The pursuit of competitive advantage and the strategic behavior of firms in adopting self-service technology

Timothy David Saur


In 2002 Zuboff and Maxim published their book titled The Support Economy. In the book the authors predict a new era of capitalism that holds great promise for companies and individuals who can design useful, usable, and desirable information systems, knowledge networks, and social software. Since the time of publication advances in technology have allowed the use of self-service products to expand into once unforeseen areas. Self-service technology is used by companies to lower cost, to increase market share, to develop new revenue streams, and to position their products as innovative. Yet the body of research surrounding the organizational strategy and decision to adopt using self-service is lacking. This research studies the pursuit of competitive advantage and the adoption of self-service technology by service providers. Using the strategic behavior typology as outlined in Miles and Snow (1978), and the resource based view of the firm as outlined in Wernerfell (1984), Barney (1991), and Peteraf (1993), the research seeks to ascertain whether a firms adoption of self-service is aligned with its strategic type and whether the adoption of such technology is for the pursuit of competitive advantage. Using a case study methodology the researcher investigated three separate companies, from three separate industries, with three separate Miles and Snow strategic types. In accordance with Conant, Mokwa, and Varadarajan (1990) the paragraph method was used to operationalize and measure Miles and Snow strategic typology. In addition the researcher developed a taxonomy of self-service applications in order to properly categorize the different functions into similar technological methods. The taxonomy is contained in the appendix. The results indicate that when companies adopt self-service offerings they follow the expected organizational behavior as postulated within their Miles and Snow (1978) strategic type. However, these same companies do not deploy self-service offerings based on the pursuit of a competitive advantage as defined in the resource-based view of the firm. Throughout the conclusion a variety of different findings are revealed and future research needs are addressed given the limited sample and the nature of case study research.