Student Theses and Projects: Evolution and Orchestration of a Complex Platform Ecosystem: The Role of Knowledge Boundaries


Thesis (BA/MA/DA) - Reference number 2020-208

Advisor(s): Martin Kauschinger


Researchers in the information systems field and beyond are seeking to understand the impact of digital platforms in various industries (de Reuver, Sorensen, & Basole, 2017). Besides platforms evolving as dominant players in the consumer market - e.g. Amazon or Airbnb (Parker, Van Alstyne, & Choudary, 2016) - they rapidly change how we consume and deliver software services (Song, Xue, Rai, & Zhang, 2018). Against this background, many vendors of enterprise software started to pursue platform strategies. This shift in strategy has several implications. Most reasonable, they turn former product-based companies into curators of ecosystems (Foerderer, Kude, Schuetz, & Heinzl, 2019). Such curation transcends traditional product management by integrating interactions with complementary firms and products. However, complementary products (e.g. applications) require alignment and orchestration with its corresponding platform core (Tiwana, 2014). Therefore, platform owners rely on several tools and resource to coordinate the emergence and orchestration of their platform ecosystem (Ghazawneh & Henfridsson, 2013; Schreieck, Wiesche, & Krcmar, 2016).

More concrete, this thesis focusses on knowledge boundaries within software ecosystems. Such boundaries arise because of two reasons. First, development of software applications is a knowledge intensive task and second, development related knowledge has to cross organizational boundaries (Foerderer et al., 2019). Researchers have identified several kinds of boundary resources that aim at facilitating knowledge sharing between platform owners and complementors, e.g. APIs, software development kits, technical documentation, partnerships, online communities, information portals, helpdesks, alignment workshops, road maps and certificates (Eaton, Elaluf-Calderwood, & Sorensen, 2015; Ghazawneh & Henfridsson, 2013; Hein et al., 2019).

Although scholars have put forth several conceptual models that describe the effect of such tools and resources, empirical evidence about their impact is still scarce. Against this background, this thesis investigates the influence of knowledge boundaries and their corresponding boundary objects in software ecosystems. The focus of the thesis can take several directions. Also, it can be designed as a literature study or an empirical study. The first option is to conduct a literature review and identify relevant knowledge boundaries. This includes a classification of platform owners’ tactics to address knowledge boundaries. The second option is to apply qualitative or quantitative research methods to investigate the role of knowledge boundaries. The latter requires a quantification of effects.


  • Review the literature in the respective field
  • Identify types of knowledge boundaries based on the literature
  • Identify platform owners’ strategies to address knowledge boundaries
  • Apply quantitative or qualitative research methods to investigate the impact of such strategies
  • Deduce recommendations for platform owners and complementors
  • Discuss implications for the management of digital platforms


  • High degree of autonomy and responsibility
  • Interest in research on platform ecosystems
  • Interest in data analytics and textual analysis
  • Experience in data analytics can be beneficial
  • Experience in webscraping can be beneficial

Further Information

The thesis can be written in English or German. The topic can also be adapted to your interests. If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me directly. Please send your application including our application form, a current transcript of records, and your CV to Please note that we can only consider applications with complete documents.


de Reuver, M., Sorensen, C., & Basole, R. C. (2017). The Digital Platform: A Research Agenda. Journal of Information Technology, 33(2), 124-135.

Eaton, B., Elaluf-Calderwood, S., & Sorensen, C. (2015). Distributed Tuning of Boundary Resources: The Case of Apple's Ios Service System. MIS Quarterly, 39(1), 217-243.

Foerderer, J., Kude, T., Schuetz, S. W., & Heinzl, A. (2019). Knowledge Boundaries in Enterprise Software Platform Development: Antecedents and Consquences for Platform Governance. Information Systems Journal, 29(1), 1-26.

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., Soto-Setzke, D., Wiesche, M., Böhm, M., & Krcmar, H. (2019). Digital Platform Ecosystems. Electronic Markets, in press.

Parker, G. G., Van Alstyne, M. W., & Choudary, S. P. (2016). Platform Revolution - How Networked Markets are Transforming the Economy - And How to Make Them Work for You. New York: W. W. Norton.

Schreieck, M., Wiesche, M., & Krcmar, H. (2016). Design and Governance of Platform Ecosystems - Key Concepts and Issues for Future Research. Paper presented at the Twenty-Fourth European Conference on Information Systems (ECIS).

Song, P., Xue, L., Rai, A., & Zhang, C. (2018). The Ecosystem of Software Platform: A Study of Asymmetric Cross-Side Network Effects and Platform Governance. MIS Quarterly, 42(1), 121-142.

Tiwana, A. (2014). Platform Ecosystems - Aligning Architecture, Governance, and Strategy. Walham: Morgan Kaufmann.