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Informal Interfirm Relations and Alliance Formation; a multiple case study of interfirm cooperation of young SMEs in the computer programming services sector in Amsterdam

The notion that a firm’s social connections guide its interest in new alliances, and provides it with opportunities to realize that interest, is closely rooted in the process of alliance formation. Alliance formation and the role that social connections play are therefore central to this thesis, in order to gain insight into the interplay between social networks and economic motivations. The objective of this study is to explore the role that informal interfirm relations play in alliance formation of young SMEs in the computer programming services sector in Amsterdam. This should provide better insight into to what extent and how these relations influence the alliance formation process. Close attention is being paid to the institutional context in which the informal interfirm relations develop. This allows for the closer look at associations, a subdivision of this institutional context. Linkages between organisational practices of firms and the institutional infrastructure of a region can be studied in more detail because of the focus on associations. Based on the empirical data gathered by semi-structured interviews held with twelve entrepreneurs the following conclusions can be made. Firstly, informal interfirm relations affect alliance formation between SMEs in the computer programming services sector in Amsterdam to a large extent since in more than half of the cases in which the selected firms entered into an alliance, the partners maintained an informal relation prior to forming an alliance together. Secondly, informal interfirm relations do affect alliance formation of young SMEs in the programming services sector in Amsterdam directly because a closer look at the objectives of alliances between partners that did previously maintain an informal relation shows a homogenous picture: the objective was the same in all cases, namely to develop a product. Alliances between firms that did not maintain an informal relation before however, all had objectives that can be categorized as existing product-related. Thirdly, the influence of the 'philosophy of partnership' on the alliance formation process is insignificant; it remains a pronounced view on the value of cooperation with other companies yet without pivotal impact. Finally, a firm's 'philosophy of partnership' does not affect the context and nature of the informal interfirm relations (IIRs) in a specific direction, but it does seem to make the companies’ informal interfirm behaviour more proactive. Some careful observations can be made. Firstly, the lack of a ‘philosophy of partnership’ in all but one of the young SMEs that do enter into alliances, and the fact that the objectives of alliances of companies that previously maintained an informal relation are so different from the objectives of alliances between companies that did not maintain an informal relation before, raise some questions regarding the sequence of identified stages of the alliance formation process. All facts considered give the impression that a motive to form an alliance does not always precede the actual onset of alliance formation between firms. This might point to a reality in which the objective of an alliance is designed to fit the complementarities that become apparent after a ‘cultural fit’ is recognized. Secondly, the disparity in alliance objectives might hold some clues about the role the product and required knowledge for innovation play in the alliance formation process. The competitive advantage of some of the young SMEs studied is their ability to implement software products fast. These SMEs do not focus on innovating their product, but on improving their service to retain their competitive advantage. When they do innovate it appears that quite a few of the interviewed SMEs -to a large extent- rely on their main supplier’s website for knowledge that they might use to innovate. These two factors might explain why some companies don’t cooperate with other firms at all –and are not inclined to do so in the near future- and why others do enter into alliances with objectives categorized as existing product-related. Limited informal interfirm behaviour might also be caused by these factors. Lastly, the role of associations in informal interfirm relational behaviour of young SMEs in the computer programming services sector in Amsterdam seems limited.

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Informal Interfirm Relations and Alliance Formation 14 1 Introduction 1.1 Introduction One of the most inspirational questions propelling scientific thought is the question why some places thrive economically, and why others lag behind. The past couple of decennia scholars, including many geographers, have increasingly focused on the structure and development of successful so-called ‘learning regions’. Many descriptions and definitions outline this concept, but the central element of such a region is the presence of a cluster of innovative small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), that furnishes long-term regional industrial growth. Regularly referred to examples are Silicon Valley, Route 128, Grenoble, Baden-Wurtemberg, the M4 Corridor and Third Italy. Companies in these clusters are involved in both collaborative and competitive relations (Oinas, 2000). Hybrid organisational forms such as alliances are central to the business practice of firms in these ‘learning regions’. But intensive interfirm cooperation is not exclusive to these clusters. Technological changes have been sweeping trough the increasingly global economy the past years. In vein with Schumpeter’s notion of ‘creative destruction’ these changes are continuously destroying existing industry structures and creating new ones. An increasing number of companies have been trying to deal with their rapidly changing environments by engaging in alliances (Duysters & De Man, 2003). According to Cooke (2002), collaborative economic action is the most important organisational aspect of modern capitalism. This study has focused on alliance formation of young SMEs in the computer programming services sector, and on the role that informal interfirm relations play in this process. Special attention has been paid to the institutional context in which the informal interfirm relations develop, and specifically to associations. The rationale behind the theme of this study is described in section 1.2 of this chapter. This thesis’ main question is presented in section 1.3. An outline for the entire thesis is presented in section 1.4. 1.2 Rationale The proliferation of alliances has led to a growing stream of research by scholars from various disciplines. Prior research on alliances has led to valuable insights on the causes and consequences of alliances. Three related themes run across these prior efforts. First, the unit of analysis that is usually adopted is the firm or alliance. A second theme has been examining the formation and performance of alliances in an asocial context. The role of the external environment is usually encapsulated within measures of competitiveness in product or supplier markets. All theories used as a basis for explaining alliance formation incorporate this property. This applies to theories from both philosophies that underlie concepts of firm behaviour: companies either adapt to their environment, or companies attempt to influence their environment. Examples from both ends of the spectrum are transaction cost theory and strategic behaviour theory (Hynes & Mollenkopf,

International thesis/dissertation

Autore: Niels Andeweg Contatta »

Composta da 62 pagine.


Questa tesi ha raggiunto 341 click dal 17/03/2006.


Consultata integralmente una volta.

Disponibile in PDF, la consultazione è esclusivamente in formato digitale.