Deconstruction of Business Ecosystems: Contexts, Configurations, Capabilities, and Coevolution

Call for papers for: Industrial Management & Data Systems

Guest Editors

Dr. Yongyi Shou
School of Management, Zhejiang University, China

Dr. Yongjiang Shi
Institute for Manufacturing, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom

Dr. Guang-Jie Ren
IBM Almaden Lab, United States of America

Aims and Scope of the Special Issue

In the recent decade, there is a substantially increasing amount of studies on business ecosystems (Adner, 2017). The term “ecosystem” is borrowed from natural ecology and now is not only widely adopted by high-tech and internet firms but also by more established sectors from financial services to manufacturing (Rong and Shi, 2014; Jacobides et al., 2018). Scholars attempt to understand what ecosystems are, why they emerge and how they differ from other business organizations (Jacobides et al., 2018). It is believed that business ecosystems are different to traditional market arrangements (Williamson, 1979), vertically integrated supply chains (Cao and Zhang, 2011; Flynn et al., 2010; Shou et al., 2018), or geographically dispersed manufacturing networks (Shi and Gregory, 1998; Zhang and Gregory, 2011). It is a new type of collective form for multiple stakeholders (Cennamo and Santaló, 2019), which is facilitated by emerging technologies like 3D printing (Chan et al., 2018; Lam et al., 2019; Rong et al., 2020), blockchain (Chen et al., 2020; Dutta et al., 2020; Lumineau et al., 2020), cloud computing (Basole and Park, 2019; Shou et al., 2020), Internet-of-Things (Rong et al., 2015), and etc. Such technologies have altered the contexts of business ecosystems (Rong et al., 2015). Particularly, because of COVID-19, digital technologies have been speedily implemented to reshape traditional industries and define nascent business ecosystems.

In many well-known business ecosystems, there is a focal firm who provides a platform for a variety of actors. For example, Amazon and Alibaba provide e-commerce platforms for their suppliers and consumers (Leong et al., 2016; Wang and Miller, 2020). Uber is another case by establishing a digital platform to share private cars with passengers (Benjaafar and Hu, 2020; Liu et al., 2021). In such ecosystems, the interorganizational relationships are more complex than the dyadic buyer-supplier relationships in supply chains since in ecosystems there are more stakeholders who depend on one another to jointly create value (Adner and Kapoor, 2010; Chen et al., 2021; Jacobides et al., 2018). For instance, the success of Alibaba’s e-commerce platform is dependent on numerous logistics service providers (LSPs), who deliver the parcels from suppliers to consumers on time with a competitive price. PayPal and Alipay work as financial intermediary to facilitate cash flow among the suppliers, service providers and consumers, which can be regarded as part of supply chain finance ecosystems (Bals, 2019). In addition, the value of such ecosystems is created not only by the focal firms and their supply chain members but also by the complementors (Adner and Kapoor, 2010). The more complementors, the more value could be created for the end users, and the more higher probability for value cocreation by ecosystem members and consumers (Ceccagnoli et al., 2012). The connections between the focal firm, supply chain partners and complementors determine the configuration of the ecosystem (Adner and Kapoor, 2010). The key difference between supply chains and business ecosystems is the most interesting and critical aspect to understand the mission and potentials of business ecosystems. It offers a new direction to explore business ecosystems beyond the functions and static relationships of supply chains.

Individual business ecosystems may have similar configurations yet each player in the ecosystem needs to develop their own capabilities to achieve strategic objectives. In the operations and supply chain management literature, many organizational capabilities have been studied, such as manufacturing (Patel and Jayaram, 2014), integration (Flynn et al., 2010), innovation (Dong et al., 2020), learning (Gong et al., 2018). David Teece also explores the capabilities from ordinary and dynamic perspectives to suggest a new capability theory for organisations. Given the distinctive contexts and configurations in a business ecosystem, it is expected that firms require different strategies and unique capabilities to fully utilize its potential in the business ecosystem (Cenamor and Frishammar, 2021). For example, firms need network capabilities to take advantages of inter-organizational relationships for better access and utilization of external resources (Kohtamäki et al., 2013), which deserve more attention in business ecosystem research (Rong et al., 2015).  On the other hand, besides the firm perspective to understand the new types of capabilities, it is also very critical to identify and deconstruct the strategic capabilities or functions of the ecosystems.

Moreover, it is recognized that competition and cooperation may coexist in inter-firm relationships (Hoffmann et al., 2018; Liu et al., 2014). Given the heterogeneity of interorganizational relationships in ecosystems, there are not only co-existing competition and cooperation between focal firms and suppliers but also complex relationships among supply chain members, facilitators, complementors, consumers and regulative agencies (Hannah and Eisenhardt, 2018). In such a dynamic ecosystem, these actors and their relationships co-evolve over time to better create value for end users (Parente et al., 2019; Tiwana et al., 2010; Wareham et al., 2014). Hence, the coevolution view of ecosystems helps better understand the complementarities between multiple actors within the ecosystems (Hou and Shi, 2021).

The purpose of this special issue is to publish high-quality original research articles that address emerging issues in business ecosystems, particularly the roles of different actors and resources, dynamics of interorganizational relationships, as well as the holistic properties of a business ecosystem. We invite original research works that employ quantitative and/or qualitative methodologies, such as empirical surveys, case studies, event studies, mathematical modelling, behavioral experiments, optimization, and simulation. This special issue will adhere to IMDS’s standard of publishing relevant and rigorous studies. Authors are welcome to submit original and unpublished papers.

Topics of interest include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Product or service innovation in business ecosystems
  • Relationship between industrial systems and business ecosystems
  • The roles of digital technologies and alliances in business ecosystems
  • Information and financial flows in business ecosystems
  • The individual or collective roles of third-party facilitators and complementors
  • Governance of interorganizational relationships in business ecosystems
  • Value cocreation by complementors, facilitators, customers and end users
  • Power distribution in business ecosystems
  • Interorganizational justice and value capture in business ecosystems
  • Corporate social responsibility practices in business ecosystems
  • Application of network analysis in business ecosystems
  • Research methodology for business ecosystem studies


Submissions open on August 10th 2021.

The submission deadline for all papers is November 30th 2021.

The intended publication date of this special issue is July/August 2022.

To submit your research, please visit the ScholarOne manuscript portal.

To view the author guidelines for this journal, please visit the journal's page.


Contact the Guest Editors

Dr. Yongyi Shou
School of Management, Zhejiang University, China
[email protected]

Dr. Yongjiang Shi
Institute for Manufacturing, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom
[email protected]

Dr. Guang-Jie Ren
IBM Almaden Lab, United States of America
[email protected]



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