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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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2 Theoretical foundation


This chapter elaborates on the study’s theoretical foundations in order to provide a basis for the empirical examination of the coordination and success of hub-and- spoke partnerships. Although the first phase of empirical research is exploratory in nature, a broad review of existing work is deemed appropriate in order to set the focus of the overall study and discuss basic constructs (Eisenhardt, 1989; Yin, 2009). Therefore, this chapter provides an understanding of enterprise software and an overview of the historical development of the enterprise software industry that has led to the emergence of the network structures. Moreover, an outline of previous work on inter-organizational networks is given, both in IS literature as well as in adjacent disciplines. After having discussed the need for coordination in the enterprise software industry and existing work on the coordination of distributed tasks, a model of the enterprise software industry that clarifies the assumptions of this study is presented. Then, a summary is given in order to explicitly frame the theoretical foundations of the research. 2.1 Network structures in the enterprise software industry Generally, the term software refers to “written programs within a particular pro- gramming language [...] that are executable after being interpreted by a com- puter” (Wigand et al., 2003, p. 20). Technically, software consists of data sets, relationships among data items, algorithms and invocations of functions (Brooks, 1987). Enterprise software is a subset of software systems that is claimed to be the “operating system” of an organizations (Chellappa and Saraf, 2010). It...

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