‘Alignment’ and ‘misalignment’ are terms commonly used both in strategy and in marketing. In B-to-B marketing, in particular, researchers investigated alignment/misalignment between customers and suppliers and recently discussed the effects of misalignment. Research in this field remains however fragmented. There is ambiguity about the objects to be aligned, the processes that characterize their change, the effects on the relationship development and the methods used to assess them. In general, the empirical research that has examined the two concepts in business relationships is limited. In this study we will develop a theoretical framework to assess alignments/misalignments in parties' interpretations of a problem and its solution for the customer, in order to address the following questions: How and why do alignment and misalignment change over time? When can misalignment be positive for the relationship development? We use data from a longitudinal study involving 84 customers and suppliers in the ICT Security Industry. The first finding is that there are no patterns in how alignment changes, but there is a slight tendency toward misalignment over time. Second, change in the alignment is mostly linked to parties' perceptions of the available resources and how these resources are combined, along with parties' interpretations of critical events. Finally, the research suggests that when parties are aware of misalignment, when misalignment is perceptual and when there are no external constraints to action, the effort to align practices produces positive effects, even when misalignment persists.
- Business relationships