Principles of ecosystem strategy

Appert, Pierric (2023) Principles of ecosystem strategy. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Strategy scholars and business practitioners alike are increasingly using the ecosystem concept to describe networks of interdependent firms that collaborate and align to offer complementary products and services and collectively contribute to an overarching value proposition. Companies that operate in ecosystems are playing by a different set of strategy rules to navigate these complex, interconnected and dynamic business environments. Accordingly, a whole new stream of literature is emerging, specifically looking at strategic management in the context of ecosystems. Early research in that field has generally taken a static view and examined firm strategy form the perspective of ecosystem leaders, who often exert a disproportionate influence over the ecosystem structure and capture the lion’s share of profits. Less is known about firm strategy from the perspective of ecosystem complementors, who are responsible for a significant share of the co-created value but are often dismissed as passive actors, subject to the whims of the more powerful ecosystem leader. This dissertation addresses this gap through three tightly linked studies. The first study reviews over 250 academic articles from the ecosystem literature and discusses the status quo of research on ecosystem strategy, identifying several blind spots and avenues for future research, among which the almost exclusive attention given to the ecosystem leader perspective at the cost of better understanding complementors’ strategic options. The second study builds upon the first one by taking aim at the burgeoning research on complementor strategy. It analyses this subset of the literature in depth, synthesises our current understanding of complementor strategy, and identifies several theoretical gaps and avenues for further research in that stream. This includes, for example, the question of how complementors can navigate ecosystem change. Finally, the third study specifically addresses this gap by empirically studying how complementors respond to and navigate ecosystem change. To do so, over 40 mobile app developers were interviewed in the context of Apple’s introduction of a new mobile operating system (iOS 14.5) for its iPhone. Together, these studies offer several theoretical and managerial contributions. The central theoretical contribution of this dissertation is to examine the multiple facets of strategic management in ecosystems, both from an ecosystem leader and from a complementor perspective. Specifically, the dissertation highlights how ecosystem members can gain a competitive edge and capture value in hypercompetitive and interconnected value creation systems, thus contributing both to the ecosystem and strategic management literature. Furthermore, my dissertation also uncovers how changes initiated by the ecosystem leader can ripple through an ecosystem and affect complementor performance, thus expanding our current understanding of platform dynamics and highlighting the importance of the dynamic capabilities concept for ecosystem research. Also, by elucidating how complementors adapt to ecosystem change, my dissertation contributes to the literature on business models and business model innovation in the context of ecosystems and platforms. Finally, by comparing and discussing the differences between ecosystem strategy and more established views in the strategic management literature, my dissertation also draws a bridge between seminal strategy work and the new field of ecosystem strategy. The central managerial contribution of this dissertation is to offer strategic insights into how firms (both ecosystem leaders and complementors) can successfully navigate ecosystem change, based on the case study of Apple’s introduction of the ATT framework. Concretely, my study suggests several ways in which ecosystem leaders could minimize disruption and successfully execute platform change, while also highlighting a wide range of strategies complementors have at their disposal to avoid the negative effects of ecosystem dynamics and seize potential opportunities arising in the context of ecosystem disruption.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > Adam Smith Business School > Management
Supervisor's Name: von Delft, Professor Stephan and Fischbacher-Smith, Professor Denis
Date of Award: 2023
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2023-83902
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 02 Nov 2023 15:16
Last Modified: 02 Nov 2023 15:16
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.83902

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