The strategic mediator: a paradoxical role for a collaborative e-marketplace

Abstract

The last 10 years have witnessed the emergence of electronic marketplaces as players that leverage new technologies to facilitate B2B internet-mediated collaborative business. Nowadays these players are augmenting their services from simple intermediation to include new inter-organizational relationships. The interest of this paper is to investigate the shift in the role and evolution of services proposed by e-marketplaces in response to the demands of the market participants. We carried out a longitudinal qualitative field study of an e-marketplace providing the outsourcing of the procurement process. Through the study of services evolving over time we show that, as marketplaces support increasingly complex business processes, the market participants begin to privilege the well connected small number to the convenience of the openness to the entire market. The participants see the marketplace as an exclusive club, the belonging to which provides a strategic advantage. The technology brought forth by the marketplace participates in shaping the strategic demands of the participants which in turn request the marketplace to redesign its own strategy. Profiting from this unintended demand, the e-marketplace assumes the paradoxical role of a strategic mediator: an agent who upholds and heightens the fences of the transactions instead of leveling them. The results have implication in shaping how we see the role of technology as strategic or commoditized.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Transaction costs involve: contact costs, contracting costs, monitoring costs, adaptation costs (Wigand et al. 1997, p 269)

  2. 2.

    In order to understand the change that selling the majority of shareholding capital means, it is necessary to spend a few words on cooperative environment. The principal aim of a cooperative is to support the social growth of its members. Trust, ethic, social equity, mutual help are the basis for joining the cooperative rather than pursuing the profit. In other words, members are attracted to be part of a cooperative not for economic reasons but following social, ethical and political believes. From a transaction cost perspective we can consider cooperative as a particular form of clan (Ouchi 1980).

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Correspondence to Cecilia Rossignoli.

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Responsible editor: Hans-Dieter Zimmermann

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Rossignoli, C., Carugati, A. & Mola, L. The strategic mediator: a paradoxical role for a collaborative e-marketplace. Electron Markets 19, 55–66 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12525-009-0005-3

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Keywords

  • Technology strategy
  • E-marketplace
  • Collaborative business process
  • Electronic intermediation

JEL Classification

  • L22