Scholarly article on topic 'An Organizational Concept for Collaborative Enterprise Networks'

An Organizational Concept for Collaborative Enterprise Networks Academic research paper on "Economics and business"

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Procedia CIRP
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{"Collaborative Enterprise Networks" / "Organizational concept" / "Role concept" / "Micro and small enterprises" / Two-Level-Collaboration}

Abstract of research paper on Economics and business, author of scientific article — H. Baum, J. Schütze

Abstract This article presents an organizational concept for the collaboration of micro and small enterprises. This concept is called Two- Level-Collaboration. This can be considered as a special form of Collaborative Enterprise Networks (CEN). A dynamic role concept is derived corresponding to the inner organizational principle of the Two-Level-Collaboration. CEN can be modularly designed by means of this role concept. The dynamic role concept postulates a conceptual separation of collaborative tasks to be realized and their organizational implementation. The single role-describing elements are defined and based on these, modules for the development of collaborative roles is being derived.

Academic research paper on topic "An Organizational Concept for Collaborative Enterprise Networks"

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Procedia CIRP 7 (2013) 55 - 60

Forty Sixth CIRP Conference on Manufacturing Systems 2013

An Organizational Concept for Collaborative Enterprise Networks

H. Bauma*, J. Schutzea

aChemnitz University of Technology, Institute of Industrial Management and Factory Systems, Department of Factory Planning and Factory Management 09107 Chemnitz, Germany

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +49-371-531-35-245; fax: +49-371-531-8-35-245. E-mail address:


This article presents an organizational concept for the collaboration of micro and small enterprises. This concept is called Two-Level-Collaboration. This can be considered as a special form of Collaborative Enterprise Networks (CEN). A dynamic role concept is derived corresponding to the inner organizational principle of the Two-Level-Collaboration. CEN can be modularly designed by means of this role concept. The dynamic role concept postulates a conceptual separation of collaborative tasks to be realized and their organizational implementation. The single role-describing elements are defined and based on these, modules for the development of collaborative roles is being derived.

© 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V.

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of Professor Pedro Filipe do Carmo Cunha

Keywords: Collaborative Enterprise Networks; Organizational concept; Role concept; Micro and small enterprises; Two-Level-Collaboration

1. Introduction

Collaborative Enterprise Networks (CEN) has proved to influence the means of production, through

characterizing the present developments in economy

more than ever [1]. CEN have been initiated, configured, operated and dissolved. This requires suitable forms of organization, which an enterprise might not have and will follow. In addition to this, collaboration organizations are with high momentum. This means that at any time, individual members can join or leave the collaboration. Despite this fluctuation, the functioning of the CEN should be assured. This also means that the obtained momentum has to be reflected in its original structure and organization. In the field of management, there is an extensive literature on offer and large number of scientific publications to be found regarding collaboration and networking, however this field cannot be considered to be sufficiently explored. Especially the issues of appropriate collaboration forms for micro and small enterprises, for a successful survival in the national and international competitions have been considered only partially systematic. It is scientifically and practically proven that there is a need for such

collaboration to develop suitable organizational concepts. The aim of this article is to present, based on a definition, a special organizational concept for CEN, in the form of a Two-Level-Collaboration [2]. Furthermore, this concept will be described regarding its basic ideas as well its collaboration levels and phases.

2. Definition

During the last decades, literature on collaborative enterprise networks produced masses of tangled definitions and descriptions. The definitions of CEN vary with individual authors. Many times, various types of CEN are described case-driven and not reflected by a normative understanding. This approach makes the development of a general theory of CEN quite difficult.

Based on an extensive literature review, e.g. [3-11], it will be attempted to draft a general definition of CEN. The need for the development of such a definition and a general model of collaboration is also mentioned by Lu et al. [12].

The term of collaborative enterprise networks describes a class of business entities. Through the conceptual penetration of the subject area, it was possible to describe the means of CEN in general.

2212-8271 © 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V.

