Need for an analytic strategy
To have a strategy for how to analyze the data collected from the empirical study is extremely important since the strategy will help the researchers to treat the findings in a fair manner, produce convincing analytic conclusions, and select between alternative interpretations. It is also important to be aware of the strategic choices regarding data analysis before the data is collected, to make sure that the data will be analyzable (Yin, 2009).
Data analysis strategy
Regarding the process of how to analyze the data collected from the case study interviews, several different methods exist for how this can be conducted. The data analyzing process in this thesis will follow a framework created by Yin (2009). Yin describes four different general strategies and five different techniques for analyzing data, and recommends that at least one strategy and one technique should be selected for the data analysis process. The four general strategies are relying on theoretical propositions, developing a case description, using both qualitative and quantitative data, and examining rival explanations. Without selecting an appropriate general strategy, the proceeding part of the data analysis process will be difficult. The general method selected for this thesis is ‘relying on theoretical propositions’. This strategy implies following the theoretical propositions that have been leading up to the case study, and that these proposition will guide the priorities during the data analysis. The frame of reference will facilitate organizing the data and help determine whether data should be given attention or be ignored.
The five different techniques of analyzing data listed by Yin (2009) are pattern matching, explanation building, time-series analysis, logic models and cross-case synthesis. The selected technique for this data analyzing is pattern matching. While using this technique, the critical success factors are viewed as independent variables, and the outcome – a successful implementation, is viewed as the dependent variable. There are varying ways of conducting pattern matching analysis, and the approach for this thesis means that the aim of the data analysis is to analyze if any matching patterns exist between theory and practice. This implies that when the data has been collected, it will be organized into different categories in order to get a comprehensible overview and for the data to be more manageable. The next step is to compare the data from the different interviews, before analyzing the compiled empirical data together with the theoretical framework in order to determine if any eminent patterns can be identified.
Trustworthiness of the data
When conducting a qualitative study, the researchers need to be able to assess the trustworthiness of the data collected through the empirical research. Trustworthiness is an important component to take into consideration since it provides the researchers with tools that enables them to illustrate the value of the study. Trustworthiness in a qualitative research includes four different parameters, transferability, credibility, dependability, and confirmability (Given & Saumure, 2008).
Due to the nature of a qualitative approach it is most often not manageable to have a large number of cases to examine as it is in quantitative research where a number of five hundred to a thousand participants is not uncommon. Within any study the sample selection process should for this reason be done to make sure that the sample represent the entire population as accurate as possible. Transferability therefore refers to the ability to make connections from the derived data to the entire population in practice (Jensen, 2008a). Transferability is achieved through the careful selection of samples. Samples have been selected based on criteria regarding for instance size, year of e-commerce strategy implementation and position on the market to represent the population well as possible.
Credibility refers to a high level of consistency throughout the thesis. High credibility means for instance that no questions regarding choice of research model or if the appropriate participants were sampled for the research appears. A high level of harmony between what is expressed by the participant and the interpretation of the researcher is important as well. Accuracy in such aspects adds credibility to the project (Jensen, 2008b). The authors have worked to create credibility by keeping the same structure throughout the thesis, the model introduced 2.4 is being used to make it easier for the reader to follow the rationale. The authors have also worked to make all decisions regarding for instance choice of method and theory as logical as possible. Furthermore, the aim is to create as clear connections as possible between theory and practice, and to present the findings from the empirical study in a manner that does not create any questions of objectivity.
Dependability refers to the researcher’s ability to demonstrate the capability to adapt to the changing environment that qualitative studies are often conducted in. Out in the field the researchers may find the situation different from that they expected, dependability is therefore important since it recognizes that the research contexts is in constant development (Jensen, (2008c). Dependability has been assured by aiming to be as flexible as possible, an area where adaptation was necessary is the process of selecting the cases. Some of the criteria were modified and the intended number of cases was increased as the realization was made that more extensive data was needed. Furthermore, some cases were replaced along the way as it was found that they did not suit the criteria.
When conducting a qualitative research, the participants’ contributions are analyzed and the researchers are looking for information that can either confirm or expand existing theory. Confirmability therefore refers to the ability to confirm the results derived from the empirical study, and it requires the researchers to take different biases into account (Jensen, 2008d). Confirmability can be assured since the authors have accounted for biases such as the variation in time of when the different cases implemented their e-commerce strategy.Another bias is that the level of the participant’s expressiveness may affect the level of information received from the interviews. Additionally, the conclusions regarding the assessment of the critical success factors are drawn with caution to make sure that they are supported by evidence and not opinions.
