A modern industry environment requires very fast response to incoming business opportunities. Small and medium enterprises (SME) usually cannot satisfy complex customer needs on their own. Collaboration between enterprises is needed to cover all the business aspects and opportunities (Boughzala & Zacklad, 1999; Ríha, Pechoucek, Vokrínek, & Marík, 2002). To increase their competitiveness and to gain more business opportunities, SMEs form alliances. Such alliances may support their members by tools for effective partner search, social knowledge management, negotiation support, and others. This article presents a concept and a prototype of a tool for profile and competency management for SME clusters—the e-Cat. The main goal of our work is to simplify and integrate cooperation between SMEs by sharing information about their abilities, competencies, and services that collaboratively cover new business opportunities. The e-Cat is based on a hybrid architecture consisting of peer-to-peer cooperating units supported by centralized components. The user interface to the system is provided by thin clients through ordinary Web-page browsers.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Competency: An ability to perform business processes, which are supported by necessary available resources, practices, and activities, allowing the organization to offer products/services.
Virtual Organization: Introduces a temporary coalition of organisations, which utilizes pre-prepared and pre-negotiated general parts of the contract.
Alliance: A collection of entities that share information about their resources and all agree to form possible coalitions. The alliance is regarded as a long-term cooperation agreement among the alliance members.
Competency Class: An existence of the competency in the world; it distinguishes it from other existing competencies and defines relations to them. Competency class may be extended by a definition of means used to measure the level and robustness of the competency. If a class is not specific enough, specializing classes may exist. Thus, every competency class can have its generalizing and specializing class(es).
Competency Instance: Always refers exactly to one competency class and to one subject. If the competency class defines competency evidences, the competency instance can optionally assign values to them.
Multi-Agent System: A technology of distributed artificial intelligence. It is based on agents, the independent autonomous software, or hardware units. This technology is used to link logically or geographically distributed systems together or to model negotiation of such systems.
Core Competency: Widely accepted term for competencies an SME concentrates on.
Coalition: A set of entities, which agreed to fulfill a single, well-specified goal. Coalition members committed themselves to collaborate on the within-coalition-shared goal. A coalition, unlike an alliance, is usually regarded as a short-term agreement between collaborative entities.
Profile of Subject: Contains two main elements: (1) general information about the partner, and (2) a set of instantiated competencies derived from the competency classes.