Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Faculty of Business and Public Management

First Advisor

Professor Craig Standing


Electronic marketplaces have proliferated as use of the Internet has become widespread in business. A rapid growth in the number of marketplaces, followed by a period of stringent consolidation, as market makers develop a greater understanding of effective business models, has resulted in a climate of uncertainty and confusion. As with many aspects of e-commerce the drive towards participation is fuelled less by strategy planning than by a fear of lagging behind competitors or losing first mover advantage. In this climate of uncertainty organisations often bypass effective evaluation of the benefits that can be realised from participation in e-marketplaces, thereby exacerbating the process facing them and hampering effective decision-making. Evaluation is perceived as a fraught subject within the Information System field, and particularly within the business community which adheres to tried and trusted, albeit often inappropriate, methods such as financial or technical evaluation. The difficulties involved in effective evaluation of systems are well documented; these will increase as systems become more pervasive throughout organisations and those of their trading partners. Calls for a more holistic approach to evaluation are increasing, based on a developing appreciation of interpretive methods of research within the Information Systems discipline. However, the understanding that the social, political and cultural factors affecting and organisation have an impact on the uses and advantages of systems is by no means universal, and empirical evidence of this view is only slowly emerging. This research examines the benefits that can be realised from participation in an electronic marketplace by taking an interpretive approach to the evaluation. It examines the nature of electronic marketplaces to provide clarity to a confused and dynamic environment. The study then focuses on the development of evaluation studies within the IS discipline to identify how an effective evaluation method for assessing the benefits of e-marketplace participation can be achieved. An empirical examination of an organisation’s participation in an electronic marketplace is used to identify the benefits that are realisable and the issues that impact on them. The case study is conducted through an interpretive lens, using a content, context, process (CCP) approach based on existing IS literature. This enables a crucial understanding of the internal and external environments influencing the organisation and its realisation of potential benefits. To allow for the range of interpretations and reflections required to fully address the complexity of the issues involved in such a case study, a variety of research influences such as dialect hermeneutics, critical realism and case study theory are drawn into the research model. The case study organisation’s motivation for participating in an e-marketplace was primarily cost savings. Over the two years of the study, several more potential benefits were identified, such as supply chain efficiencies, greater market awareness and a widening of the supplier base. However, the organisation’s commitments to its local and regional communities, its need to retain status and some consideration of existing relationships needed to be balanced against the gains that might be realised. In some cases the organisation chose to forgo a potential benefit in favour of socially or politically motivated actions. Cultural factors also influenced their actions, particularly as they moved towards extending participation in the marketplace to gain from a global sourcing strategy. The contribution of this research lies in two areas. Firstly, it was existing evaluation literature to development a framework for the evaluation of benefits in the complex area of electronic marketplaces, thereby extending and informing the call for more inclusive and interpretive evaluation studies. Secondly, the research contributes empirical evidence to support the recognition of benefits to be gained from electronic marketplaces and shows how the realisation of the economic benefits is impacted by the social, political and cultural factors that influence an organisation.

Included in

E-Commerce Commons