Absorptive Capacity Configurations in Supply Chains: Gearing for Partner-Enabled Market Knowledge Creation

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Abstract

The need for continual value innovation is driving supply chains to evolve from a pure transactional focus to leveraging interorganizational partner ships for sharing information and, ultimately, market knowledge creation. Supply chain partners are (1) engaging in interlinked processes that enable rich (broad-ranging, high quality, and privileged) information sharing, and (2) building information technology infrastructures that allow them to process information obtained from their partners to create new knowledge. This study uncovers and examines the variety of supply chain partnership configurations that exist based on differences in capability platforms, reflecting varying processes and information systems. We use the absorptive capacity lens to build a conceptual framework that links these configurations with partner-enabled market knowledge creation. Absorptive capacity refers to the set of organizational routines and processes by which organizations acquire, assimilate, transform, and exploit knowledge to produce dynamic organizational capabilities.

Through an exploratory field study conducted in the context of the RosettaNet consortium effort in the IT industry supply chain, we use cluster analysis to uncover and characterize five supply chain partnership configurations (collectors, connectors, crunchers, coercers, and collaborators). We compare their partner-enabled knowledge creation and operational efficiency, as well as the shortcomings in their capability platforms and the nature of information exchange. Through the characterization of each of the configurations, we are able to derive research propositions focused on enterprise absorptive capacity elements. These propositions provide insight into how partner-enabled market knowledge creation and operational efficiency can be affected, and highlight the interconnected roles of coordination information and rich information. The paper concludes by drawing implications for research and practice from the uncovering of these configurations and the resultant research propositions. It also highlights fertile opportunities for advances in research on knowledge management through the study of supply chain contexts and other interorganizational partnering arrangements.

Additional Details

Author Arvind Malhotra, Sanjay Gosain, and Omar A. El Sawy
Year 2005
Volume 29
Issue 1
Keywords Knowledge management, supply chain, absorptive capacity, interorganizational information systems, configuration approaches, rich information, process modularity
Page Numbers 145-187