From Digitalization to “Disruption”? Service Networks in the German Energy Sector

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 09:20
Location: Seminar 31 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Patricia GRAF, Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus-Senftenberg, Germany
Heike JACOBSEN, Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus-Senftenberg, Germany
Franziska BLAZEJEWSKI, Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus-Senftenberg, Germany
Due to the liberalization of the European Electricity market and the German federal policy for the energy transition energy supplying companies have to completely reorganize their businesses. The digitalization of business processes, for example in the field of customer relations but also in the field of technical services, is prominent among the measures that are taken in order to tackle these challenges. This led to digitalized service networks between energy supplying companies, external data centers and software developers. These networks are organizational innovations as they require new management strategies and changes in the organization of work. Unintended consequences are as follows:
  • Though data management was outsourced energy supplying companies themselves still are occupied with testing and adapting the processes because policy regulations are very volatile and tacit knowledge of long-standing employees of the energy supplying companies is necessary to fix problems.
  • Outsourcing administration and management of customer relationships remains ambiguous as these relationships become increasingly important for business success

Gaining profit from digital outsourcing seems to be questionable. Moreover, collaboration with external service suppliers bears the risk to thin out the energy companies core competencies and to enable the collaborators to become competitors.

Based on neoinstitutionalist approaches of radical change the paper interprets qualitative interview material. We argue that organizational innovations were introduced due to external pressures such as a general management trend in the organizational field to engage in digitalized service networks and as the radical institutional change by the energy policy. As unintended consequences, instead of engaging less in some fields of business that were outsourced, companies now have to engage more, to interact with the counterparts in the service networks and to adapt their internal belief systems and working practices to the organizational innovation.