Università della Svizzera italiana Faculty of Communication Sciences ./index.htm

Business Relationships and Networks

This area of research deals with the so-called business-to-business (or inter-organizational) markets. It builds on past empirical research tradition that evidenced the existence of continuous business relationships between companies and other economic organizations. As a consequence appear with a form of business networks. Our primary interest is in the communication and interaction processes within business relationships and the consequences that interaction has for relationship development, for the operations and development of the businesses and organizations involved and for the development of the network structure as a whole.

Research in this field relates to the IMP research stream that has produced numerous empirical studies of business markets and advanced various conceptual frameworks inspired by the relational perspective. We share the point of departure that interaction and communication processes are constitutive of business relationships and of the economic organization at large.

Focusing on the interaction processes we are currently pursuing research in four research fields:

Actors in Business Relationships

Actors play an important role in business relationships as their conduct in interaction with counterparts affects the development and outcomes of business relationships. Research in this field deals with how actor construct their representations of each other and of the situation context. A specific issue we focus attention on is how mutual identities of actors are constructed in interaction in business relationships. This line of research resulted in several publications.

Representative publications:

La Rocca A. and Snehota I. (2008). The Formation of Identities in Customer-suppliers’ Relationships. Proceedings of the 24th IMP Conference, September 5th, 2008, Uppsala.

La Rocca A., Snehota I., (2011). Actors’ Identity in Business Relationships. 27th IMP Conference, Glasgow.

La Rocca A. & Snehota I. (2011). Knowledge in use when actors interact in business relationships. IMP Journal, Vol. 5(2), pp 1-14.

Corsaro D. and Snehota I. (2011). Alignment and Misalignment in Business Relationships. Industrial Marketing Management. Doi; 10.1016/J.indmarman2011.06.038.

Corsaro D. and Snehota I. (2011) Actors and Change in Business Relationships and Networks. Industrial Marketing Management, forthcoming. 


New Business Formation in Business Networks

New business development is an issue of considerable interest among managers and policy-makers and generated growing body of research. This line of research is an attempt to apply the business network perspective to the analysis of new business formation. In particular this field of research looks at how the initial relationships of a newly emergent business are formed. The point of departure is that new businesses must become integrated into a pre-existent context of relationships which requires interfacing of new and existing resources, reconfiguration of the existing activity patterns and construction of shared meaning among the actors. Research activity in this field resulted in an international research workshop in April 2010 at the University of Lugano on the topic “New business development in business networks”. A special issue of the IMP Journal on new business development in business networks in 2011 and several published papers based on original empirical material collected on the development of new business ventures.

Representative publications:

Snehota, I. (2011). New Business Formation in Business Networks. IMP Journal, 5(1), 1-10.

Bernardi C., Boffi M. and Snehota I. (2011). The Story of Nemerix. IMP Journal, 5(1), 60-67.

Ciabuschi F., Perna A. and Snehota I. (2011). Assembling Resources When New Business is Forming. Journal of Business Research, Doi: 10.1016/j.jbusres.2010.11.029.

Cantù C., Corsaro D. and Snehota I. (2011). Role of Actors in Combining Resources for Complex Solutions. Journal of Business Research, Doi:10.1016/j.jbusres.2011.11.013.


Value of Business relationships

Concern with value of business relationships is the third research field at IMCA. Past research on the topic of value of business relationships is based on empirical studies but it has led to proposing a different conceptualisation of the value-generating processes. It deals in particular with two issues: The first is the argument that value propositions in business relationships are phenomenological and thus largely produced in interaction between actors involved in the relationship. The second is an investigation of the role of the sales function in the relational value-creating process. (This research is ongoing and is part of a research project funded by the SNF 2009: “The Value Orientation of Salespeople: Conceptualization, Consequences, Antecedents, and Contingencies” (with the main applicant, Prof. Haas, and me as co-applicant).

Research in this field has resulted in the following publications:

Corsaro, D., & Snehota, I. (2010). Searching for relationship value in business markets: Are we missing something? Industrial Marketing Management, 39(6), 986-995.

Haas A., Snehota I. and Corsaro D., (2011). Creating Value In Business Relationships: The role of sales. Industrial Marketing Management, (forthcoming).


Marketing Theory

Taking the “market-as-network” perspective implies distinctly different assumptions about the form and functioning of market. Ultimately it leads to assuming that markets are institutions, subject to institutional dynamics. Such a position requires re-conceptualization of the marketing theory. Research with this aim and benefits from interaction with other disciplines, in particular those represented in the Institute and the Faculty of communication Sciences. It has resulted in several papers over the last years, co-authored with various researchers at an international level.

Representative publications:

Håkansson, H. and Snehota I. (1995). Developing Relationships in Business Networks. London: Routledge.

Håkansson H., Ford D., Gadde L-E., Snehota I., and Waluszewski A. (2009) Business Networks. Chichester: J. Wiley & Sons

Ford D., Gadde L-E., Håkansson, H. and Snehota I. (3rd ed. 2011). Managing Business Relationships. Chichester: J. Wiley & Sons.

Håkansson H. and Snehota I. (1989). No Business is an Island: The network concept of business strategy. Scandinavian Journal of Management, 5(3), 187-200. (Reprinted in 2006).

Gadde L-E and Snehota I. (2000) Making the Most of Supplier Relationships. Industrial Marketing Management, 29(4), 305-316. 



Current research projects:
The research activity in this area is articulated in three on-going research projects.

  • Interaction in Business Relationships – investigating the role of actors
  • New Business Formation in Business Networks
  • Value in Business Relationships

Externally funded:

  • The Value Orientation of Salespeople: Conceptualization, Consequences, Antecedents, and Contingencies


Head of research area
Ivan Snehota
Professor of Marketing
Email: ivan.snehota@usi.ch
Phone: +41 58 666 4756