William J. Kettinger
This study concerns the integration of electronic commerce networks into the “sales” processes of small firms. Specifically, this study focuses on integration of an electronic commerce (EC) network in those business processes leading up to an actual sales order. We examined seventeen small firms at the end of their first year of participation in an inter-organizational electronic network that matches procurement bids of large firm buyers with smaller firm suppliers. It was found that a firm's capacity to perceive EC networking benefits had the strongest influence on the degree of integration. In particular, expected searching, communication and labor costs benefits were indicators of EC network integration within sales activities. Unlike previous research, this study attempts to better characterize the dynamics of integration by recognizing integration as a process rather than a discrete event or point in time. To accommodate this approach the authors introduce the Customer-Supplier Life Cycle Framework that extends the customer business process perspective proposed by Ives and Learmonth (1984) in their Customer Resource Life Cycle (CRLC). The Customer-Supplier Life Cycle Framework offers promise as a research perspective and managerial tool to help further identify integration opportunities and impact.