Platform Leaders and Complementors' Strategic Management of Standards: Cases for Complex Products and Systems

Platform Leaders and Complementors' Strategic Management of Standards: Cases for Complex Products and Systems

Karim Benmeziane (Montpellier University, France) and Anne Mione (Montpellier University, France)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5320-5.ch002

Abstract

In this chapter, the authors describe how companies strategically manage standards in complex products and systems. They explore how standards selection and adoption can leverage the position of a firm as a leader or complementor1 in a CoPS platform. The authors particularly review the platform leader's management of standards and question whether these standards are used to reinforce its leadership or not. Then, they adopt the complementor's viewpoint and question whether standards adoption and implementation constitute a vehicle for skills acquisition. In other words, the authors address two questions: Does standard selection constitute a strategy to strengthen leadership? Does standard adoption facilitate capability building for a complementor and enable it contesting an installed leadership?
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Introduction

Complex Products and systems (CoPS) are defined as high cost, higlhy customized, engineering-intensive products, systems, networks and constructs which often require several producers to work together simultaneously (Hobday, 1998). In this specific context, standards, and more specifically “local standards”, are considered a solution to coordinate the different partners of the project (Steinmuller, 2003). The leader of the project defines and selects a set of specifications, potentially derived from industrial standards to achieve coordination and to ensure complementarity between the components of the complex system. To contribute to the project, the different participants are requested to conform to these standards. To some extent, standards shape the relationships between partners. In this contribution, we aim at exploring this strategic perspective on standards. We refer to Cusumano and Gawer ’s description of the platform leader and complementor’s positions (Gawer, 2002, 2009, 2010; Gawer and Cusumano, 2002, 2008 2014). Cusumano and Gawer (2002) exposes the strategies from complementors to become leaders or from leaders to maintain their leadership. We explore how standards definition, selection and implementation (de Vries, 1997) can leverage these hierarchical positions. We particularly review the platform leader’s management of standards and question whether these standards are used to reinforce its leadership or not. Then, we adopt the complementor‘s viewpoint and question whether standards adoption and implementation constitute a vehicle for skills acquisition. In other words, does standard adoption facilitate capability building for a supplier or a complementor? How far do these capabilities contribute in the development of new markets or contesting an installed leadership?

Our contribution is based on Complex Products and Systems (CoPS) cases analysis from the space sector. We specifically review space launch development and production activities. The space sector requires converging technologies (between civil and military in the propulsion domain for instance). In such converging ecosystems, Hacklin et al (2013) have described strategic profiles such as technology pioneer, market attacker, ecosystem aggregator or business remodeler. We adopt this typology to refine the role of standards in the description of the strategic profile of platform leaders and complementors.

The first part exposes the strategic management of standards in complex products and systems (Steinmueller, 2003). We expose the different strategic profiles a firm adopts in a high technological converging context and link these profiles to the positions of platform leader and complementor. Then, we explore the decisions made upon standard definition, selection and implementation for platform leaders and complementors. The second part exposes the method. The third part presents the results that will be discussed in the fourth part.

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