Mirko Cesarini and Mario Mezzanzanica,
Dipartimento di Statistica, Universit
a degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca, Via Bicocca degli Arcimboldi 8, I-20126 Milan, Italy
Federated Information Systems, Coopetition, Data Quality.
In this paper we point out the organizational issues related to the set-up of a coopetitive federated information
system. The joint exploitation of information owned by different, independent, even competing companies
and public administrations may be carried out according to a “coopetitive model”. The term coopetition is
used in management literature to refer to a hybrid behavior comprising competition and cooperation. We will
show in this paper that the set-up of a coopetitive scenario raises organizational issues, which can be addressed
by the creation of inter-firm personal relationships as well as by the firms decision makers active engagement.
More and more dynamic markets and higher expec-
tations from the stakeholders have pushed firms and
Public Administrations to continuously improve their
service provision models. In this perspective, an im-
portant role is played by the information management
processes within enterprises and Public Administra-
tions. Thus, managers and stakeholders need accurate
and up-to-date information about the market trends,
the customer satisfaction level, and other topics of in-
terest. Furthermore, information management is the
core business of many sectors (e.g. job market place
intermediation, real estate activities). The increas-
ing information requests obliges the decision mak-
ers to better exploit the information assets which are
available within companies and Public Administra-
tions. The data assets, used singularly, do not pro-
vide enough information, but their joint exploitation
may provide significant answers to the information
requests. However, companies and PAs may compete
with each other, therefore, boycotting data exchange.
We claim that the joint exploitation of information
owned by different and independent entities may be
carried out according to a “coopetitive model” (Ce-
sarini and Mezzanzanica, 2006). The term coope-
tition is used in management literature to refer to a
hybrid behavior comprising both competition and co-
operation. Coopetition takes place when some actors
cooperate in some areas while competing in others.
Some authors (Brandenburger and Nalebuff, 1995)
(Gnyawali and Madhavan, 2001) (Lado et al., 1997)
have recently emphasized the increasing importance
of coopetition for today’s inter-firm dynamics, how-
ever, (Dagnino and Padula, 2002) acknowledge the
weaknesses of conventional approaches and underline
that coopetition is an under-researched theme.
According to (Cesarini and Mezzanzanica, 2006),
three different types of coopetitive scenarios can be
identified in the domain of the information systems
federation: Reciprocal advantages, in such a case the
involved partners benefit by integrating their informa-
tion systems using a coopetitive model (e.g. Roaming
in different Mobile phone GSM networks, autoroute
automatic toll paying systems for different compa-
nies); Stakeholders that have the power to enforce a
coopetitive scenario e.g., a company or a Public Ad-
ministration may enforce a coopetitive scenario re-
spectively within its suppliers or within its partners;
Statistical Information Systems, some Public Admin-
istrations (or even large companies) may share the
content of their information systems in order to build
a system able to provide information about the popu-
lation for decision support and for statistical analysis.
In the sequel of this paper we will analyze the most
critical organizational issues related to coopetitive
Cesarini M. and Mezzanzanica M. (2007).
In Proceedings of the Ninth International Conference on Enterprise Information Systems - DISI, pages 524-529
DOI: 10.5220/0002386305240529
scenarios where the involved coopetitors share their
information systems contents. The set-up of a coopet-
itive scenario requires changes within the companies
or public administrations involved. The changes af-
fect both the ICT internal infrastructure, and the in-
ternal organization. Firstly, the cost of modifying the
information systems in order to provide data to a fed-
eration is very low compared to the annual incomes
of many companies and public administrations, there-
fore, this topic can be neglected (Mezzanzanica and
Fugini, 2003). Nowadays web service technologies
allows the creation of federated information systems
with minimal invasiveness in the legacy systems. Sec-
ondly, a partner joining a coopetitive setting has sev-
eral possibilities concerning internal organization, the
two antithetical are: effort can be spared where co-
operation takes place, therefore, the partner may sim-
ply shift some internal resources from the cooperative
fields to the competitive ones; the opposite approach
is to enact a business process reengineering may be
enacted to fully exploit the opportunities provided by
the coopetitive scenario.
