Standards play crucial roles in many different aspects of today’s economy. They can define meanings of semantics, product interfaces, process steps, or performance levels. Interorganisational standards are specifications that define business-related semantics and processes, which are made accessible to other organisations’ information systems. While modular organisation forms such as supply chain networks demand such standards for higher flexibility, XML-based Web Services offer a relatively new technological platform to develop such standards. The development of comprehensive interorganisational standards, however, is far from being completed. This book thus answers the questions, how interorganisational standards are developed and how different actors should get involved in it. The author uses actor-network theory to conduct two in-depth case studies on ebXML and RosettaNet. While researchers will find new explanations for the development of interorganisational standards, managers and executives will benefit from the strategic implications this book discusses.
The goal of interorganisational standards is easily explained: if interfaces between organisations are standardised, then organisations can be plugged together to form complex value chains just as children assemble Lego blocks to form impressive toys. Moreover, newly plugged-in organisations can give value chains new shapes and can easily come apart again if external forces so dictate.2 Without standards, the same models might also be possible, but they would be much more expensive and it would take much longer to couple the different modules to form a working whole. Consequently, some authors call the vision of broadly adopted interorganisational standards a ‘plug & play economy’.
Indeed, companies are very interested in this idea, as it enables high adaptability to changing market demands, while keeping costs low. One example is Exel, a large logistics provider which globally ships products between tens of thousands of firms. As the customers of Exel have to send products to often changing business partners, Excel also permanently has to deal with new customers. The existence of different procedures in almost every company is the main reason Exel is very much interested in standardising processes with its customers. It would result in much lower costs of coupling with new customers, while greatly improving the accuracy of Exel’s logistics services. Exel thus participates in the RosettaNet initiative, which develops interorganisational standards for the electronics industry.