Séminaire GREDEG - Annabelle Gawer (University of Surrey)

Shifts in Platform Boundaries
Quand ? Le 16-05-2019,
de 14:00 à 16:00
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Title: Shifts in Platform Boundaries

Abstract: Platforms and their associated ecosystems are an important organizational form in the digital economy. A significant subset of platform-based ecosystems has at its core a central actor which owns the platform technology and makes decisions that crucially impact its ecosystem members. Such platform leaders are often observed to shift their platform boundaries, but there is no integrated theory as to why they do so and when.

Existing platform theories offer partial insights on platform boundary shifts, as they differ in their focus and level of analysis, focusing either on the scope of the platform-owner firm, or on the technological interface of the platform technology. Others yet focus on the boundaries of the platform-based ecosystems. They also principally draw their insights from two well-established views of organizations: the efficiency view, and the competence view.

What has not been theoretically developed so far is the extent to which decisions about platform firm scope and platform technology openness are interrelated. This paper aims to offer an articulation of the interdependencies between platform scope choices and platform openness choices. It does so by complementing existing insights drawn from the efficiency-view and the competence-based view of organizations, with propositions derived from a power-view and an identity-view of organizations.

The first contribution of this article is to offer a novel conceptualization of platform boundaries that builds on recent advances in platform and ecosystem theory. It defines “platform boundary” as a multivariate construct that includes (1) technological boundary of a platform technology that separates the platform from its technological complements; (2) the organizational boundary that delineates the scope of the platform-owning firm.

Based on theoretical development illustrated with examples, we suggest that platform leaders can and do use boundary shifts to pursue multiple objectives: to gain efficiency, and/or to alter their own or their complementors’ capabilities to innovate, but also, occasionally, to weaken rivals, and/or to extend their legitimacy as platform leader. We note that not all these actions are consistent with each other, and that they cannot all be successfully pursued at the same time.

This leads to our second contribution: a discussion of how scope and interface decisions interact, and a suggestion that specific pairs of scope-and-interface shift decisions are likely to be more sustainable than others. The article concludes with managerial implications and indicates avenues for further research.

About Annabelle Gawer : Annabelle Gawer is Professor of Digital Economy at the University of Surrey and co-Director of the Surrey Centre for the Digital Economy (CoDE). Professor Gawer is a leading expert on digital platforms. Professor Gawer is the author of two important books Platform Leadership, and Platform, Markets and Innovation. She also authored more than a dozen articles on platforms in top international research journals including Research Policy, the MIT Sloan Management Review, Organization Studies, the Journal of Product Innovation Management, and the Journal of Economics and Management Strategy.

Cited in The Economist and The Wall Street Journal, she is a frequent keynote speaker at international academic conferences and high-tech industry events. She advises the European Commission and the House of Lords on regulation of online platforms and on the future of ICT research directions in Europe. For over 15 years she has been a thought-leader on platforms, clarifying the fundamental economic and technological forces shaping the competition and innovation dynamics of platform-based high-tech industries, including Internet businesses, telecoms, electronics or digital media.

Professor Gawer also consults with global corporations and start-ups on digital platform strategy, and directs executive education programs on platform strategy, innovation and entrepreneurship. She earned her PhD degree in Management of Technological Innovation from the MIT Sloan School of Management. She also holds an MSc from Stanford Industrial Engineering, an MSc in Applied Maths, and a French civil engineering degree from École des Mines.