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Managing identity tensions during mobile ecosystem evolution

  • Lindgren, Rikard1, 2
  • Eriksson, Owen3
  • Lyytinen, Kalle4
  • 1 Swedish Center for Digital Innovation, University of Gothenburg, Department of Applied IT, Gothenburg, Sweden , Gothenburg (Sweden)
  • 2 University of Borås, Borås, Sweden , Borås (Sweden)
  • 3 Uppsala University, Department of Informatics and Media, Uppsala, Sweden , Uppsala (Sweden)
  • 4 Wheatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University, Department of Information Systems, Cleveland, OH, USA , Cleveland (United States)
Published Article
Journal of Information Technology
Palgrave Macmillan UK
Publication Date
May 19, 2015
DOI: 10.1057/jit.2015.8
Springer Nature


The idea of an ecosystem suggests a holistic framing of how heterogeneous actors relate to one another and of the dynamics of their relationships. Because of the dynamics some relationships will become uncertain, posing significant challenge to the identity of participating organizations. Unfortunately, the Information Systems (IS) literature has not examined how organizations develop and negotiate their identities during ecosystem evolution. We fill this void by exploring identity challenges that Swedish Road Administration (SRA) faced while implementing the Radio Data System – Traffic Message Channel (RDS – TMC) traffic information service. Through a longitudinal case study we follow how SRA’s inherited expectations, guiding norms, and standards of sense-giving about its identity prevented it from becoming a flexible service provider within an emerging mobile ecosystem. We record a constant clash – the identity tension – between the old inherited identity of a public road administrator and the aspiring new identity of a digital service provider. To enact a successful identity change, SRA had to engage in a series of change episodes whereby it deliberately implemented new routines that forged novel relationships with actors within the ecosystem. This permitted SRA to gradually align its identity to the evolving needs of the RDS-TMC service ecosystem. Our findings suggest that deliberate attempts to implement innovative mobile services – especially those involving public-private partnerships – trigger intriguing identity ambiguities and role dilemmas, and future research should therefore focus on effective strategies to identify, manage, and resolve inherent identity tensions.

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