Research Summary

Do Leaders Lead in Business Process Innovation? The Case(s) of E-Business Adoption

by Kristina Steffenson McElheran

Description

This paper investigates how market position influences firm propensity to adopt new process innovations. Using detailed data from the U.S. Census of Manufactures, I study the adoption of frontier e-business practices during the early diffusion of the commercial internet. Consistent with conventional wisdom that leading firms are more likely to adopt incremental process innovations, I find evidence that larger firms in 1999 were far more likely than smaller firms to conduct indirect purchasing over the internet (“e-buying”). However, they were commensurately reticent to adopt e-selling. I argue that the best explanation is that e-selling was more radical an advance than is commonly understood and explore the notion that business process innovations can be disproportionately costly for larger firms if they require changes to core activities that also span the firm boundary.

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