In this section, the presented empirical findings are based on the information gathered from the three case companies selected for the study. In parallel with the research purpose of this study, the focus is to unveil current conditions of digital transformation that we will base our recommendations upon. This includes challenges, leadership characteristics and strategies. Besides, it focuses on both the leader as well as the employee perspective with the aim to seize a more holistic picture of the case companies.
In this study, the three case companies selected operate within the tech reselling market, making them very similar in their approach and processes. Despite the companies being resellers of technological material, each company focuses mainly on the sale of printing solutions as a core business. All of the companies fit within the defined criteria of SMEs and they have received the PME Líder certification from the IAPMEI, IP (Agency for competitiveness and innovation). The following table gives a better understand of the structure that each company has:
As explained previously, each company operates as a reseller for different products and brands. Company A and C represent the same big printing solutions brand, while company B represents one of their competitors. All companies were created with the reselling of products from big printing companies as their only business, starting to turn into different IT products later in their life. None of the companies are restricted to selling only one type of product, which enables them to diversify their product and service offering. Every company acts as the linking part of the big companies that fabricate the products and software, and the smaller local businesses that wish to buy those products or services. The companies that participated in the study operate in specific geographical areas of Portugal, not leaving their designated territories for the most part. Although, company B mentioned that recently it started selling products from a new brand which they are the sole representative of in the country, making them having clients in other parts of the country where they would not operate until now.
More than 10h of interview material generated a variety of insights from all participating companies. Some topics, concerns and strategies were similar between the different companies, but the study also unveiled differences on the way each case company decided to manage them. Given the purpose of this study, we decided to create questions concerning three major pillars:
Challenges the company is facing; (2) leadership style and response and (3) process of digital transformation. The empirical findings presented in the upcoming section are based on the interviews, according to interviewee responses.
It was asked directly what the leader considered to be the main challenges he is facing in the organization. The leader of company A believes that the challenge is to keep up with new necessities of the clients, the market and ensuring the client satisfaction.
« Customer satisfaction is our number one concern and priority. We work hard and it is quite a challenge to keep that as high as possible every single day, due to the huge amount of different problems and other things that appear every day, that usually need quick solutions… »
It was mentioned that a lot of challenges and daily difficulties are to provide proper support to the clients, solving their issues with the different products they acquired from the company as best as possible, to keep the satisfaction levels high and the customers loyal to the company. The leader also stated that sometimes it is hard to create and control certain internal processes:
« Ensuring that all processes in the company is going according to plan can be a bit hard, due to our size as well. […] Sometimes people tend to deviate from some of the few established processes. »
The size of the company was mentioned as a factor that enables the deviation of processes, due to the closeness and ease of communication between the different departments. The current reality of fast paced changes, high competition and new technological development was also stated as a key challenge to be considered by the leader:
« …making sure that the we are always up for new changes and new needs can be rough, especially in today’s reality. »
It was noticed that the employees’ points-of-view aligns to a great extent with the main challenges mentioned by the leader on the matter of new technologies, fast paced changes, high competition and the level of customer satisfaction:
« Our main concern and daily challenge is to make sure that the customer is satisfied with our company. »
« …a new way to secure the client besides the physical product, also with the software and services we can provide. That can be a challenge in itself. »
One of the employees stated that the company has some internal communication issues, due to lack of structure and mentioned that the leader did not have an interest of investing on a digital tool to solve that challenge:
« … despite being a small company, sometimes we do not communicate as we should. A lot of times, there is a problem, and it is always because someone didn’t spoke with who they needed, or someone thought that another person was in charge of some things. It would be better to have things flow better. But the leadership of the company thinks it does not make a lot of sense for now to invest in it, since we are too small for that. »
Likewise, the question concerning the biggest challenges that the company faces was also asked to the leader of company B. The challenge and concern regarding customer satisfaction took the centre of the stage once again:
« If we can’t keep the customer happy, there is nothing that can help us. That is core to us and we challenge ourselves constantly to keep them satisfied with us. »
However, some of the challenges mentioned were different from company A. First off, the constant need for contact and communication with the client and engagement with online tools was mentioned as a challenge for this company:
« If you do not keep updating your digital communication, or even your website, it can turn out to be a bit of a problem, and it may come back to bite you. And for a small company like ours, that can be quite a challenge, since we do not have anyone dedicated full time for that »
There was some concern regarding the structure and size of the company being too small to deal with some of the challenges presented, as it can be seen from the previous statement. Also, the leader of company B showed some concern regarding the future of their core business and the feeling of getting too old to deal with some of the concerns for the future of the company:
« We are aware that our main business [printing solutions] can in fact change a lot in the next years. There is a lot of companies and markets that will never let go of it, but that is also why we try to diversify our offer of products as much as possible, so we do not have all of the flowers in one basket. Probably in 50 or 60 years things will be completely different. But on the other hand, since I’m already almost 58 years old, that won’t be a problem for me”. «
As can be observed in this quote, the leader is both concerned with the maturity of the main business line they sell, as well as the diversification of the product offering that the company has. The resolution of the product maturity problem is being postponed into a later date.
