To cope with the increasingly fierce market competition and highly uncertain external environment, more and more firms start to transfer their focus of value creation from internal to inter-firm networks, as well as adopt a set of deliberate and purposeful actions to build and coordinate the network. Based on this, scholars use “network orchestration” to describe this phenomenon. Despite the increasing research on network orchestration, previous studies lack a systematic review of the connotation and relevant important issues of network orchestration, and ignore the matching between different types of networks and network orchestration. More importantly, the domestic research on network orchestration lags behind foreign research seriously. To fill these gaps, this paper systematically summarizes previous studies, and makes an in-depth discussion on the origin, connotative features, key dimensions, antecedents, and consequences of network orchestration to establish an integrated theoretical framework. On this basis, it is essential to explore the key dimensions from a dynamic perspective, expand the research on antecedents and consequences from different network situations, improve the current research at the network individual level, enrich research methods as well as enhance the quantitative analysis, and improve the localization study in the Chinese context.
It is found that although the connotation of network orchestration respectively focuses on “value maximization” and “sustainable development” in the closed-system network and open-system network, both contain three common features: the initiative of orchestrators to coordinate the network, a dynamic process and the overall orientation of the network. In addition, the key dimensions of network orchestration are summarized and integrated according to “formation dimension” and “coordination dimension”. The key dimensions of network orchestration in the closed-system network show the characteristics of “exploitation orientation”, and there are two kinds of dimension classification of large firms and small and medium-sized firms as orchestrators. The key dimensions of orchestration in the open-system network are characterized by “exploratory orientation”, and there are two kinds of dimension classification of leading firms inside the network and intermediary organizations outside the network as orchestrators. Furthermore, regarding the antecedents of network orchestration, the antecedents in the closed-system network include the overall and individual factors of the network, while the antecedents in the open-system network only involve individual factors. Finally, regarding the consequences, network orchestration has a promotion effect on network innovation performance, value co-creation and alliance combination in the closed-system network, but the effect varies on the performance of different individuals in the network. Network orchestration in the open-system network can promote network absorptive capacity as well as individual absorptive capacity.
This paper makes three contributions to current research: First, it compares and summarizes the connotation and common features of network orchestration, which is useful for the domestic scholars to have a comprehensive understanding on the concept of network orchestration. Second, according to the two situations of closed-system network and open-system network, an integrated theoretical framework is established by incorporating the key dimensions, antecedents and consequences of network orchestration, which provides a new point for improving the systematization, focalization and practicality of future research. Third, the key dimensions of network orchestration are integrated from “formation dimension” and “coordination dimension”, and the types of the orchestrator are considered in the analytical framework. The difference of the key dimensions of network orchestration in the closed-system network and open-system network is compared and analyzed, which further expands the depth of network orchestration research.