Special Issue: Unveiling the digital transformation of organizations across multiple levels of analysis

Guest Editors

Antonio Messeni Petruzzelli
Polytechnic University of Bari

Gianluca Murgia
University of Siena,

Eva Panetti
University of Naples Parthenope

Adele Parmentola
University of Naples Parthenope


Digitalization has been radically changing existing organizations, which have to completely redefine their business model. Indeed, the implementation of digital technologies, like those related to Industry 4.0, requires that organizations completely re-design their processes so to integrate, build, and reconfigure internal and external resources and competences. Specifically, digital transformation may change the individual decision making, both at strategic and operational level. Nevertheless, digital transformation may also transform the structure of the whole organization, and its relationship with external partners in the ecosystem. In other words, digitalization can create new entrepreneurial opportunities for the companies increasing their innovative potential. At the same time considering the radical changes that digitalization can generate its implementation requires an adequate level of company entrepreneurial orientation that depends on the development of risk taking, innovative, and proactive behaviour at the all organizational levels. Consequently, the pervasiveness of digital transformation can be effectively analysed only by using a multi-level approach. By using this approach, researchers can evaluate not only the impact of digital transformation at different organizational levels, but also how this transformation is affected by factors related to these levels. In this sense, the success of digital transformation may depend both on the commitment of top managers, and the willingness to adopt these technologies by the employees. By providing a multi-level view of the antecedents and impact of digitalisation on organizations, this Special Issue can contribute to the literature on the relationship between radical innovation and organizational structure. This Special Issue can also support managers of existing organizations in the planning and implementation of digital transformation.

Special Issue’s objective

The papers included in this Special Issue should contribute to the definition of a multi-level view of the antecedents and impact of digitalisation on organizations. The contribution of these papers may firstly provide a more comprehensive view of the organizational factors that may enable or hinder digital transformation. Second, the papers hosted in this Special Issue may shed further light on the impact of radical innovations on organizational change.

Special Issue’s scope, including potential themes to be addressed in the Special Issue

While digitization describes the process of the conversion of analogue and noisy information into digital data (Brennen and Kreiss, 2016), digitalization is used to describe any changes in the organization and its business model due to the increasing use of digital technologies (starting from those related to Industry 4.0, such as the Internet of Things, Additive Manufacturing, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, Cloud Computing, Augmented and Virtual Reality, and BlockChain) to improve both business performance and scope (Westerman et al., 2011). Indeed, digitalization represents an opportunity for companies working in all the different types of industries, but at the same time brings important challenges (Cassetta et al., 2019; Porter and Heppelmann, 2015). As such many changes led by digitalization are disruptive and often push the existing companies to completely redefine their business model (Souto, 2015; Rachinger et al, 2018). Consequently, working in the digital era requires that companies re-design their resources and competences, as well as develop new capabilities to integrate, build, and reconfigure internal and external resources and competences (Teece, 2007, 2012; Teece et al., 1997). Digitalization indeed generates important changes that ask companies to develop a specific entrepreneurial attitude defined as the overall strategic orientation of a firm to be risk taking, innovative, and proactive (Covin and Slavin, 1991, Lumpkin and Dess, 1996).

While authors agree on the idea that digitalisation represents both an opportunity and a challenge for modern companies, only a few studies analyse the determinants of companies’ digitalisation choice and of its successful implementation. Investing in digitalization can be costly and without a clear value propositions and revenue model, value can be hardly captured. Consequently, it is particularly important to understand how firms can manage the digital change and capture value in digitalization.  In this light, the aim of our special issue is to shed new light on the phenomenon of companies’ digitalization, by adopting a multi-level perspective. Indeed, advancing the understanding of a particular phenomenon and, in turn, of a particular field, may require expanding theoretical and empirical work encompassing multi-level effects, as individuals, teams, organizations, networks, and ecosystems (e.g. Hitt et al., 2007). From an individual perspective, extant theoretical and empirical studies highlight the importance of individuals and their interactions in explaining firm-level heterogeneity and outcomes (Felin and Hesterly, 2007). In particular, by drawing on the behavioural theory of the firm and psychology, some works show that the managerial (individual) cognition contributes to differences in firm behaviour (e.g. Felin and Zenger, 2009; Gavetti, 2005; Johnson and Hoopes, 2003; Laureiro-Martínez et al., 2010; Tripsas and Gavetti, 2000). Indeed, since digitalization is often the result of a top-down decision that involves CEO and top management teams, their characteristics can influence the companies’ propensity toward digitalization, with specific regard to the breadth of digital technologies’ implementation within the company and their ability to create value.

