In April 2020, data were officially listed as the fifth production factor other than land, labor, capital and technology. Accelerating corporate digital transformation is the focus of developing digital economy and promoting high-quality development of economy and society. Moreover, it will help to speed up China’s new round of industrial revolution as well. Therefore, it is of great academic value and practical significance to clarify the value of digital transformation.
Taking the integration of industrialization and informatization pilot program as the quasi-natural experiment, we build the DID model with listed manufacturing firms from 2010 to 2019 as the research sample, and measure the value of digital transformation indirectly from the perspective of corporate cash holdings. We find that: (1) The transaction and prevention motivations of cash holdings are enhanced after digital transformation. Therefore, digital transformation actually acts as a kind of economic resource, which corroborates the resource theory. (2) The realization of digital transformation value is usually lagged, which usually undergoes the “throes period” first and then the “accelerating period”. (3) Enhancing growth and increasing investment opportunities are two ways through which the value of digital transformation is realized. (4) The value realization of digital transformation is affected by such internal factors as the size and diversification of firms, and such external factors as regional digitalization environment.
The possible marginal contributions are as follows: (1) Compared with the existing literature which mainly focuses on such economic consequences as corporate performance growth and innovation efficiency improvement of corporate digital transformation, we innovatively measure the value of digital transformation indirectly from the perspective of cash holdings, therefore enrich its theoretical research. (2) As corroborated by current studies, the value realization of digital transformation usually undergoes the “throes period”. We further clarify that it will step into the “accelerating period” after experiencing throes. As a result, we provide strong practical guidance for firms facing digital transformation. (3) By analyzing the time-lagged effect, acting mechanism and heterogeneity of the value realization of digital transformation, we provide more accurate guidance and suggestions for firms. Moreover, this study gives decision-making inspiration to the government in formulating or implementing highly-demanded policies.
The following policy suggestions are put forward: (1) The government should enhance policy support to corporate digital transformation, and cultivate external environment for corporate digital transformation. (2) Moreover, the government should establish specialized incentive policies to promote corporate digital transformation, especially in small and medium-sized firms. (3) Firms should engage in digital transformation from a strategic perspective.