Understanding the Use of Business-to-Employee (B2E) Portals in an Australian University though the Management Lens: A Qualitative Approach

Understanding the Use of Business-to-Employee (B2E) Portals in an Australian University though the Management Lens: A Qualitative Approach

Md Mahbubur Rahim (Monash University, Australia), Mohammad Quaddus (Curtin University, Australia) and Mohini Singh (RMIT University, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-611-7.ch057
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Abstract

The application of the Internet for commercial purposes has led to different types of e-business initiatives, which have been widely discussed in the scholarly literature and trade magazines. However, it is the Business-to-Consumers (B2C) and Business-to-Business (B2B) e-businesses that have so far dominated discussion in the contemporary literature. These two types of e-business initiatives collectively are believed to have enormous impact on business practices, industry structure and our society at large. On the other hand, Business-to- Employee (B2E), which represents an employee centric e-business initiative (Turban et al., 2008), is relatively less recognized in extant literature. Despite little attention given to B2E e-business, it represents an emerging area which has the potential to benefit businesses and IT vendors alike (Rahim and Singh, 2007). For businesses, B2E e-business solutions can act as a source of competitive advantage through retention of satisfied workforce (Hansen and Deimler, 2001). The IT vendors are currently competing to capture market share by offering various types of innovative web-based B2E solutions (e.g. employee portals, e-HR systems and ESS). According to several industry sources, an increased growth has been observed in the demand for various types of B2E products (Killen Associates Report, 2006; Merrill Lynch Capital Markets cited
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Introduction

The application of the Internet for commercial purposes has led to different types of e-business initiatives, which have been widely discussed in the scholarly literature and trade magazines. However, it is the Business-to-Consumers (B2C) and Business-to-Business (B2B) e-businesses that have so far dominated discussion in the contemporary literature. These two types of e-business initiatives collectively are believed to have enormous impact on business practices, industry structure and our society at large. On the other hand, Business-to-Employee (B2E), which represents an employee centric e-business initiative (Turban et al., 2008), is relatively less recognized in extant literature. Despite little attention given to B2E e-business, it represents an emerging area which has the potential to benefit businesses and IT vendors alike (Rahim and Singh, 2007). For businesses, B2E e-business solutions can act as a source of competitive advantage through retention of satisfied workforce (Hansen and Deimler, 2001). The IT vendors are currently competing to capture market share by offering various types of innovative web-based B2E solutions (e.g. employee portals, e-HR systems and ESS). According to several industry sources, an increased growth has been observed in the demand for various types of B2E products (Killen Associates Report, 2006; Merrill Lynch Capital Markets cited in Brooks, 2004; and Banks, 2004). Yet, despite industry forecasts, the use of B2E e-business solutions by employees has largely been ignored in the current scholarly IT/e-business literature. This lack of attention is possibly due to the implicit assumption made in the literature (due to media hype) that employees would happily embrace and use B2E systems once these technologies are introduced in organisations. We however disagree with this view and argue that evaluation of the use of B2E solutions by employees represents a key research concern because the benefits arising from the introduction of such solutions are unlikely to be realised when they are not satisfactorily diffused among employee community. Therefore, managers need to be aware of the factors that may potentially affect the use of B2E e-business systems in organisational settings.

We acknowledge that existing literature has reported the attempts made by several scholars (e.g. KieBling and Kostler, 2002; Gounaris and Dimitriadis, 2003; Holsapple and Sasidharan, 2005) who have studied such aspects as portal usability and portal design challenges associated with various types of online B2C interactive portals (e.g. tourist portals, citizen portals) which have some degree of similarity with B2E systems. Despite this similarity, clear differences still exist because unlike B2C portals the users are employees not external customers who need to be provided with access to organisational internal controls, and many different types of services, and more in-depth information of B2E systems. Therefore, as the motivations and purposes of B2E systems are different (although many of the underlying technical issues are similar), we can expect that the usage behaviour of B2E systems by employees is different from that of users of online B2C service portals. Consequently, although the findings of these scholars are useful they are not directly applicable to B2E systems context without further empirical confirmation. Recognising this difference is important because little (if any) research attention has been given to understand use of B2E systems.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Business-to-Employee (B2E): It represents an employee centric e-business initiative. Typical examples include various types of innovative web-based B2E products including employee portals, e-HR systems and ESS.

Usage Factors: They represent the conditions that influence the use of an IT application. These conditions can be related to technology (e.g. ease of use, complexity) and organisation (e.g. top management support).

Portal: It is defined as a web site or service that offers a broad array of resources and services (e.g. e-mails, search engines, online shopping malls) to individuals. The first web portals were online services, such as AOL, that provided access to the Web.

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