Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Lynn M. Martin and Julie Abbott
About the Guest Editors
Lynn M. Martin is director of EU Asia projects at the Business School, with key development work under way with India, China, Germany and Spain. She is also director of the innovation management interactive exercise (IMIE), a computer-based tool to aid understanding of the innovation process. In the past she has worked in universities in the UK and Germany, with experience as a senior manager in a large organisation and as an owner-manager in small firms. She has published many papers on small firm development internationally in academic journals and contributed to several books on entrepreneurship and innovation. In addition to supervising doctoral students working in this area she is also course director for the action-research based Doctor in Business Administration Programme. A regular rapporteur and evaluator for the European Union framework programmes, she also contributes to projects and initiatives run by NATO and the Commonwealth in terms of innovation and entrepreneurship.
Julie Abbott runs her own marketing consultancy, specialising in producing strategic marketing plans for small to medium sized businesses from their business plans. She lectures widely at various business schools on marketing topics and runs marketing planning workshops for clients. She also does general marketing consultancy for companies that need extra help in understanding their marketplace or how to position themselves for best advantage. Prior to this Julie worked in the IT industry for a number of years, most recently for IBM as marketing manager for a key product set across EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa). She mainly worked in technical IT roles both for IBM and other companies. She spent the first five years of her IBM career as an IT consultant before moving into marketing. During her marketing career, she has worked as marketing manager for a variety of IBM's leading products and has published papers on CRM in leading academic journals as well as contributing to several marketing books. She works closely with many UK business schools to encourage interaction and thought leadership between them and the business world as well as lecturing at postgraduate level on marketing issues.
Welcome to the Business Innovation in the Knowledge Economy (BIKE) Conference special issue of QMRIJ. This issue contains six qualitative papers with a range of insights and applications into business incubation environments, channel benefits, customer and company voices in e-commerce, IT and organizational processes, a two-country comparison in qualitative case examples and the enhancement of customer service. As such, this issue presents a different scenario to the normal qualitative academic papers by focussing on innovative practices.
As background, the BIKE event was one of a series of conferences to explore how new business processes, services and products arise from innovation and knowledge developments and to study and discuss realities of business operations in new technological environments with the benefits of qualitative insights and qualitative inputs to the management of such areas. A particular feature of this annual event is that it brings together academics, practitioners, business people and policymakers; this year it took place thanks to the sponsorship of IBM, the West Midlands IT Association (WMITA) and Stratford-upon-Avon District Council. The logo for WMITA is shown in Figure 1. It has a key significance for the way BIKE has tried to bridge the gap between commerce and academia since WMITA is a group of small and large firms working together as a regional cluster and its presence here also represents an important new university-industry partnership. The involvement of this cluster also indicates the local and regional impacts of BIKE while the more international aspects are shown by the EDECAD involvement. The founding members of BIKE include Julie Abbott, Lynn Martin and Len Tiu Wright.
Figure 1 Logo for WMITA
Last July 2003, the BIKE team held a conference at IBM Warwick and Stratford-upon Avon District Council. This formed the UK launch of the EDECAD project that involves India, China, Spain and the UK and is led by Lynn Martin from the Business School at the University of Central England (www.edecad.info). It was partly funded by the EU Asia ITC programme which aims to develop European-Asian links in terms of information technology communications. The logo for this programme is shown here as its involvement indicates the truly international nature of the BIKE event and the potential impacts on a wider economic and social community (www.europa.eu.int/comm/europeaid/projects/asia-itc) (Figure 2).
Figure 2 Logo for EU Asia ITC Programme
Over 30 months, EDECAD took an active role in developing new elearning and e-commerce initiatives across the partner countries. Underpinning issues include techno-ethics, the societal impacts of new technology and the role of foreign direct investment in this process with a particular focus on SMEs. Supporting the initial stages of this process, participants explored key issues connected with customer relationship marketing, industry and the public sector, knowledge, e-business, small and medium sized enterprises and digital inclusion.
Knowledge management and organizational learning formed a central part of the conference and indeed are high on the agendas of many in business today, along with customer service, which must form the central tenet of an organisation if it is to win in the marketplace. Trim and Lee discuss how customer service can be enhanced by a business culture that embraces organizational learning. This can result in proactive leadership and creative solutions being put forward to ever more complex challenges that firms face today when dealing with day-to-day issues such as managing relationships with their customers and suppliers.
The papers selected for this issue from the BIKE conference are examples of the focus and high quality of the papers presented over the two days and we believe that they will hold your interest and provide food for thought.
The first paper is about customer and company voices in e-commerce. A company's knowledge base becomes ever more important in this networked world and McLean and Blackie have qualitatively investigated how companies use knowledge management within their e-commerce strategies. Customer expectations are matched against organizational provisions in order to understand knowledge gaps and customer requirements. This underlines how important people and processes still are in business despite the proliferation of information technology in markets and its ubiquitous presence everywhere today. In the second paper, Ranchhod and Gurau tackle the issues between IT, organizational processes and people from the viewpoint of how this is changing the nature of marketing today. The need for interaction between all three aspects is vital for marketing strategies to be successful in an ever-increasingly competitive business environment. As the Internet is becoming more mature and accepted across most customer segments, and so businesses using this channel are beginning to flourish again, as shown in the third paper. Louvieris et al. argue, in the third paper, that closely aligned company and customer channel portfolios are a strategic imperative for sustainable success in multi-channel environments and so propose a “Channel Benefit Portfolio” approach for successful e-commerce strategies.
The growth of e-commerce coupled with governmental encouragement in new business is causing a proliferation of incubation centres and increased use of venture capitalists once again. This intensity of supply is causing gaps in knowledge and capital and has led to a new set of actors – the venture to capitalists (V2C), who move projects from “prospective” to “investable”. Jungman and Seppa in the fourth paper qualitatively researched operating models in two local areas of the US in order to understand activity in this area and to discover if the models developed can be used elsewhere. The wide range of incubation centres has resulted in a whole series of descriptors being used that has given rise to a lot of confusion which is slowing down the development of policy and practice in this area. In the fifth paper, Hannon argues that the incubation market needs a sense-making classification of the different incubation types in order to enhance the meaning of incubation and allow policy development to move forward at the required rate. He proposes a classification system that if accepted would provide a shared meaning to those both within the communities and outside. This issue finishes with paper six by Trim and Lee which consolidates and enhances customer service elements and the context of organizational learning with the qualitative orientation.
It can be seen from the papers in this edition of QMRIJ that the business environment is changing as rapidly as ever and it is enlightening to take in research and well articulated academic and practitioner views from within the various focus areas to demonstrate how they are driving or responding quickly to market forces in today's knowledge economy.
In developing this special edition, both Julie Abbott and myself are indebted to the EDECAD Research Assistant Ms Cindy Liu whose own insights on the Chinese experience of Internet implementation, plus hard work and careful support have greatly informed the progress of this edition.