Actors' inter-organisational information system use within buyer-supplier relationships: cases from UK retail

Emberson, Caroline Anne (2000). Actors' inter-organisational information system use within buyer-supplier relationships: cases from UK retail. PhD thesis The Open University.



As companies focus on core activities, inter-organisational relationships assume greater importance. This places new demands on cross-boundary, inter-organisational relationships. It is often argued that information and communication technology enables the seamless and efficient flow of information between market-facing organisations and their suppliers. Moving beyond simple market mechanisms based on price, the efficiency and effectiveness of inter-organisational networks can be improved through information sharing. However, theory development has been driven largely by organisational-level, single-respondent surveys which have focused on testing competitive performance benefits. Less attention has been paid to how actors' practical inter-organisational information system usage may itself reshape buyer-supplier relationships. The purpose of this research is to extend theoretical and practical understanding through a fine-grained exploration of this phenomenon.

This study investigated the micro-dynamics of inter-organisational information system use in buyer-supplier relationships in four retail supply networks. This involved a detailed study of operational level behaviour in sixteen organisations. A novel combination of research methods was devised to gather data. A form of social change theory was used to analyse the relationship between agency and the use of technological artefacts. The series of accounts which were generated enabled comparison of actors' behaviours under different buyer-supplier conditions.

This thesis contributes to knowledge by highlighting how operational actors' creative and selective inter-organisational information system use contributes to system-level supply relationship patterns. Three types of adaptation behaviours were identified. These were labelled as patching ploys, local plots and collaborative conspiracies. Then, at a system level, four modes of inter-organisational information system use were classified: conformist competition, system utilisation, creative collaboration and competitive innovation. An explanation of the conditions under which actors tend to adopt and engage in one mode rather than another is offered. Finally, the implications for management practice, for theory and for future research are discussed.

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  • Item ORO ID
  • 65630
  • Item Type
  • PhD Thesis
  • Academic Unit or School
  • Faculty of Business and Law (FBL)
  • Copyright Holders
  • © 2008 Caroline Anne Emberson
  • Depositing User
  • ORO Import