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of Professor Pedro Filipe do Carmo Cunha doi: 10.1016/j.procir.2013.05.010

Deriving from this comprehensive conceptual framework, CEN can generally be understood as a socio-technical (action) system [13-14]. Based on this theoretical assumption, collaborations are determined by five general features: (1) the presence of one or more collaborative purposes, (2) the presence of one or more collaborative tasks, (3) the need for selecting members, (4) the organized structure and system of rules of collaborations as well as (5) the existence of legal regulations of the CEN concerning the internal and external representations.

The term of CEN can be defined as follows: A collaborative enterprise network is a body-organized business entity of legally independent enterprises, selected according to certain criteria, which due to a common purpose, coordinate the operation of sub-tasks through negotiation and agreement.

This definition marked the basis for the development of a generic model of the CEN [2], [15]. This model has determined the structure for a generally accepted description of collaborations in the form of morphology. This morphology is a basis for the derivation of explanatory models for different collaboration forms. Based on this, an organizational concept for the collaboration of micro and small enterprises, the Two-Level-Collaboration [2], has been developed. This concept will be presented in the following article.

3. Organizational concept

3.1. Basic idea

The concept of the Two-Level-Collaboration is an organization-theoretical model for CEN uniting structural and operational considerations. The structure comprises of basic level and project level along with their collaborative roles. The operational aspect comprehends the phases of initiation, development and dissolution of the CEN. An essential part of the Two-Level-Collaboration concept is that the operating processes of the initiation and the development of collaborations are supported by a process-oriented collaboration assistance system [2], [16-17] on the basic and project levels. This collaboration assistance system is a comprehensive instruction - a type of virtual organization manual - for the partners acting in the Two-Level-Collaboration.

Deviating from other concepts, the organizational concept of the Two-Level-Collaboration knowingly integrates the institutionalization of central functions. Hence, a permanent basis has been created depicting the starting position for very quickly initiated, business process-optimal project of the collaboration members. The concept targets on micro and small enterprises. Due

to their resource situation they have to outsource secondary business processes.

While virtual enterprises are being used as a strategy by the collaboration members, in order to employ their free capacities more effectively, the concept of the Two-Level-Collaboration aims at considering collaboration to be the essential business strategy and primary form of production. Therefore, two functional types of business relationships are being synthesized. The business relationships located on the basic level are of a strategic nature. In contrast, the business relationships on the project level are characterized by an operative character. This symbiotic matching of business relationships within an organization promises to be advantageous for the micro and small enterprises especially relying on collaborations. Those advantages are particularly found in the increase of the operational efficiency by concentrating on primary business processes.

3.2. Collaboration levels

For the realization of the collaboration, the small or micro enterprises form a long-term CEN with an own legal personality. This marks the contractual, organizational and informational basis on which the collaboration on a competitive level is guaranteed. Hence, the CEN is a kind of a framework in which projects are initiated in terms of concrete occasions that are task-specific in their structure.

Basic level. On the basic level, functions of the behavior matching as well as of the capacity consolidation have to be taken on. The behavior matching primarily consists of standardization, i.e. the long-term matching of the behavior of the members by developing appropriate mechanisms and regulations. The capacity consolidation, i.e. the use of collective means, is done to realize representative services as well as for profiting the associated members. Characteristic services occur on the market and in a social environment regarding the achievement of the interests of the micro and small enterprises associated in the Two-Level-Collaboration. The function of the economization contains the direct increase of the partner companies' efficiency by collaboratively produced goods and services based on collective means. This especially includes services in the field of information and administration (e.g. setup and maintenance of a collaborative-internal software platform) as well as in the marketing field (e.g. organization of exhibition appearance) which is provided by the CEN for its members.

Project level. The project level describes the projects initiated by the partners for a concrete collective production of goods and services. In those projects, different problems can be dealt with in two dimensions.

