Since the U.S. Department of Defense initiated the development of networked computers in 1969, Internet technologies have rapidly advanced and revolutionized the way we communicate and conduct business. The second wave of the technological revolution came with intranet technology in the mid-1990s. With the intranet, organizations have strengthened the powers and speed of data gathering and sharing, communication, collaboration, and decision making within a firewall-protected organizational boundary. The third wave of this technological evolution, extranets, began in the second half of the 1990s. Many believe that it is the key technology enabler that is triggering a revolution in the structure and operations of many organizations in the new Internet-driven global economy. In addition to maturing Internet technologies, several technology drivers, as well as business drivers, further pushed the emergence of new types of organizations—virtual corporations, virtual organizations, extended enterprises, and trans-enterprise systems.
Since we began to study information systems, academics and practitioners have expanded the focus of information technology’s role in managing organizations, from individuals to groups to functional departments to organizations to inter- organizations. In the 1980s, technology’s impact on organizations has been an ongoing research theme. For example, Rockart and Short (1989, p. 7) argued that a firm’s ability to continuously improve the effectiveness of managing interdependence is the critical element in responding to new and pressing competitive forces. The concept of inter-organizational systems (IOSs) emerged as a tool for achieving competitive advantages. Many well-known examples of information systems that provide competitive advantages that are discussed in the literature (Porter & Millar, 1985) are those of inter-organizational information systems (IOISs).