Industrial Dynamics: A Multilevel Study of the Swedish IT Industry

Sammanfattning: The first Swedish information technology (IT) organizations were founded in the 1950s, but it was only in the early 1990s that the number of organizations in the IT industry started to grow. In the late 1990s, growth took off rapidly, peaking when the stock market bubble burst in March 2000. In subsequent years, many IT organizations were disbanded. Although there ex¬ists much research into the Swedish IT industry, it contains a number of principal limitations, for example, the empirical data used may cover only one or a few years and most studies in¬clude only a few organizations. This thesis explains and analyzes changes in a dynamic industry. The Swedish IT industry in the 1990–2004 period provides an appropriate example of such an industry, as there was a great diversity of organizations in this industry, there were high rates of organiza¬tional entry and exit, and Sweden was regarded as a leading IT nation. The thesis is pri¬marily inspired by or¬ganizational ecology theory, as it deals with whole industries, has a long-term perspective, and analyzes organizational entry and exit. The thesis comprises four studies, each examining specific aspects of dynamics: patterns of founding and disbanding of IT industry subgroups, patterns of founding and disbanding rates of IT organizations across different locations in Sweden, patterns of co-development with an industry complementary to the IT industry, and IT organizations’ ability to change. Longitudi¬nal analyses of the industry and a case study of an organization were carried out. Analytical models were employed to analyze all Swedish IT organizations founded in the 1990–2004 pe¬riod, and a qualitative case study approach was used to study the development of one Swedish IT organization since its founding period. The findings of the studies support the established models in organizational ecology; thus, legitimation made it initially easy to establish new organizations and competition resulted in many organizations being disbanded. Furthermore, I found that two subgroups of the industry, spin-offs and start-ups, competed with each other. However, the spin-offs outperformed the start-ups as they acquired resources from their parent organizations. Moreover, I found that IT organizations were largely concentrated in two locations in Sweden. The effects on founding and disbanding of organizations differed significantly between these concentrated locations and a scattered area: it was easier to establish organizations in the two concentrated locations than in the scattered area, and organizational ability to survive was higher in the two concen¬trated locations. Furthermore, local avail¬ability of resources such as skilled human resources resulted in better chances of survival for organizations in the concentrated locations. A recip¬rocal relationship between the local IT industry and the local availability of skilled human re¬sources was identified, implying symbiotic dependency between the local industry and the local university. In addition, I found that a complementary industry, the venture capital industry, facilitated the creation of IT organizations and improved their ability to survive, as they pro¬vided IT organizations with capital and financial competence. Furthermore, I found that IT organizations’ ability to change was limited, which resulted in many IT organizations being disbanded when there was a tightening of resources, such as skilled labor and venture capital. Finally, when I studied the concept of imprinting, I found it to be under-developed in organiza¬tional ecology, leading to some new insights into how to refine the concept for organizational ecologists.

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