Advances in digital technologies have led to growing adoption of digital platforms in many fields. In business-to-business (B2B) markets, solution providers have started to use digital platforms to coordinate business partners to provide customized solutions to their customers. A customized solution is a combination of products and services that can address a customer’s specific needs. With the support of digital platforms, solution providers can now have an extensive reach to diverse business partners and combine resources among them to develop and deliver these solutions. However, as a result, solution networks become more diverse, volatile and complex. This network complexity has led to the challenges in orchestrating solution networks efficiently to provide diverse customized solutions simultaneously.
Existing literature has offered valuable insights about the roles of digital platforms in B2B markets, such as sharing information, reaching diverse business partners and combining resources. However, although research has proposed that digital platforms should be integrated with other important elements in solution processes, such as human resources, organizational practices and solution offerings, limited research has been conducted on how to design and integrate digital platforms with these elements to facilitate orchestrating dynamic networks.
This thesis aims to advance our knowledge by examining how a solution provider can design its digital platform so that it interacts with these important elements to orchestrate solution networks. This research draws on a multiple case study with three Chinese companies with digital platforms in the information and communication technology (ICT) industry and the lighting facility industry. The result of this thesis is presented in three separated papers, exploring how solution providers integrate their digital platforms with solution offerings, boundary spanners, organizational processes to facilitate network orchestration.
This thesis contributes to the literature on B2B marketing by proposing a design thinking approach to network orchestration. It suggests that: (1) solution providers can have management and governance benefits by setting different levels of platform openness according to different features of solution offerings; (2) they design complementary functions of technical interfaces and boundary spanners to facilitate network orchestration; (3) they also integrate digital platforms with organizational practices to manage paradoxes in network orchestration. To facilitate network orchestration, the design thinking approach proposes that solution providers should go beyond digital infrastructure and integrate other important elements in solution processes when designing their digital platforms.