Investigating inter-organisational platform development through the lens of collective action
This thesis examines inter-organisational platform development occurring though collective action. Despite much hype about the benefits of platforms, and burgeoning stream of work on the subject in IS literature, IOP development processes and practices that lead to success or failure remain obscure. Some scholars suggest that this is perhaps because of the secrecy associated with such projects. IS literature shows that the development of inter-organisational platforms is plagued by collective action challenges, such as the conflicting interests, heterogenous goals, and coopetition between members. This is mostly encountered in designing important aspects of the platform such as architecture, governance models, and value systems. These challenges make critical mass difficult to achieve, often derailing platform development projects. Thus, it has become crucial to understand how such platforms are developed through collective efforts by multiple organisations.
This study addresses the gaps mentioned using a longitudinal case study. There was an opportunity for unusual research access to real time observations of the development processes from inception. This led to collection of a rich dataset from multiple sources. Over two-and-half years, observations were made as 46 organisations such as airlines, airports, visitor experience providers (e.g., canyon swings, ziptreks), private corporates, hotel chains, and government agencies worked together to develop a platform for sharing data resources and services in the tourism sector in New Zealand.
Findings indicate that IOP development processes vary in specific areas of development such as the designing of architecture, governance, value systems, and standards. Whilst some processes can be managed through leadership, coordination, and collective organising by a leading organisation in the collective, others require self-organisation to align complementary resources and interests. Apart from processes of activities and actions, we also found that socio-cognitive processes and joint actions between members co-influence each other during design phases. These co-influences can explain how cognitive distances and incongruencies in technology frames of references are resolved. The primary contribution of this study is to have created theoretical building blocks towards a nascent theory of IOP development processes occurring through collective action. These building blocks include specifications of concepts, process models of design & cognitive processes, propositions of process activities & their observed outcomes, and problematisations of key constructs that extend the theoretical boundaries of such concepts as critical mass (the outcome variable in collective action). The research also contributes to platforms and collective action theories by integrating the two areas in investigating the development of inter-organisational platforms. Practical knowledge can be drawn on how IOPs are constructed in conditions of heterogeneity and coopetition requiring collective organising.