Research project

Digital transformation of automotive companies – a question of identity

Digital transformation provokes established companies in the automotive sector to raise the question: “Who are we – and who do we want to be in the future?”. Organisational identity, in this regard, is seen as a complex interplay between individual, group and organisation. This research project investigates changes of organisational identity in the context of digital transformation. Our findings should inter alia enable practitioners to take a proactive approach in shaping digital transformation processes within their companies. The interdisciplinary research approach combines perspectives from sociology and economics.

Project description
Project team

Project description

Developments in digital technologies hold potential for fundamentally transforming both single companies and entire industries. In the automotive sector, for example, these technologies offer opportunities for new products, business models and forms of cooperation. These developments urge established companies to raise the question: “Who are we – and who do we want to be in the future?”. One increasingly hears that automotive companies have to transform themselves from ‘classical carmakers’ into ‘software-centred tech-companies’. Companies’ shared self-understanding not only affects the public image, but also influences the organisational members’ identities and actions. Digital transformation ultimately raises the question of organisational identity and thereby impacts the company right down to its very core.

Answering the question about an organization’s future identity requires revisiting the organisation’s past and current identities. Moreover, this issue cannot be resolved merely by taking in a top management perspective. Rather, organisational identity has to be understood as a complex interdependency between individual, group and organisation. It emerges from the interplay between persistence and change, as well as considerations from the past, present and future. Any organisation’s identity is strongly intertwined with its culture and strategy, which as such play a crucial role in digital transformation processes.

Our research project follows an interdisciplinary research approach, integrating perspectives from sociology and economics. With this approach, our overarching aim is to gain deeper insights into the often contradictory, asynchronous and frictional transformation dynamics, thereby intend to deduce possible avenues for companies’ digital transformation. The project team explores how digital transformation processes alter automotive companies’ organisational identities and investigates how they deal with these challenges on different organisational levels. For instance, one focus lies on potential sources of resistance and opposition as well as opportunities for influencing digital transformation dynamics.

The project’s goal is not only to contribute to a deeper academic understanding of organisations’ digital transformation, but also to provide orientational knowledge for practitioners, facilitating their proactive shaping of digital transformation processes – both within the automotive sector and beyond.

Project team

Prof. Dr. Thomas Hess
Institute for Digital Management and New Media, LMU Munich
Member of the Board of Directors, bidt
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PD Dr. Angela Graf
Principal Investigator at the bidt
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Lea Müller
Researcher at the bidt
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