Web‐Weaving – Intranets, Extranets and Strategic Alliances

Philip Barker (University of Teesside, UK)

The Electronic Library

ISSN: 0264-0473

Article publication date: 1 April 2000




Barker, P. (2000), "Web‐Weaving – Intranets, Extranets and Strategic Alliances", The Electronic Library, Vol. 18 No. 2, pp. 137-146. https://doi.org/10.1108/el.2000.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

According to the definition given on the back cover of this book, the term Web‐weaving is intended to denote “the use of Internet technologies to create and enhance networks of relationships”. Using this definition as a basis, the book looks at the webs of relationships that can exist inside organisations (intranets), outside organisations (extranets) and between organisations (strategic alliances). The book contains 37 chapters that are organised into three basic parts. The first of these looks at “The elements of Web‐weaving”; in a way, this section acts as a sort of primer for those readers who might wish to “get up to speed” with respect to understanding the important techniques and technologies that are used in this area. The second part of the book is devoted to “Web‐weaving in practice”; this section presents a number of practical applications and case studies of Web‐weaving. The third and final part of the book (“What next?”) explores potential future developments. Here, various authors (including Bill Gates and Tim Berners‐Lee) offer their views on how the future (of Web‐weaving) might unfold and evolve.

As was mentioned above, the 13 chapters that make up the first part of the book cover a wide range of introductory topics. Within the first few chapters there are expositions on intranets, cybernetic corporations (or “cybercorps”), organising and managing knowledge, learning organisations and extranets. Subsequent chapters in this section then discuss: electronic commerce; electronic consumerism; and competitive advantage through information. The final chapters in Part One explore issues such as automating a virtual salesforce, strategic alliances, virtual teams, virtual organisations and transactional communities as organic market systems. The chapter on virtual organisations is particularly interesting in that it presents 25 “tried and tested” principles for the creation of effective virtual teams/organisations.

The second part of the book (Chapters 14‐27) explores various applications of the ideas, techniques and technologies that were covered in the previous part. Indeed, following the structure of Part One, the second part of the book now shows how the theory of Web‐weaving inside, outside and between organisations has been put into practice. Four basic expository strands are presented. The first of these, Chapters 14‐17, illustrates applications within organisations – by presenting case studies of intranets, changing corporate culture, knowledge sharing and creating virtual learning environments. The second strand (presented in Chapters 18, 19 and 20) illustrates the benefits of combining internal and external communications. Chapters 21, 22 and 23 (strand three) focus on activities outside of companies – here, the examples show how technology can be used to strengthen and enhance relationships with trading partners and customers through the use of extranets and electronic commerce. Finally, the fourth strand (Chapters 24‐27), provides examples of how technology can be used to create alliances and “connections” between organisations and individuals.

The various contributors to the last part of the book (Chapters 28‐37) explore possible futures for Web‐weaving. Three basic themes are addressed. The first of these discusses future developments in information technology that are likely to have an impact on strategic business decisions. The three chapters (28, 29 and 30) that make up this theme area describe, respectively: pervasive information systems (and the emergence of a global digital information utility); the concept and use of a “digital nervous system” within business organisations; and future possible developments of the World Wide Web – such as signed metadata, machine‐understandable information and the W3C’s resource description framework. The second theme area (presented in Chapters 31‐34) explores the ways in which organisations may need to change in order to accommodate the needs of networks and the effects that these changes might have on individuals. Various models of business transformation are presented and discussed in the light of emerging network technology. The likely impact of these developments on the role of “empowered individuals” and independent knowledge workers are also considered. The final three chapters (35‐37), that make up the third theme area, discuss “people issues” and the social effects of information technology. These chapters present and discuss a number of important topics. For example, the “hypnotic effects” that various technologies can have on end‐users, the need to “stay human” in an increasingly machine‐dominated world, coping with the impelling effects of change agents and techniques (“symplectics”) for bridging the distances that might exist between people with widely different backgrounds and life experiences.

In a book that contains as many contributions as this one does, it would be natural to expect a wide variation in style, literary rigour and value per chapter (information‐wise). However, bearing this in mind, the editors have done a remarkably good job of creating a publication that is very homogeneous in terms of its readability and interest value. Indeed, in its 37 chapters, this book provides a sophisticated and multifaceted vision of the important enabling roles that information technology is likely to play within future knowledge and network‐based societies.

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