In the case of employees, the challenges of the leader are to some degree similar according to the interviews. The topic of customer satisfaction was reoccurring, but it was highlighted with a perspective. The employee referred to the challenges that digitization of the market and implied the following regarding prospection and negotiation:
« A lot of customers whenever they communicate or approach us, they seem to be well informed. They know exactly what they want, what are the other options in the market, and can be quite unwavering. The access of information has been something that makes purchase decision making from the customer being faster and many times without us being able to do a lot about it. That is a bit challenging to manage on our hand. And since our biggest concern is our client satisfaction, we want to make sure we do a good job. »
The employee mentions the current reality of dealing with clients. He states that they are much better informed than before, and with a lot more negotiative power. That is something he stated he needs to take into consideration in his everyday tasks, prospections as well as follow-up sales to existing customers. Another of the challenges mentioned by the employee also matches the leader’s concerns, in terms of product diversity and maturity of their core market:
« …given that some of the core businesses that we have been focusing on are very mature and with low profit margins, we are looking into how can we diversify our business to make it more competitive. That is a very important challenge for us at this stage, since some new markets where we are entering are a lot newer and « green » (low maturation), and can help us with our future. The problem is to map and identify which ones will be key for us. »
So, it is a major challenge and concern for the company to look for ways to diversify their business. Both the leader and the employee are aware of the maturity of the office printing market, and believe in the eventual fall of that market.
Concerning company C, the leader mentioned that one of their main challenges is to sustain a good level of customer satisfaction at all times, in parallel with what was stated by the other two companies:
« My main concern and challenge is to keep my clients happy. If they are happy with us, it is easier for us to maintain that relationship healthy. […] I can’t have unhappy clients.[…] Given that we are operating on a very small market, competition is fierce and there are “a lot of dogs to one bone. »
The other challenge mentioned by the leader was connected to the reality of the local market where this company operates. The leader stated that the market where they operate is different from other regions in the country. The price competition is very important for this company, and, according to the leader of the company, to the market as a whole:
…maintaining a price competition is quite a challenge for us, especially because some of the brands we represent are a bit more premium. And given that the market where we operate has a quite low purchasing power when compared to other parts of the country, trying to make this « gymnastics » between a good service and product and a good price is quite a challenge… »
As for the employees of company C, all of them referred to the challenge and importance of keeping the customer satisfaction on a satisfactory level:
« Ensuring the client satisfaction is a daily battle. Every day, we deal with many issues in that regards, and we need to make sure they are solved as best and fast as possible »
1.2 Problem Discussion
1.3 Purpose and Research Questions
2. Literature Review
2.1 Digital Transformation and Industry Impact
2.2 Digital Transformation and Strategic Implications
2.3 Leadership within Change Management
3.1 Research Approach
3.2 Methodological Choice
3.3 Research Strategy
3.4 Data Analysis Procedure
3.9 Research Ethics
4. Empirical Findings
4.2 Digital Transformation
5.1 Current challenges
5.2 Leadership and Digital Transformation
6.1 Main Conclusions and Answers
6.2 Limitations and Future Research
8. Appendix .
GET THE COMPLETE PROJECT
Digital Transformation of Small Tech Reselling Firms – A Multiple Case Study in Portugal