E-business is the “use of the Internet by commercial firms for improving their business operations and customer service” (Srivastava & Teo, 2009, p. 268). Note that typically, the term e-commerce is used only to apply to online customer transactions, while e-business refers to all online applications used to improve business operations including any e-commerce applications (Srivastava & Teo, 2009). Key research areas for e-business include issues of applications, issues of technology, and issues of organizational performance and impact (Srivastava & Teo, 2009).
The purpose of implementing e-business is to increase the profitability and value of an organization through collaborations with other businesses, making more efficient use of resources, lowering costs, increasing productivity, and improving the quality of the products and services produced by the company (Chituc, Azevdo, & Toscano, 2009).
For the purposes of this paper, the focus is on the last of these issues, that is, on how application of e-business concepts and practices can improve the performance of the company. Research by Srivastava & Teo (2009) indicates that there are three key factors that influence e-business development, the availability and access to modern infrastructure (i.e., Internet services), the human capital needed to establish and maintain Internet presence, and the overall business environment, including the effect of e-government applications as well as public institutions and the overall macro economic factors.
E-business applications are no longer considered cutting-edge applications. As early as 2001, some commentators noted that the phase of “early adoption” of e-business solutions was already past (Cassidy, 2001). The growth in e-business master’s degrees worldwide illustrates this trend. North American universities had more than 90 such programs in 2007, while Australia/New Zealand had 26 (up from only 10 six years previously) and Asia had 13 such programs (up from only 2 six years previously) (Fusilier & Durlabhji, 2010). In North America, the programs tended to be heavily business-oriented, with only a few technical or e-business-specific courses and required a mean of about 12 total courses . Programs in the rest of the world tended to be more evenly balanced among business, e-business, and technical courses, but also required significantly fewer total courses, with a mean of 8 to 10 total courses in other parts of the world (Fusilier & Durlabhji, 2010).