It is widely recognized that small businesses with less than 50 employees make significant contributions to the prosperity of local, regional, and national economies. They are a major source of job creation and a driving force of economic growth for developed countries like the USA (Headd, 2005; SBA, 2005), the UK (Dixon, Thompson, & McAllister, 2002; SBS, 2005), Europe (European Commission, 2003), and developing countries such as China (Bo, 2005). The economic potential is further strengthened when firms collaborate with each other; for example, formation of a supply chain, strategic alliances, or sharing of information and resources (Horvath, 2001; O’Donnell, Cilmore, Cummins, & Carson, 2001; MacGregor, 2004; Todeva & Knoke, 2005). Owing to heterogeneous aspects of small businesses, such as firm size and business sector, a single e-business solution is unlikely to be suitable for all firms (Dixon et al., 2002; Taylor & Murphy, 2004a); however, collaboration requires individual firms to adopt standardized, simplified solutions based on open architectures and data design (Horvath, 2001). The purpose of this article is to propose a conceptual e-business framework and a generic e-catalogue, which enables small businesses to collaborate through the creation of an e-marketplace. To assist with the task, analysis of data from 6,000 small businesses situated within a locality of Greater Manchester, England within the context of an e-business portal is incorporated within this study.
Key Terms in this Chapter
E-Business Solutions: The use of emerging computer and information technologies, in addition to re-engineered business processes to develop innovative Web applications that support online business activities.
E-marketplace: A Web-based system that facilitates and encourages buying and selling to induce collaboration among trading partners across a selection of industries.
Collaborative Supply-Chain: The coordination of all supply activities of a business from its suppliers and partners to its customers, which streamline their business processes.
Spot Sourcing: A trading mechanism commonly used in B2C online shopping. The buyer’s goal is to find the required goods at a lowest cost and the purchase of goods is usually made immediately. Buyer-supplier relationship is mainly short-term.
Web Portal: A Web-based system that aggregates multiple information sources and applications hence providing a one stop, seamless access for its clients or users.
Collaborative Sourcing: The collaboration among different buyers. Buyers can join together to purchase items such as fuel and hence leverage collective buying power in order to negotiate a better deal.
Systematic Sourcing: A trading mechanism mostly used in B2B e-business. Prior to the transactions, buyers and suppliers have established some kind of trading relationships. The procurement of goods is made systematically, which is based on their prenegotiated terms.