Editor’s Introduction 4(1)

Vladimir Zwass < cite>International Journal of Electronic Commerce,
Volume 4, Number 1, Fall 1999, pp. 3.

Abstract: At the apex of E-commerce is the creation of electronic marketplaces with the desired attributes and of the interorganizational collaborations within supply networks. Several papers that open the present issue contribute, respectively, to one of these efforts.

Capital exchanges move inexorably to electronic trading. The capabilities of the Web enable efficient trading of bundles of goods and services, which is what the trading partners desire in many situations. To respond to both of these opportunities, Ming Fan, Jan Stallaert, and Andrew B. Whinston offer a design of an electronic marketplace for trading bundles of financial instruments or commodities. The authors formally analyze the nature of the bundle mechanism and address the implementation issues of the marketplace as a distributed computer system. This work can have a significant impact on the nature of financial markets in the era of vastly expanded possibilities.

The technologies of the Internet and value-added networks can lead to significant efficiencies that would arise from the collaboration among manufacturing enterprises. In her empirically based paper, Susan A. Sherer tells us that, for now, information technology (IT) is hardly used in this collaboration, particularly in the case of small and medium-size enterprises. The author employs a useful distinction between soft collaborative networks, oriented toward pooling resources and organizational learning, and hard networks, geared toward joint marketing or joint production. She finds that, when IT is being used, this happens more frequently in the hard networks, where it contributes more visibly to the bottom line. An optimist would call this a significant opportunity. Indeed, Sherer calls for the brokers or sponsors to facilitate the implementation of technologically advanced manufacturing networks.

The next paper in the issue answers this call. Allen M. Dewey and Richard Bolton describe the architecture of a networked information system that targets interorganizational collaboration and is sponsored by the National Industrial Information Infrastructure Protocols (NIIIP) Consortium. The architecture is based on the concept of emissary computing, where each of the collaborating firms is represented by a server (emissary) that facilitates the interconnection among the enterprises and is relatively noninvasive with respect to its own information systems. One can see, indeed, how shared computers provided by the consortium (along with training and hand holding) can run servers for smaller firms and enable them to join in. The ability to mount up an interorganizational project quickly is an important virtue of the NIIIP. The architecture is now being implemented, and the authors describe several such initiatives.

The theme of interorganizational collaboration with the means of E-commerce is continued in the next paper, by Frederick J. Riggins and Hyeun-Suk (Sue) Rhee. Specifically, the authors discuss the use of extranets to create a learning network that would raise the level of performance of the participating firms. They introduce and pursue a useful distinction between extranets that lift the boats of all the participants and those that further the goals of the firm initiating the extranet. Taking the perspective of knowledge management, the authors further discuss the deployment of these extranets in knowledge creation.

Provision of free goods redounds to the financial advantage of the provider in a number of situations. I have just visited a university in Taiwan, much of whose land was contributed at no charge by the owners of the surrounding farms, who have subsequently seen their remaining properties multiply in value. Yet freebies have become a particularly integral part of software and Internet marketing. The founder of Yoyodyne has built the concept of permission marketing around freebies. Here, Ai-Mei Chang, P.K. Kannan, and Andrew B. Whinston offer an initial study of the economics of the exchange of free goods and services for consumer information, as practiced on the Internet. They present and analyze alternative business models and pricing schemes that can be deployed. The authors also introduce an economic consideration of the consumer-privacy concerns.

Customer resource life cycle is an elaborated version of value-chain analysis that has been used to establish competitive opportunities for the deployment of information systems. Gerald C. Gonsalves, Albert L. Lederer, Robert C. Mahaney, and Henry E. Newkirk use the tool to gauge the impact of Web sites on competitiveness, as perceived by the managers of the firms that own the sites, on the one hand, and by their customers, on the other. Although there is much window shopping going on (which can be of advantage, too), several stages of customer life cycle are supported by the sites about as well as both sides desire. At the same time, the authors make it clear where the deficiencies lie.

In the concluding paper of the issue, Madhavarao Raghunathan and Gregory R. Madey offer a framework for the planning of an information-system infrastructure for E-commerce by an individual firm. The authors postulate that most firms fail to develop a comprehensive posture with respect to the opportunities (and threats) of E-commerce. The framework targets the six major areas the authors consider paramount to the firm’s success and offer a generic framework that can be customized to the needs of the specific firm.

As the Journal’s activities expand, we are delighted to welcome to our Editorial Board Jahangir Karimi of the University of Colorado and Tridas Mukhopadhyay of Carnegie Mellon University.