Formation of Service Ecosystems: A Service Science Concept to Categorize Starting Points and Emergence Patterns

Julia M. Jonas, David Sörhammar, Gerhard Satzger, Juliana Hsuan

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference abstract for conferenceResearch


Researchers in several different academic disciplines (such as marketing, information systems, and organization) have focused on investigating service and business ecosystems (e.g. Lusch and Nambisan, 2015; Gawer and Cusumano, 2014; Kude et al. 2012). We reviewed 69 papers in service science, operations management, marketing, and organization journals. The majority of these papers focus on describing established service ecosystems,often on a more abstract “meso-level” (Akaka et al., 2015). Key notions are “…self-contained, self-adjusting system[s] of resource integrating actors connected by shared institutional arrangements and mutual value creation” (Vargo & Lusch, 2015) or “value co-creation configurations of people, technology, value propositions … and shared information” (Maglio &Spohrer, 2008). Little is known, though, of how service ecosystems emerge and become established – i.e. the “birth phase” (Moore, 2009) of a service ecosystem. This paper, therefore, aims to explore how the somewhat “magic” processes of service ecosystem formation that are being taken for granted actually occur. Methodology/Approach:
Building on a review of core elements in the definitions of service ecosystems, this paper proposes a conceptual model of service ecosystem initiation based on three components: actors, resources, and value propositions. We explain and illustrate how each of these three fundamental components may function as the initiator of a service ecosystem (cf. fig. 1): An actor (e.g., an organization or individual) may start to collaborate with others and thereby draw on resources in order to create a joint value proposition; a resource (e.g., in the form of a new technology or an outdated patent) may emerge as a platform on which several actors can develop a new value proposition; a value proposition (e.g., a business opportunity or a business idea) may form the starting point for actors to collaborate and integrate resources in order realize the value proposition. The initiator of a service ecosystem could for example be an actor (Mark Zuckerberg), resources (website for Harvard students) or value proposition (share messages, photos, videos, etc. with friends). Processes of configuring actors, resources, and value propositions are influenced by the structural embeddedness of the service ecosystem (e.g., regional infrastructure, existing networks of actors, or resource availability) as well as guided by the actors’ own and shared institutions (e.g., rules, norms,and beliefs).We contextualize each starting point with illustrative cases and analyze the service ecosystem configuration process: “Axoon/Trumpf” (initiated by resources), “JOSEPHS – the service manufactory” (initiated by a value proposition), “facebook” (initiated by an actor).
The contribution of this paper is a deeper understanding of the emergence of service ecosystems – as an addition to service system theory, providing hints for catalyzing service ecosystems in practice as well as establishing an agenda for further research. Future research questions that emerge from the discussion are for instance “what governance is adequate?”, “are there certain criteria for expanding an ecosystem?” and “what role do platforms have inthe growth of an ecosystem?”.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2016
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Event2nd Service Systems Forum 2016: Smart Service Systems & Business Models in the Digital Era - University of Warwick, Venice, Italy
Duration: 12 Jun 201613 Jun 2016
Conference number: 2


Conference2nd Service Systems Forum 2016
LocationUniversity of Warwick
Internet address

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