The Business Value of E-Collaboration: A Conceptual Framework

The Business Value of E-Collaboration: A Conceptual Framework

Lior Fink
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-611-7.ch015
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This article presents a conceptual framework of the business value of e-collaboration. In the past decade, firms have increasingly implemented collaborative technologies to support business activities, and investments in collaborative technologies have taken an increasing share of firms’ e-business investments. Presumably, such investments have been motivated by the notion that the implementation of collaborative technologies has business value. While research has repeatedly demonstrated the individual- and group-level impacts of collaborative technologies, it has rarely addressed their impacts at the organizational level and demonstrated their business value. In this article, I draw on three strategic management frameworks – the resource-based view of the firm, the knowledge-based view of the firm, and the dynamic capabilities perspective – to describe how specialized knowledge assets can be integrated through collaborative processes to create and sustain a competitive advantage. I then use this conceptualization as a platform for defining the organizational roles of collaborative technologies and the potential impact of each role on organizational performance. The main objective of this article is to provide a conceptual framework for researchers and practitioners who are interested in investigating and understanding the organizational impacts of collaborative technologies.
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Resource- and Knowledge-Based Views of the Firm

The resource-based view of the firm (Barney, 1991) argues that heterogeneity and immobility of firm resources can provide a basis for superior competitive performance. Firm resources that are strategically valuable and heterogeneously distributed enable firms to outperform the competition. However, such a competitive advantage cannot be sustained if competitors can acquire strategically equivalent resources to implement the same valuable strategy. Therefore, for a firm to sustain its competitive advantage, its valuable and rare resources should not be open to imitation or substitution.

The knowledge-based view of the firm (Grant, 1996; Kogut & Zander, 1996; Nonaka, 1991) extends the resource-based view by defining organizational knowledge as a valuable subset of firm resources. The knowledge-based view perceives a firm as a knowledge-creating entity; it argues that the capability to create and utilize knowledge is the most valuable source of the firm's sustainable competitive advantage (Nonaka, Toyama, & Nagata, 2000). Specialized, firm-specific knowledge resources are those that are valuable, scarce, and difficult to imitate, transfer, or substitute. By using such resources, a firm could gain an advantage in its markets that competitors would find difficult to overcome.

Applying Grant's (1996) view of coordination mechanisms, e-collaboration is conceptualized here as a group coordination mechanism. Kock, Davison, Wazlawick, and Ocker (2001) define e-collaboration as “collaboration among individuals engaged in a common task using electronic technologies” (p. 1). This definition encompasses different types of systems, ranging from computer-mediated communication (CMC), through group decision support systems (GDSS), to Web-based collaboration tools (Kock & Nosek, 2005). Nonetheless, researchers agree that e-collaboration tools are vehicles for information and knowledge sharing that transcends traditional limitations of time and space. Therefore, compared with traditional coordination mechanisms, e-collaboration is a group coordination mechanism with wider capabilities because it enables and facilitates the work of virtual groups, giving firms extra degrees of freedom in establishing and managing knowledge-sharing mechanisms.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Contingency theory: A theoretical view that considers the fit between a firm’s structure and process and its context as critical to organizational effectiveness.

Competitive advantage: The ability of a firm to systematically achieve above-normal performance.

Organizational learning: The ability within an organization to improve performance based on experience.

Business value: The contribution of a firm resource to business performance.

Resource-based view: A theoretical view that attributes competitive advantage to a subset of firm resources.

Dynamic capability: A theoretical view that attributes competitive advantage to a firm’s ability to reconfigure and redeploy its resource base to address rapidly changing environments.

E-Collaboration: Cooperation among individuals using electronic technologies.

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