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Paper info: Channel stewardship: orchestrating network relationships in a collaborative way


Channel stewardship: orchestrating network relationships in a collaborative way


Elsa Dessaigne and
Catherine Pardo
EM Lyon
Catherine Pardo

Place of Publication

The paper was published at the 35th IMP-conference in Paris, France in 2019.


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Entering the digital age, some practitioners and researchers in network studies have highlighted the concept of network orchestration. Network orchestration is the process of assembling and managing an inter-organizational network to achieve a collective goal, in which the role of orchestrator is accepted by the other network members. Researchers have identified four main orchestration mechanisms to align the network actors around the development of value platforms: envisioning, inducing innovativeness, legitimizing and adjusting with network. Yet little is said about the type of actors who can be an orchestrator. In this paper we investigate whether B2B distributors can be network orchestrators. We propose the concept of channel stewardship to catch the different characteristics of orchestration in B2B distribution networks. Through an in-depth case study of the network of distributors of electrical supplies in France, we show that intermediaries can be skilled channel stewards, not only in their strategic intentions but also in the expectations of the other actors embedded in the network. Because of their specific role and position in the network, they appear not as leaders but as the most legitimate to align the marketing perspective and efforts of all the actors in the network around the needs of the end-user. By analysing the network as a playground for strategizing, this paper contributes to the literature on network dynamics, value-creating systems and B2B distribution.