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Supply Chain Information Flow Strategies: an empirical taxonomy

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Abstract

Purpose - The paper identifies different information flow strategies to enhance integration in strategic alliances and studies these strategies with respect to contextual factors and the impact on performance. Design/methodology/approach – The paper examines empirical data gathered from 56 manufacturing companies, describing 112 supply chain relationships. An empirical taxonomy is created based on cluster analysis. Findings - Based on a parsimonious description of inter-firm information flows in the literature and our empirical findings, we identify 3 types of alliances: Silent, Communicative and IT intensive alliances. While Silent alliances have the poorest overall performance, substantial similarities are found between Communicative and IT intensive alliances. In particular, the analysis suggests that IT intensive alliances, albeit performing better on operational capabilities, are not performing better on relationship satisfaction compared to Communicative alliances. Additional analyses indicate that partners of an IT intensive alliance are substantially more interdependent and larger in size. Research limitations/implications – This research presents a taxonomy of information flow strategies in a supply chain context. This research is not describing causality, since our data is not longitudinal in nature. Practical implications – Managers need to selectively invest in IT according to an overall supply chain integration strategy, which also takes softer, less technological forms of integration into consideration. Originality/value – This research provides insight into inter-firm information flows from a contingency perspective, recognizing heterogeneity of firms and supply chain practices.

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