The key to scaling in the digital era: Simultaneous automation, individualization and interdisciplinarity

Johannes Gartner, Daniela Maresch, Robert Tierney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this paper, we develop a theoretical framework that explains how digital technologies can help small businesses generate competitive advantages for scaling. To gain and sustain competitive advantages, small businesses traditionally had to choose between cost leadership and differentiation strategies. Digital technologies enable small businesses to reduce their costs and at the same time enhance the value of their market offerings through differentiation. The aim of this paper is to explain the role of digital technologies in such hybrid strategies for small businesses. We first identify automation, individualization and interdisciplinarity as the three dimensions of digital technologies that together enable technology-driven firms to gain and sustain competitive advantages and to scale rapidly. Second, we integrate these three dimensions into a theoretical framework. Third, we test and confirm the theoretical framework in an explanatory case study and discuss the results.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Small Business Management
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2022

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Business Administration

Free keywords

  • cost-leadership
  • differentiation
  • digital technologies
  • explanatory case study
  • hybrid strategies
  • Scaling
  • small businesses


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