The paper is organized as follows: in Sec. 2 the
data quality topic will be investigated in the frame
of coopetitive scenarios; in Sec. 3 the organizational
issues will be outlined and the main actors affecting
the coopetitive processes will be identified; in Sec. 4
the strategies to get the actors actively supporting the
coopetition will be outlined; In Sec. 5 we will point
out the similarities among the set-up of a network of
independent and loosely coupled nodes and the set-
up of a coopetitive scenario; in Sec. 6 the time and
incentive issues will be investigated; in Sec. 7 a case
study will be explored and finally in Sec. 8 some con-
clusions will be drawn and the future works will be
In a coopetitive information system federation, the
aim of the federation is to share information among
the involved firms and public administrations (entities
hereafter). It is important to check law data quality
issues, since they may frustrate the coopetitors and
thereby cause the failure of a federation. Low data
quality may be related to several reasons:
The data managed within a local information sys-
tem is structured and managed according to dif-
ferent goals. We can identify operative goals (e.g.
to book passengers data by airlines, to store cus-
tomer addresses by e-commerce companies), and
management/control goals. Many information
systems are conceived or strongly influenced by
the management expressed control goals, which
may conflict with the users aptitudes, namely the
final users (not the managers) who perceive the
information system as a bureaucratic system con-
sidered useless from their point of view. Such a
perception, which might lead people not to use
the system, is usually balanced by the hierarchi-
cal relationships with management. However, in
a federated scenario no (direct) hierarchical rela-
tionship exists among the coopetition board com-
mittee and the final users. In this case, it is up both
to the coopetition board committee and to the lo-
cal managers to motivate their staff adequately.
Data quality is strictly related to the processes
used to manage the data within each local entity.
Given that there is extensive literature that cov-
ers this issue, we need no longer focus on it. We
would like to point out, that, existing local pro-
cesses have not been designed with coopetitive
goals in mind. Should any data subset considered
unimportant for the local business processes, such
data subset is likely to be of low quality although,
it may be important for different coopetitors.
If there is low expectation from coopetition, little
care will be taken about the quality of the data
provided to the federation, or the data acquisition
processes will not be managed appropriately.
In both cases, the common underlying problem is the
need to modify the internal organization and business
processes to support the coopetition.
The entities entering a coopetitive scenario set-up
should carry out various changes. The impact of ICT
changes are few compared with the required organi-
zational changes, both in terms of budget, time and
complexity. Organizational issues can be addressed
in different ways, the two extreme and antithetical ap-
proaches are: 1) to shift resources from the fields of
cooperation to the fields of coopetition, 2) to undergo
a Business Process Reengineering to better fit the
company/public administration internal organization
with the modified scenario. The first approach has
minimal impact, the entities exploit that sectors where
cooperation occurs needs less resources. Concerning
the second approach, the involved entities may decide
to undergo a business process reengineering, which
can require high investments. Extensive literature on
Business Process Reengineering (or even Business
Process Improvement) (Hammer and Champy, 2001;
Harrington, 1991) is available, thus we will not ex-
plore these topics further. In this section we are going
to point out some human related issues that should be
addressed when some organizational changes are en-
acted to join a coopetitive scenario. Should an entity
decide to join a coopetition, two actor types mainly
affect the subsequent decisional processes: the deci-
sion makers (e.g. the company board, the Chief Exec-
utive Officer, . ..) which affect directly the decisional
processes, and some internal actors that we refer to as
“coopetitive processes key roles” (CPKR hereafter)
who usually have operative roles (they have a lower
position in the hierarchical scale with respect to the
previous actors) can strongly affect the inter entities
coopetitive processes. In a coopetitive scenario aimed
at exchanging registry data, the staff who is in charge
of inputing data can be classified as the CPKRs. We
are going to study the two internal actor categories
3.1 The Decision Makers
The board committee managing the coopetitive sce-
nario should carefully consider the decision makers
beliefs and expectations. An entity may join a coopet-
itive setting either because obliged (e.g. law enforce-
ment or stakeholder commitment) or because the en-
tity committee feels that the coopetition may pro-
vide benefits. The contribution of the single entity
to the coopetition depends strongly on how the de-
cision makers are self committed to the goal of the
coopetition. In case of forced joining, the coopeti-
tion board committee must spend a lot of effort in
convincing the decision makers to effectively collab-
orate. Effective coopetitive inter-organization process
execution requires reshaping of the entity internal or-
ganizations (the more the impact of the coopetition,
the more the changes required to the internal organi-
zations). However the decision makers can be reluc-
tant to carry out such activities, due to the high in-
vestments required. The coopetition board committee
can encourage the decision makers involvement using
policy making and moral suasion. Policies that are
able to fit the coopetition goals with both the single
entities and decision makers goals are more likely to
succeed. The impact of policy making activities in
coopetitive scenarios have been studied in (Cesarini
and Mezzanzanica, 2006). Policy making affect the
decision makers behavior directly, while having an in-
direct effect of the CPKRs.
