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Managing information flows in supplier-customer relationships: issues, methods and emerging problems

Volpato, Giuseppe and Stocchetti, Andrea (2002): Managing information flows in supplier-customer relationships: issues, methods and emerging problems. Published in: Actes du Gerpisa No. 33 (2002): pp. 7-27.

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The study aims to highlight problems that might take place in supplier-customer relationships whose transactions and production process get highly integrated through advanced Information and Communication Technology (ICT) systems. Although much has been written on how ICT can improve productivity and competitiveness through a closer connection among partners, some problems have to be sorted out. The main questions at the ground of this study are: - First, it's arguable that the close integration of the production processes made possible by ICT has no relevant negative effect, at which condition such integration produces its best results without disadvantages? Moreover, which kind of disadvantages might take place? - Second, strictly related to the first question: are such advantages somehow affected and/or related to the specific kind of relations established among the counterparts or, on the opposite, both firms always benefit from ICT-based integration? - Finally, how the ICT-based integration affects relations among suppliers and customers? In this article both a theoretical approach and an empirical one have been applied. - Theoretical research is carried out as follow: a) analysis of existing literature on the issue, b) designing a model which aims to connecting the possible kind of supplier-customer relations with the information flows taking place among them. - Empirical analysis is carried out as follow: a) a field study where paradigmatic cases are analysed through in-depth interviews; b) a questionnaire-based survey on a selected sample of firms to attempt to shed light on actual degree of diffusion of ICT-based customer-supplier relationship.

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