Sub-theme 48: Legacy Firms and Digital Transformation beyond the Dynamic Capability Approach --> HYBRID!

Filomena Buonocore
Parthenope University of Naples, Italy
Maria Carmela Annosi
Wageningen University & Research, The Netherlands
Davide de Gennaro
University of Salerno, Italy

Call for Papers

Digital transformation is “concerned with the changes digital technologies can bring about in a company’s business model, … products or organizational structures” (Hess et al., 2016, p. 124) and represents the most important challenge for management in recent and coming years (Nadkarni & Prügl, 2020).
Despite the importance of the topic, recent studies have tended to focus more on the technological framework clarifying the usage of new digital technologies (Tabrizi et al., 2019), neglecting to consider the organizational conditions allowing firms – and especially legacy firms – to respond to sudden changes. Indeed, digital transformation has completely revolutionized the organizational paradigm of companies, since technology represents a relevant tool for human resources to create something new and significantly different than in the past (Warner & Wäger, 2019). Given its often disruptive function, digital transformation can also determine a technological discontinuity and foster fundamental changes in organizational capabilities (Nambisan et al., 2019), operational routines (Chen et al., 2014), and business processes (Henriette et al., 2015). Therefore, digital transformation is not about only technology, but about it also involves deep changes in overall strategy and all organizational processes (Kane et al., 2015).
In this context operate the legacy firms, organizations typically set up before the digital era, often failing in positioning their business in the digital ecosystem (Kopalle et al., 2020). Moreover, although these organizations face challenges in fully understanding the new network of interdependencies that these technologies can create, there is still uncertainty about how to employ digital to gain competitive advantage (Govindarajan & Immelt 2019; Subramaniam et al., 2019).
The objective of this sub-theme is to highlight the organizational implications generated by the digital transformation in legacy firms. Some scholars have shown that technological change leads to organizational reconfigurations (e.g., Frankenberger et al., 2021; Kopalle et al., 2020), which will determine the ability for the company to survive the change (Lavie, 2006). Relevant studies have started to emerge on these topics but they have provided a limited view, highlighting the technical aspects of technology, rather than the management of technology (Tabrizi et al., 2019), and representing micro-processes that support the building and maintenance of dynamic capabilities with respect to technology (Argote & Ren, 2012).
Nevertheless, only adopting a dynamic capabilities perspective would not offer a comprehensive understanding of the digital transformation processes and their implications at the organizational level (Warner & Wäger, 2019). Relying only on a dynamic capabilities’ perspective can limit the analysis to the organizations’ capacity to modify existing capabilities and the way organizations employ actual methods to implement such modifications (Lavie, 2006). The dynamic capability view may also constrain our understanding about the mechanisms emerging during the technological transitions which lead legacy firms to initially use the network and relationships to survive for then relying mainly on internal capabilities (Peng, 2001).
In this sub-theme we want to go beyond the discourse on dynamic capabilities in order to understand how legacy companies manage digitalization. Therefore, we invite scholars across a range of communities with a shared interest in re-examining traditional organizational and capabilities perspectives in the light of this information-rich, digitalized world. We seek contributions that deepen our understanding of how technological advances impact on organizations, specifically how legacy firms might be redesigned to take advantage acquire or transform resources, skills, and competencies and to foster communication and collaboration, leveraging technology while countering its potential downsides. We also call for novel contributions paying explicit attention to the temporal dimension, building on Newman’s (2000) analysis, through a temporal bracketing approach, which may describe the passage of legacy firm from network capabilities to competitive internal resources and capabilities.
We welcome conceptual or empirical contributions, focusing the possible topics mentioned below and related issues. Of course, the list below is not exhaustive. We are interested in research drawing on a variety of organizational theories and using diverse research methods.

  • What are the organizational implications of digital transformation? How do legacy firms (at macro level) and workers (at micro level) react to sudden changes in the digital environment?

  • How should the organizational – also dynamic – capabilities be reconfigured in the light of the new digital scenario? Which strategy seems more appropriate between substitution, evolution, and transformation (Lavie, 2006) of capabilities?

  • How does digital transformation affect legacy firms by altering work content and processes? What are the main challenges for digitalization within these organizations?

  • How do emerging technologies alter the design of legacy firms, as well as tasks, functions, relationships, or domains of organizing? Which challenges does digital transformation produce and what potential issues does it create?

  • What are the new skills, competencies, resources that must be imagined for legacy firms dealing with digital?