The introversive tasks focus on the further development of the CEN together with their members and the business processes operating in them. This especially applies to the definition of the tasks, which are not or cannot be taken on by the collaboration management -located on the basic level. The outward tasks concentrate on the fulfillment of the demands of the external interest groups. Thereby, it should be distinguished between (1) the occasion-related creation of goods and services upon non-profit motivation for CEN partners, (2) the order-related creation of goods and services upon profit motivation for external clients. The members mainly recruit themselves out of the CEN, whereas the membership in the CEN is not a mandatory condition. In addition, it is not obligatory that the collaboration partners can become entrepreneurially active in collective projects. The collaboration members can independently or in collaboration with other non-members produce goods and services. These institutionalized structures of the basic level support the members during the realization of the necessary business processes. The institutionalized structures takes a kind of economization function for the projects to be dealt with in the form of a service, like the provision and support during the use of a collaboration-internal software platform, project management and specialist consulting. The duration of projects is limited and ends with the fulfillment of the order. Hence, in a Two-Level-Collaboration the actual main place of the order-related creation of goods and services is the project level.

Dynamic role concept. The Two-Level-Collaboration can be considered to be a dynamic organization, as single autonomous micro and small enterprises can join or leave the CEN at any time. Despite this member fluctuation, the functioning of the CEN has to be guaranteed. Consequently, it is important to develop a dynamic organizational concept for those dynamic organizations. By the dynamic role concept [2], [17], collaborative roles can be modularly developed in such a dynamic organizational environment. A collaborative role consists of a functional aspect (What should be done?) and an organizational aspect (How should this be organized?). The dynamics within the role concept is the flexible planning of those two aspects. The following elements help describing the functional aspects of a collaborative role, see Fig 1.

• The functions define the tasks, which have to be fulfilled by the special collaborative role.

• The competences define the necessary knowledge required for the fulfillment of the tasks of a special collaborative role.

• The functional rights and duties define the necessary access rights to the collective resources as well as the necessary standards for the acting within the collaborative environment. The description of those

functional rights and duties has to be realized dependently from the concrete collaborative environment.

• The responsibilities define the authorities of the special collaborative role.

Two elements are necessary for the description of

organizational aspect, see Fig 1.

• The organizational units describe the potential collaborative executing units including their internal structures.

• The organizational rights and duties define the standards and code of conducts necessary in the executing collaborative units. The description of those organizational rights and duties has to be realized dependently from the concrete collaborative environment.

Fig.1. Dynamic Role Concept

The logical structure of the dynamic role concept is depicted by an UML class diagram, see Fig 1. The diagram clarifies the relationships of the single elements per aspect as well as the elements relevant for the development of a collaborative role.

Regarding the functional as well as in the organizational aspects, typical modules can be created for the Two-Level-Collaboration. In terms of the functional aspect and regarding their naming, those modules act as collaborative functionaries and are called Canvasser, Production Manager, Application Manager, Collaboration Manager, Process Manager, Controller, Quality Manager and In-/Outsourcing Manager.

Canvasser. The canvasser is the interface between CEN and third parties. He either acts as the central contact point of any customer contact or bundles all customer contacts and further processes them in an integrative way. The canvasser is responsible for maintaining existing and building new customer relations. Within the scope of the quotation and order processing as well as in the complaint case treatment, he is the voice of the customers. He directs the customer demands and broadly defines the collaborative performances and prices for the realization of this customer enquiry. With the organizational arrangement, the realizing organization form should be of longer-term continuance to guarantee a stable contact person in the CEN.

Production Manager. The production manager is responsible for the technical planning and realization of an order. Through his integrative position within the CEN, he has the overview of the available competencies. The production manager brings together the partial performances of single CEN partners to get an overall performance of the CEN. He realizes this technical order configuration by planning the work sequence and the schedule of a specific order. Within the scope of the complaint case treatment the production manager helps solving technical problems. Due to his distribution power, he has a special trustful position within the CEN.

Application Manager. The application manager is responsible for the collaborative order management, i.e. for the coordination of a specific order or complaint case. He is comparable to a project leader. One of his most important tasks is the inter-organizational interface and process management within the scope of a concrete order processing resp. complaint case treatment. As a neutral contact person he mediates between the CEN partners in case of a conflict during the order processing or complaint case treatment.

