Introduction to the Special Issue: Developing the Business Components of the Digital Economy

Georgios I. Doukidis, Guest Editor
International Journal of Electronic Commerce,
Volume 3, Number 3, Spring 1999, pp. 3.

Abstract: This Special Issue is devoted to the creation of components of the digital economy on levels ranging from the individual business to a national economy. The authors analyze several nodal aspects of the business infrastructure of electronic commerce. The issue has seven papers, selected from the best of those presented at the Eleventh International Bled Electronic Commerce Conference, which was convened in Bled, Slovenia, on June 8-10, 1998. Considered one of the major international events in electronic commerce, the annual conference attracts more than 300 participants from academia, business, and government. The research track consisted of 45 research papers, presented by more than 100 authors from 15 countries.

The authors of the first paper, Stefan Klein of the University of Münster and Robert M. O’Keefe of Brunel University, assess the progress made in the field of electronic auctions on the Web. By analyzing several classes of auctions, the authors begin to identify the impact that the Web is having on the viability, operation, and diffusion of auctions. In addition, they produce an agenda for further research on the way in which Web-based markets relying on auction mechanisms would evolve. The results address important aspects of electronic markets, such as trust and quality, as well as the new market structures built by cybermediaries and possible extensions of the supply chain.

The next paper, by Simpson Poon of Murdoch University and Paula Swatman of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, challenges some of our current thinking about the competitive use of the Internet. The authors discuss the findings of a longitudinal study carried out on a sample of small firms active online in Australia. The results show that sales increases due to entry into electronic commerce were far lower than initially expected, and that many of the small firms were disappointed with the performance of the Internet as a virtual marketplace. However, the Internet did help them save time in scouting resources, in building business networks, and in sharing expertise. The paper also provides an interesting insight into the effectiveness of marketing via the Internet, which has proved to be highly industry-sector dependent.

The paper by George M. Giaglis and Ray J. Paul of Brunel University and the guest editor reexamines contemporary thought on the assessment of real business value prior to the adoption of electronic commerce in organizations. The authors analyze the problem of evaluating E-commerce investments and explain why Business Process Modeling (BPM) constitutes an effective mechanism for overcoming many evaluation problems. The case study presented reports on a practical application of the theory in a real-life, interorganizational setting. The results of the case study suggest that in order for a simulation to be an effective vehicle for investment evaluation, it should explicitly incorporate the expected effect of E-commerce adoption on business performance.

The paper by Ettore Bolisani (University of Padua), Enrico Scarso (University of Modena), Ian Miles (University of Manchester), and Mark Boden (University of Manchester) treats a subject that has emerged during the past decade as a particularly important issue in a wide range of innovation studies. The topic is that of organizational knowledge and knowledge management. The authors analyze the different types of knowledge (from technical or codified knowledge to practical or tacit knowledge) and the complex processes of knowledge transfer and conversion that occur between the different actors involved in E-commerce (such as business partners, service providers, and third parties). More specifically, the paper examines the utility of a “knowledge-based” approach in the examination of service innovation. It also draws on the results of a series of recent empirical studies of different kinds of E-commerce applications (including EDI, on-line catalogues, etc.) conducted by the authors.

The paper by Roman Brandtweiner and Arno Scharl of the Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration reflects upon issues associated with the identification of the major structures, processes, and players in real markets, and on the transformation of these elements into the virtual domain in order to design a conceptual model of an electronic market. Specifically, the authors provide an abstraction of a particular form of marketplace, the Oriental Bazaar. Their central argument is that E-commerce tools primarily have to meet human wants and needs, and only secondarily answer to the technical system’s requirements. To support this contention, the authors design a conceptual model of a virtual bazaar, employing the data and navigational object types of their modeling framework, called eW3DT.

Gaby Herrmann and Günther Pernul of Essen University analyze E-commerce security and integrity from a business-process perspective. They propose an integrated framework for viewing and analyzing a business process that combines five different perspectives. What makes their framework so special is that, in addition to the four perspectives previously described in the literature, they propose a fifth (the business-process perspective), consisting of an integration of the functional and dynamic perspectives. The importance of this paper is that it deals with two essential aspects of E-commerce: security assurance and process modeling. The paper illustrates the modeling of security requirements by focusing on the example of the legal binding of contracts.

The final paper, by Margaret Tan of the National University of Singapore, provides an analysis of how Singapore is creating its digital economy, with an E-commerce hub, through the provision of one-stop, nonstop business and government services, cybershopping, on-line banking, Internet trading, etc. The author argues that Singapore’s example is very encouraging for developing countries that are undertaking major initiatives based on E-commerce. To this end, using Singapore as an example, the paper presents and analyzes a model of how to develop, at a national level, the appropriate infrastructure to “digitize” an economy. The model interrelates initiatives and stakeholders’ roles, and provides a “stages-of-growth” perspective in order to serve as a true model for developing countries.

Acknowledgment: I thank the 30 colleagues active in electronic commerce research who have assisted me in the review process during the past year, both by reviewing the papers for the Conference proceedings and by refereeing the selected papers published in this Special Issue of the International Journal of Electronic Commerce. Many thanks especially to Professor Joze Gricar, who has organized the Bled Conference for the past 11 years with consummate professionalism. He has afforded the members of the international research-and-development community in electronic commerce an excellent opportunity to present and discuss their research results.

GEORGIOS I. DOUKIDIS ( is a professor of information systems at the Athens University of Economics and Business (AUEB). He holds a Ph.D. from the London School of Economics, where he taught as a lecturer for six years, and currently is a visiting professor at Brunel University. His research and teaching areas are information system management, electronic commerce, decision-support systems, and simulation, and he has published a total of 10 books and 75 research papers. He has acted as guest editor for the Journal of the Operational Research Society, the European Journal of Information Systems, and the Journal of Information Technology. Since 1991, he has run HELTRUN (Hellenic Electronic Trading Research Unit), a research group in electronic commerce at AUEB with three faculty members and eleven researchers, which is involved in 28 R&D projects, funded mainly by the European Commission and the Greek government.