In this chapter the empirical findings from the interviews is being presented. The findings from each of the organizations are presented in a pattern following the model introduced in the final part of the frame of reference. The chapter is concluded with tables giving a visual overview of the empirical findings.
The first interview was conducted with Henrik Björkqvist, the e-commerce manager at Autoexperten. Autoexperten is rated as a large organization and sells spare parts to car repair shops. The e-commerce was implemented in January 2015 in order to be able to sell directly to the customers, to be more customer focused, to take bigger control of the value chain and to keep up with their competitors.Björkqvist explains that Autoexperten measure success based on goal attainment. “If the goals that were set up initially have been reached, the implementation is successful, so we have simply measured the outcome against the different goals we set up before we started.” Autoexperten had goals regarding increased sales, attracting more customers to the shops and to get everyone in the organization to work together. On the question if the goals have been achieved or not Björkqvist answers “We are not sure about the financial goals yet. But the other goals have been reached successfully. So technically, the implementation has been very successful.” He also explains that except some minor changes in the budget, the goals and vision remained the same throughout the implementation process.
Regarding the humanistic factors Björkqvist describes that the communication strategy was changed to integrate the corporate culture with the e-commerce strategy. The attitude towards the e-commerce among the employees has been positive, “Since we worked with external partners we had to make a detailed project and timeplan, which means that everyone has been able to see that everything we did was well thought through.” Björkqvist says that it has been a challenge to unite the values of all employees. He further explains that the leaders’ support was critical for the implementation success, and that non-supporting leaders would have meant ambiguous and contradictory signals to the employees. A highly critical success factor for Autoexperten has been outsourcing the development of the web page and e-commerce platform. Therefore, the external partner was crucial for the result of the project. Björkqvist also emphasizes the importance of communication and of a pre-study, “In order to understand the implications of the implementation, to be able to plan time, budget and the communication better.”
When asked how the organizational structure has been changed to fit the e-commerce strategy the answer was “So far unfortunately not, but it will be necessary in the future.” The ecommerce strategy is however fully integrated with the digital technology of the organization. It has been more challenging to integrate the e-commerce strategy with the overall strategy of the company, “We tried to integrate the e-commerce strategy but it was difficult before you knew exactly how everything was going to work.” He further explains the importance of a flexible formulation of the strategy, “If you are not open for the challenge of e-commerce it will affect the implementation significantly.” Björkqvist emphasize the importance of communication, involvement and training on all levels of the organization. Oral communication through meetings and openness for questions has been critical to inform the employees. He further explains that the compensation system was changed to encourage and stimulate the implementation of e-commerce.Björkqvist was asked about the structure of the financial budget and if it proved to be realistic, Björkqvist answered, “First we conducted a pre-study and decided what level of e-commerce we wanted, after that we investigated the costs it would imply. The overall budget was realistic. Maybe a little naive since it was difficult to estimate all the costs and possible deviations. How to allocate the financial resources was a major part of the pre-study.” Björkqvist also explains that they launched the ecommerce on the pre-decided date, and that they were able to follow the timeplan since it was worked out and agreed on together with everyone involved. Key factors for Autoexperten: communication, flexible strategy, professional partners, employee involvement, training and pre-study.
This interview was conducted with Bona who offers products for installation, maintenance and renovation of wooden floors. Bona operates B2B and is rated as a medium sized organization. Two employees who were involved in the implementation process in 2013 were interviewed, Maria Turvin, internal business consultant with focus on e-commerce and Henric Samuelsson, IT project manager. E-commerce was demanded from their subsidiaries and Bona wanted to keep up with the technological development, make their offers clearer to customers and create a common platform for the subsidiaries.The launch has been quite protracted and it is too early for Bona to completely decide if the implementation has been successful or not, but they measure success based on goal attainment. Many of the goals have been reached but it is still much left to work with. Bona looks at the investments in e-commerce in a long-term perspective, otherwise it would not have been counted as successful. Bona works a lot with personal relationships, which has been a major part of the e-commerce. Within the organization, Bona focused on sharing information and the importance of e-commerce among all employees and to get support from the top management.