3.2 The Coopetitive Processes Key Roles
The inter-organization coopetitive processes involve
different actors within the entities being part of the
coopetition. Some of these actors may strongly af-
fect the coopetition results, although they may have
little influence on the single firm or public adminis-
tration itself. We already referred to those roles as
CPKRs. We can try to explain the topic with an ex-
ample. Most of the coopetitive scenarios focus on in-
formation sharing, the information is primarily man-
aged by the firms or public administration’s informa-
tion systems. Sometimes, the information system is
conceived for supporting the management control ac-
tivities rather than the operational ones (e.g. data en-
try operators may be asked to collect a lot of infor-
mation, more than that necessary for the operational
tasks). For this reason, the people in charge of data in-
put, feel the information system more like an assign-
ment than like a useful instrument, thus they make use
of the information system only to accomplish the bu-
reaucratic requirements and no more. Furthermore, a
coopetitive setting makes use of information in a dif-
ferent way to that originally planned. Therefore it is
likely that the people will perceive the tasks related to
the coopetition as new bureaucratic ones. Among the
coopetition board committee and the CPKRs there are
no direct hierarchical relationships, so whether the in-
ternal decision makers have no strong commitment to
the coopetition goals, it is likely that the CPKRs will
have a very small engagement within the coopetition
related tasks.
In this section we are exploring how to address the
organizational issues outlined in the previous section.
We will face the problems from the point of view of
the coopetition board committee, namely the entity
who is committed to foster the coopetition. There
may be different form of coopetition (as outlined in
Sec. 1). From now on we will abstract from the dif-
ferences and we will consider a generic coopetition
board committee. The first step that the coopetition
board committee has to carry out is to actively in-
volve the decision makers within the coopetitive set-
tings. The goal is that the decision makers involved
should perceive the coopetition as feasible and as
a source of opportunities. People of different enti-
ties should overcome reciprocal suspicious, recipro-
cal knowledge among the decision makers will help
to carry out this step. In this streamline it would be
ICEIS 2007 - International Conference on Enterprise Information Systems
useful the creation of a discussion table, where the
decision makers can provide feedbacks to the coope-
tition board committee and may deeper their recipro-
cal acquaintance. In a coopetitive scenario fostered by
a stakeholder the “forced” coopetitors are inclined to
assume a passive behavior, (namely a “waiting” be-
havior): they participate to the coopetitive scenario,
but they spend as less effort as possible and they
observe the results obtained by the coopetitors that
actively engage the coopetition. A coopetitive sce-
nario is likely to succeed if and only if all (or most
of) the competitors will change the internal organi-
zation to exploit the coopetitive scenario. Organiza-
tion changes requires a lot of resources, thus the wait-
ing coopetitors will not carry out such changes, un-
less forced by the situations (e.g. when most of the
coopetitors would have done it). For this reason, the
coopetition board committee should adequately mo-
tivate the reluctant decision makers, should smooth
away the suspicious, and should present the coopeti-
tion as feasible and as a source of opportunities. An
Figure 1: The three phases through which a network form
is established.