Moreover, digitalization requires new competences of the employees, whose decision making can be supported by larger amount of data, by more effective visualization and simulation systems, and by an easier interaction with objects and machines (Dougherty and Dunne, 2012). Nevertheless, the potential improvement of the individual decision making at operative level may be hindered by a lack of digital competences of the employees, which can be partially solved by effective training programs.  Digitalization affects also the internal collaboration among the employees, strengthening the opportunities to effectively interact with distant colleagues (Baralou and Tsoukas, 2015). This paves the way for new organizational forms, characterized by the presence of teams with less embedded, but more specialized workers. Even if such collaborations may improve group decision making, they may have negative organizational effects (e.g. on the organizational learning and on the construction of shared identity and values) (Umans et al., 2018).

By shifting from the individual to the organizational level, digitalization generates a profound change in the companies’ organizational and productive process. In particular, it is possible to identify a two-way relationship between organizational structure and digitalization. First, some studies emphasize that structural aspects of organizations, as integration and coordination mechanisms, affect the nature, rate, and diffusion of innovation within an organization (Foss, 2003; Hoopes and Postrel, 1999). On the other hand, digitalization can influence and transform the nature of the company’s structure, by supporting coordination mechanisms and facilitating the interaction among the various actors (e.g. Clark and Fujimoto, 1991).

Last but not least, the extant literature generally upholds a positive view of digitalization as a radical and disruptive innovation with the potential to enable dramatic changes even at the ecosystem level, since it may change the relationship between firms and other external actors (Sia et al. 2016). New digital technologies call for stronger relationships with universities, suppliers, and customers, which can more easily participate to research projects and to the co-creation of new commercial offers. Thus, these technologies may favour the participation of the organization to external networks, as well as its embeddedness in regional ecosystems (Sklyar et al., 2019). In addition, firms may benefit from leveraging collaboration with innovative start-ups and SMEs that are more likely to adopt a pathfinder ethos when it comes to digitalization-based value creation (Muller et al., 2018). Customers will invariably play a central role in this process, because they tend to be integrated into the value-creation process e.g., through self-service or data source (Laudien and Daxböck, 2016). However, while on the one hand digitalization may support the companies in managing the relationships with the ecosystem’s actors, on the other digitalization may create an adverse selection mechanism according to which a company can decide to end relationships with those partners that are not enough digitalised.

In sum, further theoretical and empirical research is needed to unveil the drivers of digitalisation and the factors affecting its successful implementation. According to the idea that digitalisation aims at creating value inside and outside the organization and that the process of value creation will differ on the basis of whether value is created by individuals, organizations and/or ecosystems (Lepak, Smith and Taylor, 2007), the goal of this special issue is that of advancing our understanding of digitalisation by considering these three level of analysis.

For each of these pillars, potential topics and research questions for the special issue may include but are not limited to:

1) Individual level

  • How does CEO personal characteristics and behaviour affect company’s digitalization?
  • How do top management’s individual characteristics and behaviour influence the implementation and the success of digitalization projects?
  • How can top management overcome the possible employees’ resistance to change in digitalization projects?
  • How does digitalization influence the individual searching capabilities?
  • How does digitalization influence the individual creativity?
  • How can the employees’ capabilities limit the benefits of digitalization?
  • Which kinds of employees’ training can favour a stronger exploitation of the benefits of digitalization?

2) Organizational level

  • How does digitalization affect and its influenced by organizational culture?
  • How does digitalization affect the networking capabilities of the organization?
  • How does digitalization change companies’ business model?
  • What is the effect of digitalization on companies’ performance?

