Course Syllabus- Collaborative Networks

editor: Davor Orlič, Knowledge 4 All Foundation Ltd.
editor: Mitja Jermol, Centre for knowledge transfer in IT, Jožef Stefan Institute
published: June 19, 2008,  

back to Collaborative Networks curriculum

1. Motivation for the Paradigm

  • Practical examples of collaborative networks
  • Historic overview.
  • Technological and organizational trends.
  • Discussion of the usefulness / benefits and current limitations of CNs.

This first unit aims at creating a motivation for the course through a brief presentation of application areas, illustrated by concrete examples in industry, services, government, etc. A brief historic overview of the industrial organizational paradigms leading to collaborative networks as well as a summary of current technological and organizational trends is presented. For each example an attempt to identify the main involved problems (e.g. organizational forms, processes, cooperation and collaboration forms) is made, calling the attention for the potential contributes from other disciplines. The socioeconomic importance of each case is also briefly highlighted.

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2. Basic Concepts of Collaborative Networks

  • Categories of CNs.
  • Actors and roles.
  • Life cycle and related key processes.

After the motivation phase, the base concepts are introduced. Considering the large variety of collaborative networks, a categorization of the various forms is made and a taxonomy is introduced in order to give students a global perspective of the area. The main types of collaborative networks, namely the long term strategic alliance as well as the dynamic (short term) opportunity driven collaborative network is addressed. The various actors involved in a collaborative network as well as the roles they can play are identified. Finally the life cycle of a collaborative network is discussed in terms of its main phases.

3. Virtual Organization Breeding Environment

  • Concept and examples.
  • Components, structure, actors and roles.
  • Competencies and assets.
  • Processes and governance principles.
  • VBE management system.
  • Trust and value systems.

The concept of Virtual organization Breeding Environment (VBE) is elaborated and justified. Illustrating examples are provided. The components, structure and life cycle of this organizational form as well as its involved actors and roles are identified and characterized. Main processes, working & sharing and governance principles are discussed. The architecture and supporting functionalities for a VBE management system as well as the corresponding information and knowledge bases are introduced in a step by step approach. The issues of trust and value systems are analyzed in terms of modeling, support functionality, and practical use. . The management of competencies, VBE assets, and trust, as well as the value systems is analyzed in terms of modeling, support functionality, and practical use.

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4. Virtual Organisations

  • Concepts, organizational models and operational rules.
  • Life cycle.
  • VO creation process and functionalities.
  • VO management functionalities and performance measurement.
  • VO dissolution and inheritance.

The concept of Virtual Organization (VO) previously introduced is briefly revisited and the conditions for its emergence are discussed. Particular emphasis is devoted to the creation of dynamic VOs in a VBE context. The life cycle – creation, operation, evolution, and dissolution – of the VO is analyzed and the supporting information / knowledge and functionalities are discussed together with the involved actors and roles. Special attention is devoted to the consortia formation, negotiation, distributed business process planning and supervision, performance management, dissolution and inheritance, and business modeling. The relationship to other more classic networks such as supply chains is made. Examples in various domains are analyzed.

5. Virtual Communities

  • Concepts and typology.
  • Components, structure, and life cycle.
  • Professional virtual communities (PVC).
  • PVC management system.
  • Virtual teams.
  • Governance principles and social computing.

The concept of Virtual Community (VC) previously introduced is briefly revisited and compared with the concept of VO. A typology of VC is introduced and a particular attention is devoted to Professional Virtual Communities. The components, structure, and life cycle of PVCs are discussed and modeling options introduced in comparison with the VBE. Architectural options for a PVC management system and supporting functionalities are introduced. The creation of Virtual Teams within a PVC and their management are studied. Governance principles, main processes, intellectual property issues, and social computing issues are discussed.

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6. Management of Common Ontologies

  • Glossary and specification of base entities and concepts
  • Core level common ontology for collaborative networks
  • Ontology engineering approaches
  • Learning ontology from unstructured sources
  • Semi-automatic customization of common ontology to specific domain/application

Considering the complexity of the collaborative network environments, a number of benefits are gained through provision of the ontology for collaborative networks, e.g. to support common understanding of their related entities and concepts, to classify their knowledge in order to facilitate the knowledge interoperability both among the network participants and among different networks, as well as for development of a management system for collaborative networks, the needed databases and data/knowledge access functionality. Approaches for a common ontology will be presented and mechanisms required for ontology customization and management will be addressed.

