Uncertainty driving the dynamic development of inter-organisational relationships in engineering services over time

Melanie E. Kreye*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper explores the dynamic development of inter-organisational relationships between provider and buyer over time. We specifically study how uncertainty drives relationship strength and contributes to intended future relationship strength in engineering service relationships due to the suitability of this setting for our purpose. From the literature, we derive a conceptual framework of three uncertainty types (environmental, relational and organisational uncertainty), which we investigate over the contract life cycle. We present four case studies of 10–17 semi-structured interviews each and secondary data. We show how pre-contract environmental uncertainty drives relationship strength depending on the pre-contract experienced organisational uncertainty. We further show how relationship strength affect early contract experienced organisational uncertainty. Depending on the development of this uncertainty during contract operation, the intended relationship strength is increased or decreased. We derive theoretical propositions regarding these three connections. This study contributes to the existing literature by demonstrating the dynamic effects of different uncertainty types and their respective interactions with relationship strength over time. We move beyond existing theory towards a nuanced understanding of the dynamic interaction between uncertainty and relationship strength over time.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-44
Number of pages12
JournalIndustrial Marketing Management
Early online date1 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s)


  • Buyer-supplier relationships
  • Case study
  • Engineering services
  • Servitization
  • Uncertainty

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