Most definitions of virtual enterprise (VE) incorporate the idea of extended and collaborative outsourcing to suppliers and subcontractors in order to achieve a competitive response to market demands (Webster, Sugden, & Tayles, 2004). As suggested by several authors (Browne & Zhang, 1999; Byrne, 1993; Camarinha- Matos & Afsarmanesh, 1999; Cunha, Putnik, & Ávila, 2000; Davidow & Malone, 1992; Preiss, Goldman, & Nagel, 1996), a VE consists of a network of independent enterprises (resources providers) with reconfiguration capability in useful time, permanently aligned with the market requirements, created to take profit from a specific market opportunity, and where each participant contributes with her best practices and core competencies to the success and competitiveness of the structure as a whole. Even during the operation phase of the VE, the configuration can change to assure business alignment with the market demands, traduced by the identification of reconfiguration opportunities and constant readjustment or reconfiguration of the VE network to meet unexpected situations or to keep permanent competitiveness and maximum performance (Cunha & Putnik, 2002, 2005a, 2005b)
Key Terms in this Chapter
Market of Resources: An institutionalized organizational framework and service assuring the A/VE dynamic integration, reconfiguration, and business alignment. The operational aspect of the market of resources consists of an Internet-based intermediation service, mediating offer and demand of resources to dynamically integrate in a VE, assuring low transaction costs and the partners’ knowledge preservation. Brokers act within the market of resources as the intermediation agents for agility and virtuality. Its implementation is as an independent organization/company, independent both from the offer and the demand sides of VE integration, that is, independent from the market participants, in order to assure impartiality, fairness, and trust, being able to monitor the activity of all the participants (including brokers) and to enforce the accomplishment of contracts between parties.
Collaboration E-Marketplaces: Collaboration e-marketplaces are focused in helping interaction services, benefiting participants by reducing the costs and increasing the quality of multiparty information exchange. Their objective is to establish and support long-term relationships between parties for information exchange and collaboration instead of simply mediate transactions.
Electronic Institutions: An electronic institution is a framework that, based on communication network, enables automatic transactions between parties, according to sets of explicit institutional norms and rules, ensuring the trust and confidence needed in any electronic transaction. The electronic institution is a meta-institution, which is a shell for generating specific electronic institutions for particular application domains.
Virtual Industry Clusters: Consists of an aggregation of companies from diverse industries with well defined and focused competences with the purpose of gaining access to new markets and business opportunities by leveraging their resources and enlarging the universe for partners’ search and selection.
Breeding Environments: The virtual organization breeding environment represents a long-term cluster/pool of organizations that are supported and facilitated for the establishment of virtual organizations and other forms of dynamic collaborative networked organizations
Virtual Enterprise (VE): A dynamically reconfigurable global networked organization, networked enterprise, or network of enterprises, sharing information and/or knowledge, skills, core competencies, market, and other resources and processes, configured (or constituted) as a temporary alliance (or network) to meet a (fast changing) market window of opportunity, presenting as main characteristics agility, virtuality, distributivity, and integrability (see Putnik, 2000).