The general attitude among the employees towards e-commerce has been varied, Samuels-son explains, “Their attitudes have been everything from positive and excited to hesitant with a lot of concerns.” Turvin adds “It is also a question of generation.” The people working with the ecommerce implementation have not been pushed by top management and could therefore take it in their own pace. The compensation system has not changed to improve the ecommerce strategy implementation. Bona is considering integration of culture though not much work has been done within this field so far. Leadership support came mainly from the IT manager and gradually also from the marketing director, but barely any other managers were involved. To acquire the necessary knowledge Bona hired consultants, otherwise the main source of competence within Bona about e-commerce has been the knowledge possessed by Turvin and Samuelsson. A highly important factor has been project stability, both economically and time wise regarding integration and unexpected details. Samuelsson adds the importance of a common vision. The external partners have been important as well.
Structurally within the organization, little changed to fit e-commerce except hiring Turvin to the IT department. She has been working with Samuelsson, the project manager. Their media strategy has been built upon three steps, where the last one is to develop ecommerce. This indicates that the e-commerce strategy is integrated with the organizational technology, and regarding the integration of the overall strategy Samuelsson says that it is only partly integrated so far but that a complete integration is about to happen. The formulation of the strategy has no impact on the result of the implementation according to Turvin. Samuelsson says that resources, agility and energy framed the work. Regarding the budget Turvin says: “It has been hard to follow the budget but it has not been a disaster, it has been more of an issue to keep up with the time frame, which in turn have increased costs.” Regarding the timeplan it is explained that some of the timeframes have been difficult to keep up with, and that delay in the project has caused additional costs.Key factors for Bona: technology, integrated systems, right competences, a common vision and project stability.
This company chose to be anonymous in the interview and will therefore be named Company X. The participant from the organization is the e-commerce manager. Company X implemented e-commerce in 2013 because they felt that it was time to ‘go digital’, the decision was also based on the market changes. Additionally, there was a demand from the customers to be able to order, find products and prices online. It was a natural progression.This organization is rated as large organization.A strategic goal was set within a 5-year time frame, where the e-commerce should stand for a certain percent of the total turnover. This was the main goal but there was also a date set when the e-commerce should be launched. The goal was reached but not within the time frame that was set. “A successful implementation would be if we reach expected results. “What have contributed to the successful implementation is that we have an omni-channel approach, the e-commerce should be integrated in the whole organization. Everyone has been a part of the project and there has been a very close co-work with a development partner.” Additionally, a clear strategic plan, support from the top management, with the right resources, experiences and competences proved to be important for Company X.
The participant explains how they have worked to align the employees, “Hard work with a lot of information, when talking about our strategy we have spoken about the importance of e-commerce for our company. It has been a challenge and it has taken a lot more time than you can imagine.” Therefore their omni-channel approach has been very important, to integrate everything in the stores with e-commerce, but still they faced resistance. To reduce this resistance they have been working frequently with educating the employees in various ways. Company X argues that the culture is integrated in everything they do.Within the organization, education of both employee and customer is performed to acquire the necessary knowledge. Varied attitudes among employees have existed during the implementation process. Some employees have felt threatened and some have been really positive. Other employees changed their opinions and attitude towards e-commerce after the launch. The managers have had an important role with active participation. To make sure the involved employees have sufficient knowledge they have used training, short movies, powerpoints, kick-offs, customer visits and most importantly, hiring resources with the right competences within the area.Furthermore, a detailed specification of the project was highly relevant. Also a pre-study have been important, Company X needed assistance with the pre-study and hired an external consultant. The development of the e-commerce platform has been outsourced to the external partner. What could have improved the implementation process is more time and financial investments from the start to be able to provide an even better e-commerce system already at first launch. Additionally, more testing to secure the e-commerce to 100 percent is a factor that would have more attention if possible. Testing involves for instance testing the systems before they are launched, searching for bugs and testing the userfriendliness. Also, early involvement of the employees to a greater extent would have improved the success of the implementation.
1.2 Problem Discussion
1.4 Research questions
2 Frame of reference
2.1 Introduction to the theoretical framework
2.3 Critical factors for a successful implementation of an e-commerce strategy
2.5 Literature discussion
3.1 Thesis approach and research design
3.2 Data collection
3.3 Sampling method
3.4 Interview design
3.5 Data analysis
3.6 Trustworthiness of the data
4 Empirical Findings
4.3 Company X
4.4 Company Y
4.5 EM Möbler
4.9 Växjö Elektriska
4.10 Summary of findings
4.11 Critical success factors identified practice
5.1 Research question 2
5.2 Research question 3
5.3 New critical success factors and assessment of theoretical success factors
7.1 Relevance of the study
7.2 Relation of thesis results to broader ethical and social issues
7.4 Suggestions for further research
8 List of references
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E-commerce strategy implementation