Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited
Three essential topics are dealt with in this issue of Internet Research:
Web site design; and
We begin with two papers on the changes in the banking industry, looking on a national level at both the UK and Denmark. Mols presents an analysis of Danish retail banking, and Jayawardhena and Foley do the same for the UK banking sector. While the former paper examines the perceptions and plans of bank management, the latter takes a look at functionality provided by the current players in Internet banking. The approaches may be different but the underlying currents seen in these two major European markets are the same. Fundamental changes are taking place in the way the retail banking sector operates, and we are but at the beginning of nothing short of a revolution in this industry. Mols' paper builds on his earlier work, published in Internet Research (Vol. 8 No. 4), on the Internet and the bank's strategic distribution channel decisions.
Web site design is the subject of two papers in this issue. The first, by Bauer and Scharl, presents an innovative method for the quantitative evaluation of Web sites. Looking at both site content and site structure, Bauer and Scharl have developed a formal metric through which sites can be compared, ranked, and tracked for changes. The second paper, by Fink and Laupase, focuses on product and service marketing on the World Wide Web, serving two distinct purposes. First of all, they fine-tune an integrated model for Web-based marketing through which the marketing effectiveness of Web sites can be objectively evaluated. Next, they go on to apply this model in a comparative study of two distinct markets and cultures - Malaysia as an eastern representative and Australia as a western representative. Aside from identifying East/West differences that must be overcome to succeed in global Web-based marketing, Fink and Laupase effectively challenge existing research conclusions about cultural differences in respect of context and communications.
Effective Web marketing on an international basis is, of course, fundamental to electronic commerce. This issue presents two papers that deal with the business-to-business (B2B) aspects of establishing e-commerce infrastructures and relationships. Ratnasingam addresses the issue of "power among trading partners" as a fundamental element of establishing trust in an e-commerce relationship. Starting with the historical coercive efforts of the automotive superpowers to impose EDI on their trading partners, and moving to present-day persuasive or co-operative relationships, Ratnasingam's paper is required reading for any senior management team formulating a new e-commerce strategy.
While the world moves headlong into a frenzy of e-commerce activity, some regions, Nigeria being one of them, remain firmly dependent on primary sectors such as agriculture. In "The influence of information technology access on agricultural research in Nigeria", Jimba and Atinmo examine the relationship between access to the Internet and information technologies, and progress in agricultural development in Nigeria and its region. While information technologies are rapidly widening the gap between the post-industrial and developing countries of the world, it is those same technologies that have the potential of closing the gap once and for all. Africa has been referred to as a "paperless society" - not, as we are accustomed, referring to the advanced stage of digital media replacing printed media, but rather as an indication that the region is so terribly lacking in printed media to begin with. As this study shows, getting the right priorities established is but the first step in moving Africa from an information-poor paperless society to an information-rich digital society.
In "From EDI to Internet commerce: the BHP Steel experience", Chan and Swatman document a detailed case study of how this major Australian steel manufacturer underwent a successful transition from classic EDI technology to Web-based e-commerce. When you have 30,000 employees in 27 countries, 2,500 active suppliers, over 8,000 customers and annual sales exceeding US$4.83 billion, change does not typically happen fast. This case study covers over ten years of BHP Steel activity beginning with EDI and culminating with recent moves to internet-based B2B e-commerce.
The BHP Steel case also serves to introduce what I hope will be a regular stream of industry cases on the use of e-commerce and Internet technologies. Internet Research has decided to add practitioner-oriented case studies as a regular feature of the journal - see the special "Call for papers" regarding this at the back of this issue or online at the journal's Web site. In this first issue of the new millennium (come now, you did not think I was going to be the only editor on the planet not to write a "millennium editorial", did you?), I want to reiterate my call for your leading edge research papers on new Internet-related technologies, applications, business models, field studies and information systems. But in addition, I wish to invite the submission of real-world case studies in which you share your experience of e-commerce, Internet product introduction, innovative Web-marketing strategy, redesigned information architecture, or other such studies reflecting the profound impact the Internet is having on your organization and daily lives.
David G. Schwartz