SME Clusters within Community-Portal Constellations

Article excerpt

Recently David Parker and George Downie of Bournemouth University Business School were invited to present papers on their ongoing research into small and medium sized enterprises at a major Chinese Conference. In last month's Journal we published an interview with David and George. This month we are publishing an edited version of the paper David presented. It deals with the community-portal developed under the auspices of the Queensland Government (Australia) and involved a consortium comprising Unisys, Microsoft, Bay Technologies, Redlandshire Council, Commonwealth Bank and the Moreton Institute. The portal provides all residents, community groups, businesses, and government agencies access to information, interaction and participation in developing an e-community. David's paper addressed the issues for SMEs when developing clusters to meet market opportunities. Provisional findings emphasised the need for new business models and the need to assess opportunities and threats of an information economy together with the SME attributes as determinants of the propensity to engage in e-commerce.

An action inquiry commenced early in 1999, and a consortium was established in 2000 comprising Unisys, Microsoft, Bay Technologies, Redlandshire Council and Commonwealth Bank and the Moreton Institute, to develop a community-portal dynamic value constellation to provide opportunities for residents, community groups, businesses and services and government agencies to access information, interact and to participate in developing an e-community that fosters economic co-operation. A community-portal facilitates dynamic (developing) value (financial and nonfinancial) constellations (collaborative networks) which supports community integration and economic growth. Through the use of powerful technologies and innovative ways of collaboration, an e-community-portal provides a platform to enable businesses, public sector agencies, and associations to provide services that support the growth and development of communities and individuals. This research domain represents a novel value creation model, applying technologies and solutions in the context of virtual enterprises and other market-driven value constellations, where partners dynamically come together in response to or in anticipation of new market opportunities.

Electronic-communities, community-- portals, electronic-commerce, information systems, logistics, and economic social systems represent the miscellany of literature and disciplines to support the design, development and implementation of community-portal dynamic value constellations. Such constellations provide dynamic creation of highly customised products and services in response to changing market demands.

A key aspect of this research was the identification and selection of value constellation partners, within the community, supporting the full life-cycle management of relationships across evolving clusters. Using knowledge management tools, and multiple delivery channels, e-community-- portals offer the means for residents to fully interact with each other, with government, and businesses at a local level to cluster and support one another. The result is greater social cohesion for the SME business community and society as a whole. By harnessing the power of emerging technologies (and by using knowledge management tools, portals and multiple delivery channels), dynamic constellations offer the means to enable greater interaction with the miscellany of service providers.

Within a community web-portal, the dynamic value constellation provides a customer-oriented set of relationships focused on competence-based networking, needed for value creation (Hagel et al, 1997). Such dynamic value constellations are designed in response to constantly changing, highly customised market demands. As a result, all industries, private or public, and in particular, governments are facing operational challenges; whilst sustaining legacy work practices: which may stifle the opportunities presented by the new information age. …