Organizational Identity in the Age of Digital Transformation (Empirical Study)

Thesis (MA)

Advisor(s): Anna Keilbach (


For manufacturing firms, digital transformation (DT) does not just mean reconfiguring existing or designing new products and services (Osmundsen et al., 2018), but a fundamental shift that requires them to reinvent their vision and strategy, organisational structure, processes, capabilities and culture (Gurbaxani & Dunkle, 2019). Especially, traditional manufacturing firms that were successful in the physical world face difficulties (Sebastian et al., 2017), as one challenge lies in the transformation of the existing structures and established processes (brownfield innovation) which are deeply rooted in their tradition and identity. For example, organizational identity reflects once’s engagement in practices and the value orientations (Schwartz et al., 2008). From extant research, we know that „digital transformation involves a new organizational identity” (Wessel et al., 2021, p. 1). In contrast, previous research also investigated that firm’s core identity is essential to balance stability and fluidity (e.g., Gioia, 1998; Schwartz et al., 2008). Hence, it remains questionable whether and how the organizational identity should change in light of DT.  

Therefore, this research follows the call of Wessel et al. 2020 to further investigate organizational identity in the age of DT. To address this gap, we engage in a multiple case study approach: How does the organizational identity differ between traditional firms and those that are already digitalized? Manufacturing firms of diverse sectors will be included. The goal of this thesis is to collect interview data and advance emergent findings on organizational identity to provide guidelines of the transformation to a digital-ready organization.


  • Review relevant literature and existing research methods in the respective field
  • Analyze approaches and requirements in practice for an organizational identity change
  • Cluster identified themes within in the data
  • Identify challenges and enabling factors of organizational identity in regard to DT
  • Derive guidelines / recommendations / concepts for a DT-ready organizational identity
  • Discuss implications for the management of organizational identity


  • High degree of autonomy and individual responsibility
  • Interest in research on digital transformation in manufacturing firms
  • Good communication skills e.g., to conduct interviews
  • Experience in qualitative research is beneficial
  • Industry experience would be helpful

Further Information

The thesis can be written in English or German. The topic can also be adapted to your interests. If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me directly. Please send your application including our application form, a current transcript of records, and your CV to Please note that we can only consider applications with complete documents. 


Gioia, D. A. (1998). From individual to organizational identity.

Gurbaxani, V., & Dunkle, D. (2019). Gearing up for successful digital transformation. MIS Quarterly Executive, 18(3).

Osmundsen, K., Iden, J., & Bygstad, B. (2018). Digital transformation: Drivers, success factors and implications. 12th Mediterranean Conference on Information Systems (MCIS), Corfu, Greek.

Schwartz, S. J., Zamboanga, B. L., & Weisskirch, R. S. (2008). Broadening the study of the self: Integrating the study of personal identity and cultural identity. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 2(2), 635-651.

Sebastian, I., Ross, J., Beath, C., Mocker, M., Moloney, K., & Fonstad, N. (2017). How big old companies navigate digital transformation. MIS Quarterly Executive, 16(3), 197–213.

Wessel, L., Baiyere, A., Ologeanu-Taddei, R., Cha, J., & Blegind-Jensen, T. (2021). Unpacking the difference between digital transformation and it-enabled organizational transformation. Journal of the Association for Information Systems, 22(1), 102-129.