceptual framework for the analysis of social capital and its implications on relationship value in the different types of business partner relationships. The fourth section describes our research design and methodology, and in the fifth section, we present and interpret our empirical findings by using excerpts from interviews and a table based on our case studies. In the final section, we discuss the findings and present our revised framework. We also consider the limitations of the study and suggest further avenues for research.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
In the present study we have explored the aspects of social capital that provide value in relationships with different network actors from a software company's perspective. Firstly, on the basis of earlier literature on social capital, we divided social capital into cognitive, structural and relational dimensions. Secondly, we found it meaningful to divide a company's relationships into three distinctive categories according to their functions in the value-creating network. We focused on the relationships with business partners and excluded customers from our analysis. Based on the literature review, we constructed our preliminary framework depicting the dimensions of social capital and the types of relationships. We presumed that the identified aspects of social capital vary according to the type of business partner relationship which act as a foundation for perceived relationship value. Our empirical study found that our preliminary framework was feasible for the analysis of relationship value in the entrepreneurial network context. Furthermore, the observations from our case studies enabled us to improve our initial framework by identifying the key sources of relationship value in the different types of relationships (Fig. 2).According to our revised framework, the main sources of relationship value, based on social capital in research and development collaboration relationships, are the competent key technology gurus who possess advanced technological competencies in dominant and future technologies. In the case of marketing and distribution relationships, we found that customer understanding, market leadership and the strategic fit of the total offer were the key sources of relationship value. These competencies are both organizational and person-related, and it may be difficult to make a distinction between them. Finally, as illustrated in our revised framework, the key sources of relationship value relate to domain-specific competencies, as well as strategy and funding options that are often carried out either through personal consulting or by providing access to crucial personal and organizational contacts. In the following section, we discuss the theoretical contributions and the managerial implications on the basis of our findings. We conclude by considering the limitations of the study and suggesting directions for future research. 6.1. Theoretical and managerial contributions The objective of our study was to explore how social capital as a basis for relationship value differs among the types of business relationships in software SMEs' entrepreneurial networks. We excluded customer relationships from our analysis. Moreover, on the basis of the literature, we presumed that the aspects and sources of relationship value differ according to the type of relationship. On this basis, our analysis of the selected case companies makes several contributions to our theoretical understanding of social capital and relationship value. The findings support the view drawn from the prior literature that social capital can be divided into distinctively cognitive, structural and relational dimensions. Our findings suggest that the cognitive and structural dimensions of social capital in relationships can be clearly distinguished from each other and that they vary by the type of relationship. In addition, they strongly contribute to the relational dimension, which is the quality of relationships, and is manifested through the concept of relationship value. In this vein, the sources of relationship value that depict the importance of specific relationships in a value-creating network are not constant, but vary according to the type of relationship. According to our analysis, a partner firm as an organization may possibly be replaced by another one, but its crucial importance is gained through the high relationship value that relates mainly to the individuals in that firm. In other words, specific person(s) in partner firms or organizations may be of extremely high value to software SMEs. Interestingly, the high perceived value of a relationship with an individual(s) can be more important to software companies than the overall image of a partner firm. Competencies vary from strategic-level competencies to more practical ones on the business-level. We suggest that the identified competencies have a strong effect on the relationship value of actors in the networks. We also provide some theoretical and managerial implications on the basis of our findings. Firstly, from the perspective of a focal software company, in the relationships involving supply-side actors and networks (i.e. research and development activities), in addition to the sourcing of components and tools required in software production, the cognitive aspects of social capital that provide value to software companies include outstanding competencies regarding both current dominant and future technologies. In addition, cognitive aspects seem to include both organizational and human-related issues such as innovativeness, flexibility and adaptability. Structural aspects providing value, include access to new technologies and standards, special intellectual capital and partner's contacts to key tool providers. Thus, a relevant managerial implication regarding R&D relationships is that when focusing on the exploitation of social capital in relationships, entrepreneurs and managers of firms should first identify their own and their partners' key technologies, and then focus on the relevant partners. Subsequently, since relationship value is formed by competent key technology gurus in collaborative R&D relationships and networks, as a normative suggestion we recommend that companies evaluate the selected partners' resource stocks. Moreover, they should consider the extent to which they have access to the resources that the organization needs to develop its competitive advantage. The next step is to evaluate the significance of the relationship and assess the probability of gaining further access to the partner's resources (Brass et al., 2004 and Hitt and Ireland, 2002). The cognitive and structural dimensions of social capital can be used as a basis for the analysis in this evaluation, since they contribute to the relational aspects of a relationship, and form the foundation for relationship value that reflects the relevance or significance of a relationship. Secondly, in the relationships involving actors related to marketing and distribution activities, the key cognitive aspects from the relationship value perspective seem to stress partners' industry know-how. In addition, software companies seem to value partners' competencies related to understanding customers' business and processes, as well as to implementation and support of systems and projects. Based on our analysis, essential cognitive competencies also relate to information filtering and dissemination, and to personal collaboration skills and pro-network behavior. In the case of structural aspects, partners' market share and position in the market segment, and their potential to provide access to new customers or markets are of high value to software companies. Furthermore, new business concepts and access to well-known brands are essential. To conclude with managerial implications on the second type of relationship, our main proposition is that managers should monitor their customers' requirements and identify the key partners with whom to knit the value proposition in order to provide a superior offer. This calls for an established market-driven strategy that emphasizes both the intra-firm and inter-firm understanding of the needs of multiple customers and aims at effective information sharing with the marketing and distribution partners. Thirdly, in relationships involving actors and networks facilitating and supporting business, essential cognitive aspects include person-related competencies in business strategy, marketing and management, as well as in internationalization. Moreover, our findings suggest that competencies related to legal issues and financial management are of value to software companies. Structural aspects, in turn, must include access to partners' contacts and funding opportunities. Based on this finding, we suggest that business domain-specific competencies, strategies and best practices be adapted by joining entrepreneurial networks of industry associations and by inviting professionals with specific knowledge of a business domain to the corporate board of directors. These relationships provide assistance in monitoring or accessing funding options. In order to utilize these relationships and the accumulated social capital, an SME needs, however, to master both its social and business relationships (Hite and Hesterly, 2001 and Uzzi, 1997). Individual-level aspects may overcome organizational-level issues in relationship formation. Social networks are a key facilitator in building relationships with different actors and networks. The managers of companies should understand that person-related competencies have a major impact through social networks in the formation of a firm's business networks. Thus, social capital embedded in relationships plays an important role in bringing relationship value to a business, and special efforts should be invested in the related management issues. 6.2. Limitations of the study Although our analysis reveals several interesting points, it has some obvious limitations. First, our empirical findings and conclusions are based on a multiple case study of eight SMEs located in Finland. Thus, we cannot assume that our findings apply to a larger sample in a different geographical area. Furthermore, although our findings might be generalized to other industries, we recognize that the findings may differ significantly among large companies. Focusing on SMEs was justified as a larger global proportion of software companies fall into this category. However, these limitations create interesting opportunities for future research. We hope that our research will provide other researchers with guidelines to study the connection between relationship value and social capital.