Constructing institutional change: emergence, contestation and convergence of business models in the field of Java application servers

  • Michael Kaschewsky

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


How are innovative new business models established if organizations constantly compare themselves against existing criteria and expectations? The objective is to address this question from the perspective of innovators and their ability to redefine established expectations and evaluation criteria. The research questions ask whether there are discernible patterns of discursive action through which innovators theorize institutional change and what role such theorizations play for mobilizing support and realizing change projects. These questions are investigated through a case study on a critical area of enterprise computing software, Java application servers. In the present case, business practices and models were already well established among incumbents with critical market areas allocated to few dominant firms. Fringe players started experimenting with a new business approach of selling services around freely available opensource application servers. While most new players struggled, one new entrant succeeded in leading incumbents to adopt and compete on the new model. The case demonstrates that innovative and substantially new models and practices are established in organizational fields when innovators are able to refine expectations and evaluation criteria within an organisational field. The study addresses the theoretical paradox of embedded agency. Actors who are embedded in prevailing institutional logics and structures find it hard to perceive potentially disruptive opportunities that fall outside existing ways of doing things. Changing prevailing institutional logics and structures requires strategic and institutional work aimed at overcoming barriers to innovation. The study addresses this problem through the lens of (new) institutional theory. This discourse methodology traces the process through which innovators were able to establish a new social and business model in the field.
Date of Award2008
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorStephen Roper (Supervisor)


  • institutional change
  • emergence
  • contestation
  • convergence
  • business models
  • Java application servers

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