It is no surprise that research on digital transformation (DT) has raised vast interest among academics in recent decades. Countries, cities, industries, companies, and people all face the same challenge of adapting to a digital world. The aim of the paper is twofold. First, map the thematic evolution of the DT research in the areas of business and management, because existing research in these areas to date has been limited to certain domains. To achieve this, articles were identified and reviewed that were published in the Chartered Association of Business Schools’ (ABS) ≥ 2-star journals. Based on these findings, the second objective of this paper will be to propose a synergistic framework that relates existing research on DT to the areas of business and management, which will help form the evolutionary perspective taken in this paper. Considering the emerging development of the topic under investigation, the framework is understood as a sound basis for continued discussion and forthcoming research.
The industrial world is evolving into a digital one (Parviainen, Tihinen, Kääriäinen, & Teppola, 2017). The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this phenomenon (Priyono, Moin, & Putri, 2020). Digital transformation (DT) has gone from being a technological opportunity to a pure necessity for managing the needs and expectations of the world’s growing population (Kraus et al., 2021). These developments have led to considerable changes in many organizations, with DT introducing new processes and mechanisms that can affect the key structures of how a company does business. According to Heavin and Power (2018), the primary aim of DT is to solve challenges concerning efficiency and effectiveness, while Hess, Benlian, Matt, and Wiesböck (2016) state that companies that do not rapidly develop and implement DT strategies are unlikely to keep pace and compete in the new digital reality. The transition to this new reality should however not be underestimated because, like every change process, it contains several risks and challenges (Andriole, 2017, Horváth and Szabó, 2019, Vial, 2019). We know from past research that any change is difficult to implement in organizations (Deline, 2018), and up to 70% of large organizational changes fail (Barrett & Stephens, 2016, 2017; Burke, 2011). It is also known that companies are slow to respond to change (Wright, Van Der Heijden, Bradfield, Burt, & Cairns, 2004), decreasing the likelihood of companies adopting DT and implementing DT strategies. Additionally, reports by Kane, Palmer, Phillips, Kiron, & Buckley, 2015 and Carr (2003) claim that there is a general misconception that technology drives DT when, according to the authors, it is a strategy instead. The COVID-19 pandemic, on the other hand, has shown the impact of a crisis (here, an external one) on the rapid adaptation of DT (Dwivedi et al., 2020, Fletcher and Griffiths, 2020, Iivari et al., 2020, Kodama, 2020, Osiyevskyy et al., 2020, Papagiannidis et al., 2020, Rowe, 2020).
Despite recent developments, research on the topic of DT is still in an early stage. The present paper has mapped the thematic evaluation of research on DT in the areas of business and management. It not only highlights the top authors and countries that have contributed to the development of the topic so far, but also outlines the journals with the highest number of articles that have focused on DT in the two areas examined. To achieve the overall aim of this paper, different methodological and analytical procedures were utilized to determine the dominating themes during the period 2010–2020. Using the Web of Science database, and including articles published in ABS journals with a rating of two stars 2 or higher gathered and provided detailed information on the high-quality work being done on the topic of DT.
The findings of different analytical phases were connected to and synthesized in a framework highlighting the current research themes regarding DT in the areas of business and management, showing where the body of knowledge has primarily been developed so far.