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© Kristian Möller, Arto Rajala, Senja Svahn

This conceptual paper focuses on the management challenges of different types of strategic business nets. First, we propose a value-system continuum that forms the basis for classifying different types of strategic nets. Second, a classification of these nets is suggested and discussed.
Finally, the core managerial questions and capabilities required in net management are illustrated. A discussion of the theoretical and managerial implications, and of future research needs, concludes the paper.
Key Words: Network Management, Strategic Networks, Business networks

The way economic value is created is fundamentally
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The former refers to any group of organizations or actors that are interconnected with exchange relationships. According to Industrial Network Theory, any market can be described as this kind of macro network (Axelsson and Easton 1992). Achrol (1997, 59) suggests that the quality of relationships can be used in defining a network organization: “a network organization is distinguished from a simple network …by the density, multiplicity, and reciprocity of ties and a shared value system defining membership roles and responsibilities.” This is in line with Amit and Zott (2001), who refer to Gulati, Nohria, and Zaheer (2000) in suggesting that strategic networks are “stable inter organizational ties, which are strategically important to participating firms”. Because a business network can be assumed to pursue established goals, we add the notion of intentionality to these definitions. Moreover, we reserve the “network” term to refer to macro networks, and the “net” to refer to intentional nets of a restricted group of actors.

An extensive literature analysis, covering both scholarly network studies and managerially- oriented description of business networks, enabled the following questions concerning strategic nets to be identified.

1.The goal: is the aim to increase the functional efficiency of an existing value system as in many tiered supplier nets and ECR arrangements, or to develop a better product or system through an R&D net, or

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