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Virtualising the utility industry through interorganisational learning


Due to changing circumstances, organisations start to co-operate with their competitors or with firms from other industries that can complement their range of products. This development of independent partners sharing their resources and equipment with each other can also be seen in the Swedish utility industry and will soon happen to other utility businesses after the European utility deregulation has become a fact. This co-operation can be seen as a virtual organisation and research is performed on how virtual organisations operate and how partners establish and maintain such an organisation. For this reason the R&D virtual organisation called ISES formed around the utility related joint venture EnerSearch AB. When comparing a virtual organisation with traditional organisations, five boundaries are presented that can both create and inhibit learning and communication. Since learning can be viewed as a major objective of a virtual organisation, the five boundaries are discussed in more detail and are related to empirical results in the project ISES. These boundaries are time, space, diversity, structure and distribution and are characteristics of a virtual organisation. By observing this organisation, opportunities and obstacles of a virtual organisation are presented that could help organisations who initiate to establish a virtual organisation. One example is the difference in decision styles or personality of the members of a virtual organisation, which influences information distribution, communication and co-operation.

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