Product to Platform Transitions: Organizational Identity Implications

42 Pages Posted: 7 Dec 2013 Last revised: 11 Sep 2014

See all articles by Elizabeth J. Altman

Elizabeth J. Altman

University of Massachusetts Lowell

Mary Tripsas

Boston College; Harvard University - Entrepreneurial Management Unit

Date Written: September 10, 2014


Organizations are increasingly recognizing that value they once derived from offering standalone products can be significantly enhanced if they transition to platform-based businesses that harness the innovative capabilities of complementors. While the competitive dynamics of platform-based businesses have been studied extensively in the economics and strategy literatures, the organizational implications of shifting from a product to a platform-based business model remain relatively unexplored. We propose that such a shift is not simply an operational change, but may challenge the core of how an organization views itself, calling into question organizational identity. Organizations that have historically defined themselves as creative and innovative may have trouble accepting a platform-based context where outsiders engage in much of the creative activity. Organizational identity can also influence whether and how organizations become platform-based. To succeed, we propose that organizations must question elements of their existing identity and actively modify it to become consistent with their new business approach.

Keywords: Organizational Change, Organizational Identity, Multi-sided Platforms, Ecosystems, Complementors, Managing Innovation

Suggested Citation

Altman, Elizabeth J. and Tripsas, Mary, Product to Platform Transitions: Organizational Identity Implications (September 10, 2014). Harvard Business School Research Paper No. 14-045. Available at SSRN: or

Elizabeth J. Altman (Contact Author)

University of Massachusetts Lowell ( email )

1 University Ave
Lowell, MA 01854
United States

Mary Tripsas

Boston College ( email )

Chestnut Hill, MA 02467
United States

Harvard University - Entrepreneurial Management Unit ( email )

Cambridge, MA 02163
United States

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