Introduction to the Special Section: Building Relationships in Electronic Commerce: Challenges, Opportunities, Risks

Stefan Klein, Guest Editor
International Journal of Electronic Commerce,
Volume 5, Number 2, Winter 2000-2001, pp. 5.

Abstract: The World Wide Web has leveraged the organizationally and strategically motivated trend toward networked organizations. The papers in this special issue, which have been selected from the best papers presented at the Twelfth Bled International Electronic Commerce Conference, illustrate the broad range of emerging IT-enabled interorganizational arrangements: agent-based electronic markets, ERP-centered business networks, and networks of subcontracting firms for large focal enterprises. The promise that networking and cooperation will yield increased productivity and efficiency is often not fulfilled, expectations regarding improvements are time and again not met. The authors discuss different approaches to securing the benefits and avoiding the risks of the new arrangements: planning and project management, developing learning capabilities, securing trust.

Rainer Alt and Elgar Fleisch of the University of St. Gallen depict a new type of interorganizational network that is based on the extension of enterprise resource planning systems (ERP) with networking capabilities, that is, they adopt an inside-out perspective with a strong focus on integration efficiencies. Based on three case studies, they scrutinize the success factors and lessons learned in building networks, lessons that underline the need for aligning strategy and IT: manage networking projects carefully, focus on interorganizational process improvements, understand partners’ profiles thoroughly, and divide networking returns evenly.

Louis Raymond and Samir Blili of the University of Quebec at Trois-Rivières apply and extend the notion of organizational learning to networks. Using a conceptual framework to distinguish different types of learning (single-loop, double-loop, and collective learning), they have studied 14 small and medium-sized manufacturing enterprises networked to a large focal organization. The results illustrate different levels of learning capabilities and the difficult process of learning to learn collectively, which is a prerequisite for reaping the benefits and avoiding the pitfalls of interorganizational partnerships. IT-enabled business transactions and broader business relations are vulnerable to malicious behavior. Torsten Mandry, Günther Pernul, and Alexander Röhm of the University of Essen present the results of a survey of protective mechanisms for buyers and sellers in agent-based electronic markets. Building on the assessment of existing protective mechanisms for different application areas, they develop an electronic market architecture for mobile agents that provides security-and anonymity where required-for market participants.

While technical safeguards must be developed, they have to be transformed into and complemented by warranted trust in order to encourage and facilitate the proliferation of electronic commerce. Yao-Hua Tan and Walter Thoen of Erasmus University and DEON Corporation, respectively, have developed a model of trust for electronic commerce that distinguishes trust in the other party and trust in the control mechanisms for the successful completion of business transactions. The model is used to design trust services for electronic commerce and applied to electronic payments and cross-border electronic trade.

STEFAN KLEIN ( is professor of information systems at the University of Muenster, Germany. He has held teaching or research positions at the University of Koblenz-Landau, the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland, Harvard University, the German National Research Center for Computer Science (GMD), and the University of Cologne. His research and teaching areas are interorganizational systems, information management, and communication systems. He is a program committee member or track chair of several international IS conferences (Bled International Conference on Electronic Commerce, ECIS, ENTER) and a member of the editorial board of Electronic Journal of Organizational Virtualness, European Journal of Information Systems (associate editor), EM-Electronic Markets, e-Services Quarterly, Informatik/Informatique, International Journal of Electronic Commerce, and Information Technology and Tourism. About 100 publications, among them several books and numerous refereed articles, document his research.