Collaboration Manager. The collaboration manager is responsible for building the structural framework of the CEN as well as for its maintenance and further development. From his neutral position, he represents the interests of the totality of the CEN partners and supports the trust-building by developing codes of behavior. He is the contact person for clarifying problems and coordinating the knowledge management of the collaboration as well as the knowledge transfer between the collaboration partners. Another area of responsibility is the internal and external representation of the CEN. With the organizational elaboration the realizing organization form should be of longer-term continuance because this guarantees a stable contact person for third parties in the CEN.

Process Manager. The process manager coordinates the collaboration-internal improvement process. He assesses the structures of the collaboration concerning

their documented processes and completed tasks. Furthermore, the conception of the organizational reference process structures is incumbent on him. Within his activities for the CEN-internal improvement process, he realizes and maintains the communication-technological infrastructure of the CEN.

Controller. The controller embodies a collaboration-internal revision instance. He is responsible for the performance of all commercial tasks related to the collaboration, including the perception of all the monitoring and control tasks for realizing the economic objectives of the collaboration. Additionally, he supervises the compliance of both CEN-internal and -external contractual agreements.

Quality Manager. The quality manager has to realize cross-sectional tasks, and he is responsible for the preparation and maintenance of quality management regulations as well as for their coordination and distribution within the whole collaboration. He takes the responsibility for the realization of the quality policy as well as for all CEN-internal quality concerns. He is responsible for the content conforming to standards, the economic efficiency and the effectiveness of the quality management system as well as for its regular updates. During the case of complaint handling the quality manager is given the central authority.

In-/Outsourcing Manager. The in-/outsourcing manager is made available by every enterprise participating in the CEN, and he is the central contact person for all collaborative activities of the respective enterprise. He administers the application of enterprise-owned resources and competencies into the CEN, coordinates all internal activities relevant for the CEN and represents the interests of the own enterprise towards the CEN. With the organizational elaboration the organization form should be of longer-term continuance to guarantee a continuous work of the collaboration partners among each other resp. with institutionalized instances of the CEN. Every single collaboration member determines the kind of organizational elaboration independently.

Those functional modules are to be called domain-specific, as those collaborative functionaries can only be applied to the concept of the Two-Level-Collaboration.

Regarding their name, the modules in the organizational aspect are derived from collaborative organization units like Leading Company, Board, Working Group, Dependent Company, Project and Commission.

Leading Company. The organizational form of the leading company is applicable to realize a regularly recurring task with a simple structure. As the task can be planned of its simple structure and consists of a small number of subtasks, its realization is associated with low risks. Thus, a single member can appear as an

organizational unit. A leading company is operated by that member, who owns the most beneficial resource conditions in terms of realizing the task. Additionally, the remaining CEN members can transfer resources to the leading company. The expenditures of costs and time for the creation of the necessary structures in the leading company are lower than for the task-specific formation of a dependent company. This can be explained by the fact that a leading company can revert to existing structures of the external-collaborative active-being. The coordination in the leading company is mono-centric, i.e. itself as a central collaborative instance makes decisions autonomously. The organizational form of the leading company is applicable for the realization of leadership tasks as well as operative tasks of the CEN.

Board & Working Group. The board and the working group are temporally open-ended, because the tasks which has to be processed is normally recurring. Depending on the tasks to be fulfilled, a temporary limited existence of this organizational form is also possible. The task to be fulfilled inside a committee should be of complex structure, which does not mean to exclude the realization of simple tasks. According to the nature of tasks, the collaboration can be permanent or temporary, i.e. the representatives of the members meet each other in regular or irregular intervals. Both organizational forms are applicable for the realization of consultative resp. decision-making leadership tasks as well as operative tasks of the CEN. In a board, equal representatives of the members are acting together considering generally predetermined structures. The coordination is polycentric, i.e. all participating members are included, whereby an overlaying action structure can be recognized. In contrast, the equal representatives of members within a working group are acting informal, i.e. there are no generally predetermined structures existing. Necessary structures are formed in case of needs. The coordination in the working group takes place pluralistically, i.e. all participating members are included in a process of mutual negotiation and agreement. An overlaying structure cannot be recognized.

