Power dynamics in software platform ecosystems

Hurni, Thomas; Huber, Thomas L.; Dibbern, Jens (2021). Power dynamics in software platform ecosystems. Information systems journal, 32(2), pp. 310-343. Wiley 10.1111/isj.12356

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In software platform ecosystems, the technological and structural peculiarities vest the platform owner with an extremely powerful position that puts any complementor at the mercy of the platform owner's actions. Paradoxically, it is the self-determination and proactivity of the complementors that determine the ecosystem's success through their surprising outside innovations. This study addresses this power paradox by unpacking the power dynamics between platform owners and complementors. Based on an exploratory multiple-case study of six platform partnerships, we find that power in platform ecosystems unfolds as a reciprocal process of three interlocking cycles, in which both the platform owner and the complementors take an active role. The modus operandi of power in platform ecosystems is a “central power cycle” in which the complementors repeatedly evaluate whether to accept or reject the platform owner's domination power. Thriving partnerships sustain this central power cycle over time, which requires that the platform owner and the complementors dynamically adapt their wielding of power to the changing needs of the partnership (partnership adaptation cycle) or the ecosystem (ecosystem redefinition cycle). For the platform owner, this entails the occasional use of manipulation to favour a particular partnership or redefining the ecosystem's framework and sporadically wielding coercion in favour of the broader ecosystem. For the complementor, this entails over-subjectification to entice the platform owner to wield its power in favour of their partnership. Our findings have important implications for platform ecosystem and power theory, as well as managerial practice.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


03 Faculty of Business, Economics and Social Sciences > Department of Business Management > Institute of Information Systems > Information Engineering
03 Faculty of Business, Economics and Social Sciences > Department of Business Management > Institute of Information Systems

UniBE Contributor:

Hurni, Thomas, Huber, Thomas, Dibbern, Jens


000 Computer science, knowledge & systems
600 Technology > 650 Management & public relations
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 330 Economics








Luca Giacomelli

Date Deposited:

09 Sep 2021 12:16

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:52

Publisher DOI:






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