A collaborative network (CN) is an alliance constituted by a variety of entities (e.g., organizations and people) that are largely autonomous, geographically distributed, and heterogeneous in terms of their operating environment, culture, social capital, and goals but that collaborate to better achieve common or compatible goals, and whose interactions are supported by computer network. Some authors see the roots of this paradigm in early works of economists like Oliver Williamson in the 1970s. Along his vast work, Williamson established the study of transaction cost economics (Williamson, 1975) and defended that manufacturing firms should make much greater use of externally purchased goods and services, rather than those internally supplied. These ideas had a more evident impact with the booming of the “outsourcing” wave in the 1980s. Outsourcing became very attractive when managers had to reduce the organization overheads and eliminate the internal inefficient services, the so called lean organization, as it transfers the problem to the outside, namely to other efficient service providers. In this line of developments, the idea of virtual enterprise/virtual organization was not “invented” by a single researcher but rather it is a concept that has matured through a long evolution process. Some of the early references first introducing the terms like virtual company, virtual enterprise, or virtual corporation go back to the early 1990s, including the work of Jan Hopland, Nagel and Dove, and Davidow and Malone (Davidow & Malone, 1992; Introna, More, & Cushman, 1999; Walton & Whicker, 1996). Since then, a large but disjoint body of literature has been produced mainly in two communities: the information and communications technology (ICT) community and the management community.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Virtual Team: A temporary group of professionals that work together towards a common goal such as realizing a consultancy job, a joint project, and so forth, and that use computer networks as their main interaction environment.
Grasping-Opportunity Driven CNO: A CNO that is formed dynamically in order to answer a specific collaboration opportunity and will dissolve once their mission is accomplished.
Collaborative Network: An alliance of entities (e.g., organizations and people) that are autonomous, geographically distributed, and heterogeneous in terms of their operating environment, culture, social capital, and goals but that collaborate to better achieve common or compatible goals, and whose interactions are supported by computer network.
VO Breeding Environment: An association of organizations and their related supporting institutions, adhering to a base long-term cooperation agreement, and adoption of common operating principles and infrastructures, with the main goal of increasing their preparedness towards rapid configuration of temporary alliances for collaboration in potential virtual organizations.
Goal-Oriented Network: A collaborative network that is driven by continuous production/service provision activities or driven by the aim of grasping a single (collaboration) opportunity.
Virtual Organization: A temporary alliance of (legally) independent organizations that share resources and skills to achieve its mission/goal and whose cooperation is supported by computer networks.
Professional Virtual Community: A concept similar to VO Breeding Environment but formed by human professionals, not organizations. It is a long-term strategic alliance that aims at facilitating the preparedness of its members to rapidly engage in temporary virtual teams to address a business opportunity.
Collaborative Networked Organization: A collaborative network subject to some kind of organization over the activities of its constituents, identifying roles for the participants, and having some governance rules.