Dependent Company. The dependent company with generally predetermined structures is applicable for the realization of complex recurring tasks. It is in form of a business concern a legally autonomous organization unit of the CEN, which however stays dependent in its sponsorship. The coordination in the dependent company is mono-centric, i.e. a central collaborative instance makes decisions autonomously. The dependent company is applicable for the realization of leadership tasks as well as operative tasks of the CEN.

Project. In a project, the once appearing task is of a complex structure. Due to this characterization as a task which is hard to be planned, single organization units of

the CEN partners are acting together considering task-specific structures to realize it. The structures, which are necessary for the realization of the task, are occasionally operatively fixed at the beginning of the project. Already at the planning stage the project is designed as fix-termed. It is primarily applicable for realizing operative tasks within collaboration. The coordination is polycentric, i.e. all participating members are included. However, there is also the possibility that the project is led by another collaborative organizational form (e.g. board, dependent company).

Commission. The commission is chosen as the organizational form, when the task can be planned, has a small number of subtasks and appears only once. The realization of such a task is rather associated with low risks. Thus, it occasionally can be performed by a member or a third party. In the case of the commission, the implementer of this task does not get any further resources transmitted from other CEN members. The organizational form of the commission is primarily applicable for the realization of operative tasks of the CEN. There is no collaborative leadership provided in such an organizational form. Coordinative effort, if necessary, can be fulfilled by an additional organizational form (e.g. board).

Those organizational modules are to be considered domain-neutral as these collaborative organizational units can be applied to other collaboration forms as well.

The dynamic role of the Two-Level-Collaboration exceeds the role description of the Virtual Organization Breeding Environment (VBE) [18]. Hence, the role descriptions of the VBE can be compared with the functional aspects in the dynamic role concept, however, the contentual characteristics are structured in a different way and the depth of the description is higher, both in verbal and module form, within the dynamic role concept. The VBE only contains marginal counterparts to the descriptions in the organizational aspect of the dynamic role concept.

3.3. Collaboration phases

The phases of the collaboration in a Two-Level-Collaboration are divided into the initiation, development and dissolution phases [2].

The phase of the collaboration initiation contains, based on the collaboration purpose to be defined, first conceptual elaborations of the collaboration objectives and strategies. Based on the collaboration objectives, a systematic selection of potential members has to be realized. Therefore, the preparatory necessary works are executed in an initial core team (negotiating arena).

The phase of the collaboration development contains all necessary organizational measures in order to guarantee the achievement of the legal collaboration

objectives. Therefore, strategically shaped leadership tasks are realized by a collaboration management in the basic level, which are rather orientated to a subsistence economy. On one hand, those tasks are introversive and focus on the internal organization development and the support of the collaboration-internal projects. On the other hand, they are external oriented and focus on the public image and the representation of the collaboration. The core of the phase is the running of a project, which are the actual means for the achievement of the collaboration objectives. Those projects highly prioritize the pecuniary reward-focusing character. However, the subsistence-economic objectives can be the reason for the initiation of such projects as well.

The phase of the collaboration dissolution includes activities supporting a coordinated separation of the collaboration partners. Hence, it might be necessary, based on the collaborative profit and loss distribution rules, to distribute the existing collaborative capital on to the members. Furthermore, if a collaborative property is existent, it has to be alienated or if possible released to interested collaboration partners. Also the re-integration of collaborative tasks into the structure of partner companies has to be given in a coordinative way.

4. Conclusion

Basically, the development direction of a CEN cannot be predicted and hence can only be controlled in a limited way. A basis for a limited controllability is the organizationally covered and for all partners visible institutionalization of a CEN. The concept of the Two-Level-Collaboration presented in this article takes up this idea. Based on the presented results, further research should examine how strongly human characteristics shape the organizational design of CEN and how these CEN recursively influence the human beings interacting within them. Furthermore, the development of organizationally preferred solutions for the CEN is necessary. It would be possible, by means of interaction analyses of work-relations between the collaborated partners, to derive respectively preferred pairings and to describe them regarding their internal structure. A transferability of the dynamic role concept towards other collaboration types as well as a potential integration of other role concepts with a similar range of object has to be examined.


This paper is mainly based on work performed in the Collaborative Research Centre 457 "Non-hierarchical Regional Production Networks", which was funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG).


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