  • What are the specific mechanisms and conditions leading legacy firms to move from network and relationship capabilities to competitive internal resources and capabilities?



  • Argote, L. & Ren, Y. (2012): “Transactive memory systems: A microfoundation of dynamic capabilities.” Journal of Management Studies, 49 (8), 1375–1382.
  • Chen, J.E., Pan, S.L., & Ouyang, T.H. (2014): “Routine reconfiguration in traditional companies’ e-commerce strategy implementation: A trajectory perspective.” Information & Management, 51 (2), 270–282.
  • Frankenberger, K., Mayer, H., Reiter, A., & Schmidt, M. (2021): “Digital Transformer’s Dilemma: Innovate Twice to Survive.” In: O. Gassmann & F. Ferrandina (eds.): Connected Business. Cham: Springer International Publishing, 157–173.
  • Govindarajan, V., & Immelt, J.R. (2019): “The only way manufacturers can survive.” MIT Sloan Management Review, 60 (3), 24–33.
  • Henriette, E., Feki, M., & Boughzala, I. (2015): “The shape of digital transformation: a systematic literature review.” MCIS 2015 proceedings, 431–443.
  • Hess, T., Matt, C., Benlian, A., & Wiesböck, F. (2016): “Options for formulating a digital transformation strategy.” MIS Quarterly Executive, 15 (2), 123–139.
  • Kane, G.C., Palmer, D., Phillips, A.N., Kiron, D., & Buckley, N. (2015): “Strategy, not technology, drives digital transformation.” MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte, 14, 1–25.
  • Kopalle, P.K., Kumar, V., & Subramaniam, M. (2020): “How legacy firms can embrace the digital ecosystem via digital customer orientation.” Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 48 (1), 114–131.
  • Lavie, D. (2006): “Capability reconfiguration: An analysis of incumbent responses to technological change.” Academy of Management Review, 31 (1), 153–174.
  • Nadkarni, S., & Prügl, R. (2021): “Digital transformation: a review, synthesis and opportunities for future research.” Management Review Quarterly, 71, 233–341.
  • Nambisan, S., Wright, M., & Feldman, M. (2019): “The digital transformation of innovation and entrepreneurship: Progress, challenges and key themes.” Research Policy, 48 (8),
  • Newman, K. (2000): “Organizational transformation during institutional upheaval.” Academy of Management Review, 25 (3), 602–619.
  • Peng, M.W. (2001): “How entrepreneurs create wealth in transition economies.” Academy of Management Executive, 15 (1), 95–103.
  • Subramaniam, M., Iyer, B., & Venkatraman, V. (2019): “Competing in digital ecosystems.” Business Horizons, 62 (1), 83–94.
  • Tabrizi, B., Lam, E., Girard, K., & Irvin, V. (2019): “Digital transformation is not about technology.” Harvard Business Review, 13, 1–6.
  • Warner, K.S., & Wäger, M. (2019): “Building dynamic capabilities for digital transformation: An ongoing process of strategic renewal.” Long Range Planning, 52 (3), 326–349.
Filomena Buonocore is Full Professor of Organization Studies at Parthenope University of Naples, Italy, and founder and member of the Scientific Board of ASSIOA, the Italian Association of Organization Studies. She has authored articles in ‘Journal of Management’ and ‘Human Resource Management Journal’, among other scholarly journals. Filomena belongs to the editorial team of ‘Journal of Vocational Behavior’.
Maria Carmela Annosi is Senior Assistant Professor of Innovation Management and Organizational Behavior at the School of Social Sciences, Wageningen University and Research, The Netherlands. She is a member of the Research Centre in Business Transformation (ReBoot), LUISS Business School, Italy, and is a Board Member of the International Food and Agribusiness Management Association (IFAMA) and IFAMA Europe. Maria Carmela has authored articles in ‘Journal of Product Innovation Management’, ‘Journal of Business Research’, ‘Organization Studies’, and other scholarly journals.
Davide de Gennaro is Assistant Professor of Organization Studies at the University of Salerno, Italy. He also works as Temporary Professor at the Italian National School of Administration (SNA) in Rome and as a Contract Researcher at the SDA Bocconi School of Management in Milan. His research focuses on job crafting, public management, and administrative leadership. Davide has authored articles in ‘Journal of Vocational Behavior’, ‘Human Resource Management Journal’, and other scholarly journals.