Manufacturing or Service Companies

The firm type units of research in this project are manufacturing or service companies operating in a specific industry. They engage in e-business relations with external suppliers on the input side and with customers on the output side. In this sense, so-called dot.coms are regular units of research. They normally engage in the trade of particular goods or services, which often are digital. Their entire business model relies on online sales, and with a digital commodity they can conduct all transactions on the output side online. However, the famous example of hints at another group, firms that offer services (mostly retail or wholesale or trade mediation) online, but deliver offline (see paragraphs on transactions and on participants below) (see also Bailey/Bakos 1997 as well as Dickey/Piccoli/Ives 1999).

Suppliers and customers usually belong to industries that are different from that of the unit of research, but they do not have to. Suppliers include all actors which contribute to the firm's output. This comprises business partners as well as providers of goods and services that do not directly deliver inputs into processes of production, such as tax consultants or caterers. Not all suppliers or customers conduct business electronically with the firm. In addition to external transactions involving suppliers or customers, there is internal transactions using electronic means of communication (see e-business and e-commerce definitions). This means that the firm as a unit of research will be analysed with regard to its market relations with external partners as well as with regard to internal flows of communication and procedures. (Most of the business studies approaches to e-business take a company perspective; the fundamental work on the structure, implementation and opportunities arising from e-business, which has been presented by the e-commerce research centre in Austin/Texas starts from the e-business using firm as a unit of research, see Shaw et al 1999.)