Enabling the Virtual Organization with Agent Technology

Enabling the Virtual Organization with Agent Technology

Tor Guimaraes (Tennessee Tech University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-070-7.ch018
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Emerging agent-based systems offer new means of effectively addressing complex decision processes and enabling solutions to business requirements associated with virtual organizations. Intelligent agents can provide more flexible intelligence/expertise and help the smooth integration of a variety of system types (i.e., Internet applications, customer relationship management, supplier network management, enterprise resources management, expert systems). This chapter presents an overview of expert systems as the most widely-used approach for domain Knowledge Management today as well as agent technology, and shows the latter as a superior systems development vehicle providing flexible intelligence/expertise and the integration of a variety of system types. To illustrate, a system developed first by using an expert system approach and then by an agent-based approach is used to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the agent-based approach. Last, the practical implications of a company adoption of agent-based technology for systems development are addressed.
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As we enter the 21st century, organizations are faced with extremely difficult challenges in a hyper-competitive world. As posited by Khalil and Wang (2002), to remain competitive they must simultaneously be efficient on a global scale, be responsive to local needs and wants, and continuously learn and adapt to changes in their environment. To accomplish such daunting requirements, organizations must focus on what they do best and find reliable partners to do the rest. Thus, Donlon (1997) stated that being virtual is about having allies to bolster an organization’s weaknesses. According to Carlsson (2002), there are a number of reasons for the emergence of the virtual organization, including: (1) to make products and services available at the moment of need, at the right place, tailored and built according to quality standards, and at a competitive price; (2) to enable customers to help design and produce their own products; and (3) to enable suppliers to plan and execute their own part of the production process. The most effective way to eliminate the oscillating variations of demand in the supply chain was to build a good interface for the actors of the supply chain to share their planning.

Rahman and Bhattachryya (2002) propose that virtual organizations provide an effective vehicle to integrate a company’s operations with those of other enterprises, to work with customers and create a better product or service, to achieve a faster time to market, and to acquire a higher degree of product customization. Further, these authors observed that virtual organizations seem to have five main characteristics in common: (1) They have a shared vision and goal with their partners and a common protocol of cooperation; (2) they cluster activities around their core competencies; (3) they work jointly in teams of core competence groups, to implement their activities in a holistic approach throughout the value chain; (4) they process and distribute information in real-time throughout the entire network, which allows them to make decisions and coordinate actions quickly; and (5) they tend to delegate from the bottom up whenever economies of scale can be achieved, new conditions arise, or a specific competence is required for serving the needs of the whole group.

According to Khalil and Wang (2002), the management of a virtual organization involves essential functions that are unique when compared to the traditional management practices: (1) much greater need for mechanisms useful for information filtering and knowledge acquisition to assist managers with information overload, a common problem in the new environment; (2) increased need to generate and use knowledge faster and more effectively; further, organizational knowledge needs to be captured, stored, and made available where it is needed; thus, organizations will have to treat human knowledge as a key component of their asset base, and create knowledge bases or repositories that enable workers to shorten learning curves by sharing each other’s experience; and (3) management has to be based on trust and minimal supervision since it is very difficult to supervise and control in geographically-dispersed units; managers and workers who are comfortable in a traditional workplace may find the new environment difficult to live with.

