Literature review

The choice of B2B e-business model is one of many strategic decisions that organisations make when conducting business activities in the e-business environment. Current literature on both strategic decision making and the development of B2B ebusiness models does not adequately address the many complexities facing today's agribusiness organisations considering e-business initiatives. The existing literature is disparate in that it addresses how organisations should make strategic decisions in general (Song et al., 2002; Gulati et al.,

2000), and the detail and development of e-business models (Wise and Morrison, 2000; Timmers, 1999; Rappa, 2001) but the two disciplines have nowhere been combined. Furthermore, practical and operational issues (such as resources availability, technology infrastructure and knowledge required) that impact such decisions, specifically for agribusiness organisations, have also not been addressed.

In developing the framework, organisations need to have a good understanding on the types of models available for adoption. While there is no single unique classification system for the types of B2B e-business models available (Rappa, 2001; Timmers, 1999), B2B e-business models are generally classified into four generic categories: merchant models; manufacturer models; the buy-side model; and brokerage models (Timmers, 1999; Rappa, 2001; Strauss and Frost,

2001). Each of these models has different functional characteristics resulting in different models being more applicable or suitable to particular industries, markets or situations. In addition, the focus of these models varies from buyer centric (such as the buy-side model) to supplier centric (such as the manufacturer model) with some being neutral (such as the mega-exchange model). Based on these four categories, a recent study has identified 10 specific e-business models (see Table I for their comparative features) as being used for conducting B2B e-commerce in the agribusiness industry (Ng, 2002).

In addition to the complexity of the models, many factors are known to influence the strategic decision making process of organisations (Eisenhardt and Martin, 2000), which are also likely to impact on the choice of B2B e-business models. The choice of e-business model is a strategic decision as the model chosen will form the framework for the organisation to pursue its business activities in the e-business environment and will also affect an organisations' overall strategic direction (Nwachukwu, 2002; Malhotra, 2000).

Factors influencing the choice of e-business models can be classified into two categories; internal and external (Papadakis et al., 1998). The literature suggests 16 influencing factors, of

which nine are internal and seven are external in nature (see Figure 1). Based on the literature, a preliminary model (see Figure 1) was developed suggesting that although the choice of B2B e-business models is a unique strategic decision, traditional factors (both internal and external) that would normally impact such a decision will apply in this context. Furthermore, the relative importance of each of the factors in the strategic decision process will also be examined as it is assumed that some of these factors may be more important than others, and in addition differences may also occur based on size and sector.

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