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The Coordination of Inter-Organizational Networks in the Enterprise Software Industry

The Perspective of Complementors


Thomas Kude

In the enterprise software industry, large platform vendors have established partner networks with smaller providers of complementary solutions. This study takes the perspective of these complementors. How do they coordinate their partnerships with platform vendors? What are the circumstances under which different coordination mechanisms lead to partnership success? Based on existing theories and the findings from extensive qualitative research, a new explanatory model is developed. The study contributes to theory building efforts in the Information Systems discipline as well as in adjacent fields by providing a better understanding of partnership coordination and success. The implications for successful partnership management are highly relevant for practitioners.


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1 Introduction


1.1 Problem statement The coordination of separated activities in the process of developing enterprise software has been an important issue in theory and practice for many decades (Faraj and Sproull, 2000; Kraut and Streeter, 1995; Messerschmitt and Szyperski, 2003). The mechanisms to coordinate enterprise software development processes, however, have been subject to significant changes as a consequence of the chang- ing structure of the enterprise software industry. In the early days of computing, enterprise software was custom-developed in a make-to-order fashion. Later, in the 1970s, standardized, monolithic systems that covered most of the primary business functions in different industries emerged (Cusumano, 2004). During the 1980s, these systems became the state-of-the-art, resulting in an oligopolistic mar- ket with a few dominating system vendors like IBM, Oracle or SAP (Campbell- Kelly, 2003). In the last two decades, however, this trend has been counteracted by a ten- dency towards disintegration (Bresnahan and Greenstein, 1999; Messerschmitt and Szyperski, 2003; Zenger and Hesterly, 1997). As a result, formerly integrated systems are now more and more characterized by a high degree of modularity (Baldwin and Clark, 1997). From a theoretical point of view, it can be argued that the trend towards disintegrated systems should be reflected in a higher de- gree of organizational modularity within the industry (Conway, 1968; Hoetker, 2006; Sanchez and Mahoney, 1996; Heinzl and Oberweis, 2007). This is indeed the case. Partnership networks have emerged in which companies work together based on mutually agreed standards (Gao and Iyer, 2008; Ring...

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