optimal plan may is outlined next, it goes through
different subsequent steps: the coopetition scenario
is set-up, sensitization of the decision makers is car-
ried out, stimulated entities as well as longsighted en-
tities will try to effectively exploit the opportunities
of the coopetitive scenario In the steps just outlined
it is very important the time variable. If it takes too
much time, the decision makers could have a kind of
negative feeling about the coopetition success possi-
bilities, therefore they will never shift from a passive
approach to a proactive one. The decision makers ac-
tive engagement is the first step in building an effec-
tively working coopetitive scenario, however the CP-
KRs role should be considered as well. Also these
people should be actively involved within the coope-
tition processes, since their contribution is very im-
portant, as explained in previous section. The CP-
KRs may perceive the coopetition related tasks as ad-
ditional bureaucratic effort, in addition the CPKRs
may be required to get in touch with people of dif-
ferent entities to participate in inter-entity processes,
and this can increase the CPKRs reluctance to collab-
orate. The committee management board most prob-
ably has no direct relationships with these people, so
they has to be reached and sensitized through the de-
cision makers collaboration.
The process of building a federated information sys-
tem on coopetitive basis is strongly affected by the es-
tablishment of mutual relationships with the involved
actors. In these process similarities with the building
of “network forms of organization” are present. The
expression “network forms of organization” refers to
two or more organizations involved in long-term re-
lationships (Thorelli, 1986) and the first study in this
field have been carried out by (Powell, 1990). An in-
teresting evolution process of network forms of orga-
nization (hereafter network forms) articulated in sev-
eral phases has been described by (Larson, 1992). Ac-
cording to this model, a network form develops in
three phases (summarized in Fig. 1), each with par-
ticular and important social aspects.
1. The first phase is a preparatory one, during which
personal relationships are established and good
reputations of the involved people is established.
2. During the second phase the involved actors
starts exploiting mutual economic advantages
from their relationship. During a trial period, the
actors taste in an incremental way their compe-
tences and their availability to cooperate. A posi-
tive ending is the result of the incremental growth
of trust and the evolution of reciprocity norms dur-
ing that period.
3. In the third phase, the organizations became oper-
ationally and strategically more tightly integrated.
But in lieu of cost considerations or legal con-
tracts, effective control and coordination were
achieved, and opportunism avoided, through the
regulatory presence of moral obligations, trust,
and concern for preserving reputations.
A federated information system may be considered
a network form of organization, therefore the issues
concerning trust and relationships may be applied to
the set-up of a federated information system as well.
The trial period just introduced is an important topic
that should be accurately cared during the set-up of a
coopetitive federated information system. Especially
when there are no prior strong relationships within the
involved entities (e.g. in the case when the coopetitive
scenario is enforced by a stakeholder).
A coopetitor may choose to have either a proactive
or a passive (waiting) approach. The decision is re-
lated to the decision makers personal believes, ex-
pectations, and propensity to invest. Every coopet-
itive scenario should reach a specific “critical size”
so that the coopetitive processes can provide signifi-
cant reward to the coopetitors. otherwise the reward
will be insignificant. In the latter situation a coopeti-
tor has no advantage to modify its business processes
and internal organization to exploit the coopetitive
scenario, thus the coopetition is going to starvation.
This is likely to happen during the initial transient
time or when the coopetitors are too pessimist, thus,
the coopetition would never start on its own, unless
being stimulated by offering incentives to the play-
ers. Basing on the above considerations, we stress
that in order to set up successfully a coopetitive sce-
nario, an important role is played by the incentives
used to shorten the time it takes the actor involved to
have positive expectations about the coopetitive sce-
nario and about the coopetitive processes.