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Editorial Advisory Board
Table of Contents
Knowledge Management and Virtual Organizations
Chapter 1
Fernando Garrigos
This chapter presents the interrelationships between professional virtual communities and social networks, and analyzes how, and in what ways, these... Sample PDF
Interrelationships Between Professional Virtual Communities and Social Networks, and the Importance of Virtual Communities in Creating and Sharing Knowledge
Chapter 2
Luis V. Casaló
The rapid growth of virtual communities has created a new interest in researchers. Indeed, understanding these communities is especially relevant... Sample PDF
The Role of Trust, Satisfaction, and Communication in the Development of Participation in Virtual Communities
Chapter 3
Cesar Camison
Organisations are finding it more difficult to keep abreast with the pace of change. The continuous rise of business opportunities and the increase... Sample PDF
Can Virtual Networks Encourage Knowledge Absorptive Capacity?
Chapter 4
Montserrat Boronat Navarro
In this study we adopt an inter-organizational view to examine virtual organizations. Thus, we understand this phenomenon as a strategic agreement... Sample PDF
Knowledge Integration Through Inter-Organizational Virtual Organizations
Chapter 5
Mark E. Nissen
In today’s increasingly networked world of organizational practice, information and computer technologies are enabling people and organizations to... Sample PDF
Visualizing Knowledge Networks and Flows to Enhance Organizational Metacognition in Virtual Organizations
Chapter 6
Eduardo Bueno Campos
The aim of this chapter is to deepen the concept of ‘Communities of Practice’ (CoPs) from the understanding of a reference framework for knowledge... Sample PDF
Model on Knowledge-Governance: Collaboration Focus and Communities of Practice
Chapter 7
Josep Capó-Vicedo
This chapter highlights the necessity of establishing relationships with other companies and external agents in order to empower the creation and... Sample PDF
Knowledge Management in SMEs Clusters
Chapter 8
Raquel Sanchis
This chapter presents a general overview of the relationships between information and communications technologies (ITCs) and the process of... Sample PDF
Tools for Supporting Knowledge Management: Knowledge Internalization Through E-Learning
Chapter 9
Cesar Camison, Carlos Devece, Daniel Palacios, Carles Camisón-Haba
In this chapter we describe a practical tool useful to managing knowledge in the firm. It has already been introduced and tested in several firms... Sample PDF
The Value of Virtual Networks for Knowledge Management: A Tool for Practical Development
Chapter 10
M. Eugenia Fabra, Cesar Camison
Companies are increasingly conscious of the fact that the achieving of their objectives, together with the improvement of their competitive... Sample PDF
Human Capital and E-Learning: Developing Knowledge Through Virtual Networks
Chapter 11
Júlio Da Costa Mendes
This chapter looks to analyse new paradigms in the relationship between public and private organisations towards tourism destinations. It proposes... Sample PDF
The Development of Knowledge and Information Networks in Tourism Destinations
Chapter 12
E. Claver-Cortés
Government agencies are being pressed to become more efficient. For this reason, e-government strategies result from the expectations from society... Sample PDF
E-Government Challenges: Barriers and Facilitators in Spanish City Councils
Chapter 13
Hindupur Ramakrishna
The chapter presents a conceptual framework that identifies technological and organizational factors that impact the success of business analytics... Sample PDF
Business Analytics Success: A Conceptual Framework and an Application to Virtual Organizing
Chapter 14
Andrew Targowski
This chapter provides theoretical analysis and synthesis of how computer applications are applied in problem-solving and decision-making in practice... Sample PDF
The Evolution from Data to Wisdom in Decision-Making at the Level of Real and Virtual Networks
Chapter 15
Editor Conclusions  (pages 278-279)
Cesar Camison
The study of virtual organizations encompasses several research fields, and the variables involved in each of them are sometimes closely related.... Sample PDF
Editor Conclusions
Chapter 16
Andrew P. Sage, Cynthia T. Small
This chapter describes a complex adaptive systems (CAS)-based enterprise knowledge-sharing (KnS) model. The CAS-based enterprise KnS model consists... Sample PDF
A Complex Adaptive Systems-Based Enterprise Knowledge Sharing Model
Chapter 17
James G. Williams, Kai A. Olsen
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 opened competition in the telecommunications market in the U.S. and forced the incumbent telecommunications... Sample PDF
Developing a Telecommunication Operation Support Systems (OSS): The Impact of a Change in Network Technology
Chapter 18
Tor Guimaraes
Emerging agent-based systems offer new means of effectively addressing complex decision processes and enabling solutions to business requirements... Sample PDF
Enabling the Virtual Organization with Agent Technology
Chapter 19
Jens Gammelgaard
In geographically dispersed organizations, like multinational corporations (MNCs), contextual gaps exist between senders and receivers of knowledge.... Sample PDF
Virtual Communities of Practice: A Mechanism for Efficient Knowledge Retrieval in MNCs
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