Collaboration is a necessity to survive in the business world regardless of geographical location. Developing countries should strive in this direction. In order to set the scene for the guidelines, we first give some background information on B2B, developing countries, and a framework for managing CSF. The guidelines are developed from these areas.
B2B is defined as the use of Internet and Web-technologies for conducting inter-organizational business transactions (Teo and Ranganathan, 2004). This section will introduce B2B, and elaborate on an implementation model used as the basis for the work presented in this chapter.
Introduction to B2B
To a great extent, B2B is conducted using standards to simplify cooperation (Ersala et al, 2002; Hasselbring, 2000; Ghiladi, 2003). Standards are guidelines for how to structure and manage communication and information sent between organizations (Söderström, 2004). They enable a common language between partners, as well as automation of relevant business processes. However, the associated technology is often complex and expensive, which in itself can be an obstacle for developing countries to enter into world-wide B2B. One reason is that the standards used are flexible and general, and hence difficult to implement (Jakobs et al, 2001). It takes time and resources. Standards should therefore be used with as many partners as possible to be a justifiable option. This requires some economies of scale for quality (Motwani et al, 1999), and is in itself is a problem for small organizations, which may not have that many partners. Adopting B2B is a strategic choice, and partner relationships must be carefully managed (Thompson and Ranganathan, 2004).
B2B Standards Implementation Model
As a point of origin in our analyzis, we use a model of the B2B standards implementation process developed by Söderström (2004). The three main phases are: preparation, architectural and consolidation. Preparation concerns activities for planning and preparing projects and architectural work. Architectural work concerns making changes to processes and technology to incorporate the standard into the existing infrastructure. Finally, consolidation concerns launching the standard, as well as evaluating and maintaining the system and expanding its use. Our focus is the preparation phase, since careful planning and proper management features are best determined therein. Preparation includes four sub-steps (Figure 1): strategic planning, process analysis, partner alignment, and project planning. The order between the steps is not necessarily the same at all times, and some activities may be conducted parallel (double-headed arrows).
Detailing of the preparation phase
In brief, the four steps contain:
Strategic planning: Standards and B2B must be part of the business strategy, in order to identify how they can help achieve the business plan (Ramsey, 1998), create new markets, redefine old ones and enable inter-operability (Bolin, 2004). The lack of strategic vision is a major barrier to justifying IT investments (Love and Irani, 2004). Top management commitment is a necessity (Premkumar et al, 1994). Stakeholders from different organizational levels must be involved early to achieve implementation success.
Process analysis: Business processes must be analyzed in order to identify, prioritise and orchestrate which processes to include (Söderström, 2004), which enables a deeper understanding of the organization and its processes (Kosanke and Nell, 1999). Hence, business processes help define project scope regarding which processes to support (Ersala et al, 2002), and how and which part(s) of the organization that will be affected.
Partner alignment: B2B partners must identify with whom to trade (Intel, 2003; Söderström, 2004). Partners may have different levels of maturity, and hence varying experience in standards use. Agreements include what, where, how, and scope (WebMethods, 2003). Common goals must be set, responsibilities, time span and resources established, and a commitment given by each partner, for example through Trading Partner Agreements (TPA).
Project planning: Details about required technology, infrastructure, and project conduction are determined (RosettaNet 2001; Söderström, 2004). Results from previous phases are utilised in planning, with implementation goals, milestones and resources. Planning is the key to implementing IT (Ramsey, 1998). Agreements between project participants are important to resolve open issues and prepare execution options.
This model is the most detailed implementation model of its kind for B2B. It is based on an extensive literature survey, as well as on empirical material from standards developers, standards users and creators of standards-based software.