As organizations increasingly use digital platforms to facilitate innovation, researchers are seeking to understand how platforms shape business practices. Although extant literature offers important insights into platform management from a platform-owner perspective, we know little about how organizations manage industry platforms provided by external parties to generate opportunities and overcome challenges in relation to their infrastructure and work processes. As part of larger ecosystems, these digital platforms offer organizations bundles of digital options that they can selectively invest in over time. At the same time, organizations’ previous investments in digital infrastructure and work processes produce a legacy of digital debt that conditions how they manage their digital platforms over time. Against this backdrop, we investigate how digital options and digital debt were implicated in a large Scandinavian media organization’s management of a news production platform over nearly 17 years. Drawing on extant literature and the findings from this case, we theorize the progression of and interactions between digital options and digital debt during an organization’s digital platform management in relation to its infrastructure and work processes. The theory reveals the complex choices that organizations face in such efforts: While they may have to resolve digital debt to make a platform’s digital options actionable, hesitancy to plant digital debt may equally well prevent them from realizing otherwise attractive digital options. Similarly, while identified digital options may offer organizations new opportunities to resolve digital debt, eagerness to realize digital options may just as easily lead to unwise planting of digital debt.
In the context of software platforms, we examine how cross-side network effects (CNEs) on different platform sides (app-side and user-side) are temporally asymmetric, and how these CNEs are influenced by the platform’s governance policies. Informed by a perspective of value creation and capture, we theorize how the app-side and the user-side react to each other with distinct value creation/capture processes, and how these processes are influenced by the platform’s governance policies on app review and platform updates. We use a time-series analysis to empirically investigate the platform ecosystem of a leading web browser. Our findings suggest that while the growth in platform usage results in long-term growth in both the number and variety of apps, the growth in the number of apps and the variety of apps only leads to short-term growth in platform usage. We also find that long app review time weakens the long-term CNE of the user-side on the app-side, but not the short-term CNE of the app-side on the user-side. Moreover, we find that frequent platform updates weaken the CNEs of both the user-side and the app-side on each other. These findings generate important implications regarding how a software platform may better govern its ecosystem with different participants.