When All Products Are Digital: Complexity and Intangible Value in the Ecosystem of Digitizing Firms

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Publication History

Received: January 25, 2018
Revised: February 15, 2019; November 25, 2019
Accepted: February 25, 2020
Published online: June 21, 2021


During the last four decades, digital technologies have disrupted many industries. Car control systems have gone from mechanical to digital. Telephones have changed from sound boxes to portable computers. But have the firms that digitized their products and services become more valuable than firms that didn’t? Here we introduce the construct of digital proximity, which considers the interdependent activities of firms linked in an economic network. We then explore how the digitization of products and services affects a company’s Tobin’s q—the ratio of market value over assets—a measure of the intangible value of a firm. Our panel regression methods and robustness tests suggest the positive influence of a firm’s digital proximity on its Tobin’s q. This implies that firms able to come closer to the digital sector have increased their intangible value compared to those that have failed to do so. These findings contribute a new way of measuring digitization and its impact on firm performance that is complementary to traditional measures of information technology (IT) intensity.

Additional Details
Author Pouya Rahmati, Ali Tafti, J. Christopher Westland, and Cesar Hidalgo
Year 2021
Volume 45
Issue 3a
Keywords Complexity, intangible value, Tobin’s q, digitization, software industry, pervasive computing, social networks
Page Numbers 1925-1058
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