Student Theses and Projects: Stability in and Flexibility on the Platform: Investigating the Role of Different Digital Platform Architectures


Thesis (MA/DA/FuA) - Reference number 2020-204

Advisor(s): Andreas Hein


Digital platforms are an omnipresent phenomenon that challenges traditional firms by changing how we consume and provide digital products and services. Whereas traditional firms create value within the boundaries of a company or a supply chain, digital platforms utilize an ecosystem of autonomous agents to co-create value (Hein et al. 2019a). An example of a digital platform ecosystem is iOS or Android. Both digital platforms utilize an application store to offer a variety of different applications that are created by an ecosystem of third-party developers.

From a technical perspective, digital platforms are extensible codebases that provide core functionality, supplemented by modular services (Tiwana et al. 2010; Tilson et al. 2010). Each modular service is a software subsystem that can extend the functionality of the platform (Baldwin and Woodard 2009). When taking iOS as an example, modules could be services such as maps or application stores. To develop new value-adding modules, the platform owner (e.g., Apple or Google) provides third-party developers with boundary resources such as Software Development Kits (SDKs). In turn, those boundary resources provide the developers with digital affordances (Ghazawneh and Henfridsson 2013; Hein et al. 2019b), where digital affordances refer to “what an individual or organization with a particular purpose can do with a technology” (Majchrzak and Markus 2013). Eventually, the boundary resources assist third-party developers in cultivating products or services on top of a digital platform (Constantinides et al. 2018; Hein et al. 2019c). An example is Apple’s introduction of the augmented reality kit (ARKit) that extends the iOS platform and provides new affordances to the entire ecosystem. To support the provision of new affordances, the digital infrastructure builds upon a modular digital platform that is inherently malleable, meaning it can be reconfigured to adapt user needs and prompt new technological advances (Yoo et al. 2010; Hein et al. 2019a) such as new SDKs that developers can use, in turn, to build new applications.

In summary, the stability of the digital platform and the provision of boundary resources ensures that third-party developers can develop and integrate modules without extensive knowledge of platform architectures, whereas the modular architecture allows for versatility and scalability of new modules (Tiwana et al. 2010).


The goal of this thesis is to gain knowledge on how the platform owner finds the balance between scalability and stability in the digital platform (e.g., through modularity) and the provision of new affordances through boundary resources (e.g., through SDKs) to enable the flexible integration of a variety of modules (e.g., applications). A proposed list of tasks can be found below.

  • Synthesize the literature on characteristics of digital platforms that defy stability and scalability in the core, while also ensuring flexibility and variety on the periphery
  • Map existing (platform) architectures toward the identified characteristics
  • Conduct a qualitative comparative analysis (Rihoux and Ragin 2008) based on the findings
  • Discuss the results in the light of current research on digital platforms


  • A high degree of autonomy and individual responsibility
  • Very good grades and a good command of the English language are beneficial


Baldwin, C. Y., & Woodard, C. J. (2009): The architecture of platforms: A unified view. In A. Gawer (Ed.), Platforms, markets and innovation (pp. 19-44): Edward Elgar Publishing.

Constantinides, P., Henfridsson, O., & Parker, G. G. (2018): Introduction—Platforms and Infrastructures in the Digital Age. Information Systems Research, 29(2), 381.

Ghazawneh, A., & Henfridsson, O. (2013): Balancing platform control and external contribution in third-party development: The boundary resources model. Information Systems Journal, 23(2), 173-192.

Hein, A., Schreieck, M., Riasanow, T., Setzke, D. S., Wiesche, M., Böhm, M., & Krcmar, H. (2019a): Digital platform ecosystems. Electronic Markets, In print, 1-12.

Hein, A., Soto Setzke, D., Hermes, S., & Weking, J. (2019b): The Influence of Digital Affordances and Generativity on Digital Platform Leadership. Paper presented at the Proceedings of the 40th International Conference on Information Systems, Munich, Germany.

Hein, A., Weking, J., Schreieck, M., Wiesche, M., Böhm, M., & Krcmar, H. (2019c): Value co-creation practices in business-to-business platform ecosystems. Electronic Markets, 29(3), 503-518.

Rihoux, B., & Ragin, C. C. (2008). Configurational comparative methods: Qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) and related techniques (Vol. 51). Sage Publications.

Tilson, D., Lyytinen, K., & Sørensen, C. (2010): Research commentary—Digital infrastructures: The missing IS research agenda. Information systems research, 21(4), 748-759.

Tiwana, A., Konsynski, B., & Bush, A. A. (2010): Research commentary—Platform evolution: Coevolution of platform architecture, governance, and environmental dynamics. Information Systems Research, 21(4), 675-687.

Yoo, Y., Henfridsson, O., & Lyytinen, K. (2010): Research commentary—the new organizing logic of digital innovation: an agenda for information systems research. Information Systems Research, 21(4), 724-735.

Further Information

The topic can be adapted according to your interests. The thesis must be written in English. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me directly. Please send your application including our application form, "Notenauszug" from TUMonline, and CV to Please note that we can only consider applications with complete documents.

Announcement date: 03.02.2020