Role of middle managers in modular digital transformation: The case of Servu

Risto Paavola, Petri Hallikainen, Amany Elbanna

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionScientificpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


In the information systems (IS) literature, there is a gap in understanding the role of middle managers (MMs) in the digital transformation in organizations. IS research has focused on understanding top management and user roles in IT-related transformational change but the role of MMs has rarely been examined. To fill this gap, this paper reports on an open-ended exploration of the influence and contribution of the MMs in the digital transformation of a large Finnish public sector meal production company. Data were collected from a ten-year digital transformation effort in the company. The analysis suggests that MMs play an active role in influencing both top management and end users and importantly shows that the role MMs play differs from one stage to another of the digital transformation of the organisation. The study identifies a three-stage model of modular digital transformation, where MMs acted as implementers and negotiators in the initial core digitalisation stage of digital transformation, as champions in the digital expansion stage, and as shakers and strategists in the shake down and complementary stage. The paper concludes by discussing the implications for theory and highlighting the practical consequences of our results.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 25th European Conference on Information Systems, ECIS 2017
PublisherAssociation for Information Systems
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9780991556700
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017
MoE publication typeA4 Article in a conference publication
EventEuropean Conference on Information Systems - Guimaraes, Portugal
Duration: 5 Jun 201710 Jun 2017
Conference number: 25


ConferenceEuropean Conference on Information Systems
Abbreviated titleECIS


  • Case study
  • Digital transformation
  • Middle managers
  • Modular change
  • Public sector


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