The role of IT in the make-or-buy dilemma represents one of the most important topics in the IS research field. This dilemma is becoming increasingly more complex as new players and new services appear in the market landscape. The last few years have witness the emergence of electronic marketplaces as players that leverage new technologies to facilitate B2B internet-mediated relationships. Nowadays these players are enlarging their services, from simple intermediation to include the outsourcing of entire business processes. Using a longitudinal qualitative field study of an e-marketplace providing the outsourcing of the procurement process we develop an in depth understanding of the role of these extended intermediaries in the shaping of the collaborative practices among different organizations. The paper proposes that, as marketplaces engage in complex process outsourcing practices they generate new collaborative dynamics among participants that begin to privilege the trusted small numbers rather that the convenience of the access to the entire, but unknown, market. The participants see the marketplace as an exclusive club whose belonging provides a strategic advantage. While profiting from this unintended consequence, the e-marketplace assumes the paradoxical role of an agent who heightens the fences of the transactions instead of leveling them. Based on these first results we conclude with implications for the technology mediated Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) practice.
Interdisciplinary Aspects of Information Systems Studies, 2008