3) Ecosystem level

  • How does digitalization influence horizontal collaboration (co-development and co-creation with partners at the same level of the value chain) and vertical collaboration (with partners at different levels of the value chain) for innovation?
  • How does digitalization influence the embeddedness of the organization in regional ecosystems?
  •  How does digital transformation impose developing new alliances, entering into new ecosystems, reducing or increasing the degree of vertical integration in the firms’ value chain?

Notes for Prospective Authors

Submitted papers should not have been previously published nor be currently under consideration for publication elsewhere. Conference papers may only be submitted if the paper has been completely re-written and if appropriate written permissions have been obtained from any copyright holders of the original paper. Manuscripts should be submitted through the publisher’s online system. Submissions will be reviewed according to the journal’s rigorous standards and procedures through double-blind peer review by at least two qualified reviewers.

Submission Process

Please prepare the manuscript according to IEEE-TEM’s guidelines ( and submit to the journal’s Manuscript Central site ( Please clearly state in the cover letter that the submission is for this special issue.


Papers submitted by December 31 2022

Guest Editor Bios

Antonio Messeni Petruzzelli is Associate Professor of Innovation Management at the Politecnico di Bari. He is the author of more than 100 international publications and three international books on the topic of innovation management. His studies on this issue have been published in leading journals, as Research Policy, Entrepreneurship Theory & Practice, Academy of Management Perspectives, Journal of Management and Long Range Planning. He belongs to the editorial team of Journal of Knowledge Management and Technological Forecasting and Social Change. Finally, his studies have recently been awarded the Nokia Siemens Network Award in Technology Management for Innovation into the Future.

Gianluca Murgia, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in Engineering Management at University of Siena. He is also visiting scholar at K.U. Leuven. His present research interests mainly concern innovation management, with a special focus on the analysis of University-Industry collaborations. His studies have been published in journals such as International Journal of Production Research, Journal of Technology Transfer, Journal of Informetrics, Science and Public Policy, and Electronic Commerce Research. He teaches “Marketing and Innovation Management” in the Master Degree in Engineering Management at the University of Siena.

Eva Panetti is Research Fellow at the Department of Management and Quantitative studies of Parthenope University of Naples. She gained her Ph.D. in Management at Federico II University of Naples.  In 2017 she has been visiting researcher at the MIT – Industrial Performance Center. She is currently Project Manager of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program (MIT REAP). She is also member of the Task Force on Industry and Innovation of the EU platform of women scientists – genderSTE COST. She has been researcher at the Urban Planning Research Centre – L.U.P.T. “of Federico II University and member of the Italian Research Centre for Innovation and Technology Transfer (CERITT) and of the Management Committee of the Permanent Observatory on Innovation (OPI). She is the author of international publications in the field of innovation systems, technological transitions and port competitiveness.

Adele Parmentola is Associate Professor at the Department of Management and Quantitative Studies of Parthenope University of Naples, where she teaches Business Management, Marketing, Innovation Management and International Innovation Network. She is the Data Manager of the Regional Entrepreneurship Development Program (REAP) of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) aimed at creating innovation ecosystems in emerging countries. She is also responsible and member of many research projects financed by Italian Ministry of Research and University and by the Campania Region on the topic of innovation and local development. She is the author of more than 60 publications on the topics of innovation management, university entrepreneurship and local innovation systems. Her studies are published in journals like Small Business Economics, R&D Management, and Journal of Technology Transfer.


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IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management is journal of the Technology and Engineering Management Society of IEEE, published quarterly since 1954. It is dedicated to the publication of peer-reviewed original contributions, by researchers and practitioners, regarding the theory and practice of engineering, technology, and innovation management.

Editor in Chief

Tugrul U Daim, PhD PICMET Fellow
Professor and Director
Technology Management Doctoral Program
Department of Engineering and Technology Management
Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science
Portland State University, Portland OR
United States

About the author

Ravikiran Annaswamy

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