Document Type



Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence


Transport engineering, Business and Management.

Publication Details

Industrial Management & Data Systems, Vol. 113, No. 7, pp.967 - 989.


Purpose - The main aim of the research is to shed light on the role of information and communication technology (ICT) in the logistics innovation process of small and medium- sized third party logistics providers (3PLs).

Design/methodology/approach – A triangulated research strategy was designed using a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods. The former involved the use of a questionnaire survey of small and medium-sized Italian 3PLs with 153 usable responses received. The latter comprised a series of focus groups and the use of seven case studies.

Findings – There is a relatively low level of ICT expenditure with few companies adopting formal technology investment strategies. The findings highlight the strategic importance of supply chain integration for 3PLs with companies that have embarked on an expansion of their service portfolios showing a higher level of both ICT usage and information integration. Lack of technology skills in the workforce is a major constraint on ICT adoption. Given the proliferation of logistics-related ICT tools and applications in recent years it has been difficult for small and medium-sized 3PLs to select an appropriate system.

Research limitations/implications – The paper provides practical guidelines to researchers in the effective use of mixed-methods research based on the concept of methodological triangulation. In particular, it shows how questionnaire surveys, focus groups and case study analysis can be used in combination to provide insights into multi-faceted supply chain phenomena. It also identifies several potentially fruitful avenues for future research in this specific field.

Practical implications – The authors’ findings provide useful guidance for practitioners on the effective adoption of ICT as part of the logistics innovation process.

Originality/value – There is currently a paucity of research into the drivers and inhibitors of ICT in the innovation processes of small and medium-sized 3PLs. This paper fills this gap by exploring the issue using a range of complementary research approaches.