Complexity in the 'Extended' Business Network: A Study of Business, Social, and Political Relationships in Smart City Solutions

  • Datum:
  • Plats: Hörsal 2, Kyrkogårdsgatan 10 C, Uppsala
  • Doktorand: Leite, Emilene
  • Om avhandlingen
  • Arrangör: Företagsekonomiska institutionen
  • Kontaktperson: Leite, Emilene
  • Disputation


In this thesis an 'extended' business network is investigated. The ‘extended’ view refers to the inclusion of socio-political actors in the firm’s business network. Building on a business network perspective, the thesis’ purpose is to understand how interactions between business, social, and political actors influence the development of smart city solutions. Based on the findings from the four articles included in the thesis, a complexity lens for further understanding of interaction with socio-political actors is presented. It argues that reaching success in the relationship entails finding a balance between economic and social needs.

Through the analysis of two smart city projects developed in Brazil, this study investigates the influence of socio-political actors on firms’ cooperative and competitive behavior as well as their decisions relating to resource allocation. The findings illustrate that decisions to cooperate or compete are associated with centrality. The firm’s willingness to be a central actor, i.e., a project leader, places traditional buyer-supplier partners in competition. In addition to this, resource allocation is closely linked to customization. In cities demanding a high level of customization of the smart city solution, companies will be encouraged to allocate resources to exploitation, while in cities requiring a low level of customization, exploration will be chosen instead. But knowledge about how to allocate resources is closely linked to the centrality issue, since a central actor may enjoy better access to a large pool of resources and information. Consequently, the final outcome in relational terms can lead to win-lose rather than a win-win situation if rivalry for centrality between business partners intensifies over time.

The study of such complex interaction contributes to the industrial marketing and business network literature by providing a practical perspective and showing how socio-political actors can be a source of competitive advantages for companies. In addition, this thesis suggests that managers need to cope with the complexity inherent in such type of relationships, primarily due the fact that interaction with socio-political actors has important competitive implications for firms. Ultimately, the thesis offers a framework for investigating complexity in actors’ interactions and resource heterogeneity that complements our understanding of intraorganizational relationships, opening opportunities for a new perspective and better comprehension of the influence of socio-political actors in firms’ business networks.