The Italian private job agencies and public employ-
ment services, according to a law commitment, have
created a virtual job market place, whose name is
Borsa Continua Nazionale del Lavoro” (BCNL here-
after). A virtual network, whose nodes can be ac-
cessed online from a Portal (Fugini et al., 2006),
federates the information systems of the just intro-
duced entities. The job seekers can access match-
ing vacancy descriptions without being limited to the
boundaries of a local job agency. The federation has
been conceived in order to build such a global mar-
ket place, while preserving the possibility to do busi-
ness by some partners (e.g. private job agencies). An
ad hoc data management model allows to reach both
the goals. Every agency participant to the network
collects curriculum from job seekers and vacancy de-
scriptions from enterprises. The data contained in
a curricula is split in two subsets: the “public” and
the “private” profile. The public profile can be con-
sidered an anonymous version of the original curric-
ula, while the private profile contains the contact de-
tails only. Vacancy data is similarly split in public
and private profiles. The public data profiles (regard-
ing both vacancies and curriculum descriptions) are
shared among the network and are used to match each
other. If a vacancy public profile matches a curricula
public profile, the job agencies (or public employment
service offices) are notified. Contact details are even-
tually shared between the involved intermediaries ac-
cording to business rules. The BCNL service model
is deeper described in (Fugini et al., 2005). In the
resulting scenario, the coopetitors cooperate in creat-
ing a global virtual market place of curricula and va-
cancy descriptions available for matches, while they
compete in looking for job seekers and vacancy of-
fers (to add to the virtual market place), in fostering
matches among job demands and job offers as well as
in selling the contact details to the enterprises once
a match occurs. A similar approach is being eval-
uated in the SEEMP (Single European Employment
Market Place) project (SEEMP, 2006), whose goal
is to conect the national public employment offices
and private job agencies through a European feder-
ated information system. In the BCNL scenario, the
boards of the private job agencies and the directorate
of the public employment services represent the de-
cision makers within the different entities, while the
front-office operators that welcome the job-seekers
and the companies representatives represent the CP-
KRs within the scenario. The front-office operators
interview the job seekers, help them to write the CV
and upload the data within the local agency informa-
tion system. The more time they spend to qualify the
job seekers descriptive data that is entered within the
local information system, the higher is the data qual-
ity that flew within the BCNL. Conversely, the front-
office operators may insert into the information sys-
tem low quality data, because the operator rely more
on local knowledge and relationships rather than data
ICEIS 2007 - International Conference on Enterprise Information Systems
sharing to match CVs with job offers. The coopeti-
tion board committee should enact policies that help
avoiding the latter behavior, because it goes against
the coopetitive scenario goals, i.e. the circulation of
information among the entities being part of the fed-
In this paper we have presented the organizational is-
sues arising when trying to establish a coopetitive sce-
nario, especially when the coopetition focuses on in-
formation sharing. The term coopetition is used in
management literature to refer to a hybrid behavior
comprising competition and cooperation. A coopet-
itive model is getting more and more popular in to-
day’s inter-firm and Public Administration dynamics.
The set-up of a coopetitive scenario is not an easy
task, it requires times, resources and changes in the
internal organization of the involved entities. The
committee fostering the coopetition has to take care of
the behaviors of the public administrations and com-
panies internal actors who can affect the coopetition
success. From this point of view, we have identified
that the most relevant actors within an entity are the
decision makers (e.g. the boards of the companies
or the directorates of the public administrations) and
the CPKRs “coopetitive processes key roles” who are
people that can strongly affect the inter-entity coopet-
itive processes. These actors should be adequately
motivated to join and to actively support the coopeti-
tion, mutual relationships should be established pay-
ing attention to build effective collaboration relation-
ships and avoiding opportunistic behaviors. A study
case has been presented, with the goal to point out
some of the topics introduced in this paper. The study
case describe a federated information system of pri-
vate job agencies and public employment centers, that
has been created with the aim of creating a virtual
country wide job market place. Concerning the fu-
ture works, we are investigating coopetitive scenarios
where the set-up transient time length is a critical suc-
cess factor. We are investigating the usage of game
theory to model the coopetitive scenarios and to find
out appropriate incentives and policies.
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