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7. e-Commerce and e-Markets

  • Concepts of e-Commerce and e-Market.
  • Relationships to collaborative networks.
  • Support institutions.
  • Support systems. Portals. Negotiation.
  • CRM. Logistics.

Although these issues are not part of the Collaborative Networks, they share a number of common issues. Therefore the concepts of e-Commerce and e-Market are introduced and the differences and commonalities in relation to collaborative networks highlighted. The involved organizational issues are discussed and supporting architectures and technologies introduced. Finally the contact points between these areas and collaborative networks in a new digital ecosystems context are discussed.

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8. Non-technological Issues

  • Social, ethical, legal, and organizational issues.
  • Contractual issues.
  • New business models.
  • Collaboration sustainability mechanisms.
  • Intellectual property management.

The success and effectiveness of implementation of the collaborative networks depend on a number of other important issues besides the technological solutions. In this unit social, ethical, legal, and organizational issues are discussed and current trends pointed out. New business models and their applicability are discussed, namely through the introduction of examples. Marketing and sustainability of the network, intellectual property management, systems of incentives, etc. are other relevant issues. Alternatively these topics can each be introduced in parallel and along the other units.

9. Base Infrastructures

  • Computer networks basics. Base Internet technologies.
  • Components of a communication infrastructure.
  • Implementation approaches: agent-based, service-oriented, etc.
  • Security mechanisms and technologies.
  • Emerging computing models.

The establishment of adequate communication channels and protocols is a basic pre-requisite for the operation of collaborative networks and interoperation among its components and subsystems. Therefore the main logical components of a communications infrastructure are introduced. Various implementation approaches are discussed, included agent-based and service-oriented approaches. The security issues deserve special attention and the various mechanisms and technologies are discussed in terms of their benefits and limitations. Emerging computing models, mobile and pervasive computing are briefly studied in terms of their contribution to collaborative networks.

10. Information Management

  • Information management requirements.
  • Mechanisms for information sharing and exchange.
  • Access rights definition and enforcement.
  • Federated /distributed information management.

Information management in a distributed, multi-ownership context is discussed and mechanisms for information sharing, information exchange, and access rights definition and enforcement are introduced. The role of standards is discussed and main standards briefly characterized. Various information management approaches are briefly discussed, with particular emphasis on the federated information management systems. Different implementation approaches are also discussed.

11. Special Information Exchange Standards

  • Importance of standards in collaborative networks.
  • EDI and EDIFACT.
  • Interaction with legacy systems.
  • XML and its role.
  • STEP and PDM.
  • Other standards.

A number of standards particularly relevant for collaborative networks are introduced and analyzed. Among them: EDI (Electronic Data Interchange), which in historical terms represents one of the first tools for cooperation among enterprises, is introduced and briefly characterized. The interaction between EDI and ERP systems is briefly discussed. The EDIFACT standard is presented and current XML-based implementations mentioned. The STEP standard for the exchange of technical product data is described and its applicability in virtual enterprises is discussed. Support technologies as well as PDM systems are discussed. Other emerging standards for information and knowledge exchange are pointed out.

12. Coordination Mechanisms

  • Collaboration modalities.
  • Concept of coordination.
  • Distributed-business process modeling and planning.
  • Distributed scheduling and re-scheduling.
  • Languages for business process modeling.
  • Workflow and process execution engines.
  • Challenges in flexible coordination.

Various modalities of collaboration are discussed and the corresponding coordination needs introduced. The concept of coordination is highlighted. Process-based coordination and the corresponding distributed business process modeling, planning, scheduling, and execution are particularly focused. Languages for business process modeling are introduced. Workflow / process execution engines are discussed and standard architectures for inter-organization workflow are analyzed. Finally challenges in flexible coordination are raised and the students are motivated to suggest approaches.

13. Reference Models

  • Concept of reference model.
  • Modeling frameworks.
  • Examples of reference models.
  • Derivation and evolution methods.

The concept of reference model and its need is introduced. Modeling frameworks are presented and discussed. Example reference models are introduced and methods for models evolution and derivation of particular models are briefly discussed. A reference modeling framework for CNs will be presented, addressing its specific dimensions and elements. Some CN reference models, for example for VBEs and VOs will be presented.

14. Emerging Collaborative Forms

  • Summary of studied collaborative forms.
  • New application examples: collaborative e-government, e-Science, Virtual institutes, Virtual Labs, etc.
  • Networks of machines, networks of sensors.
  • Other emerging cases.

In this last unit, and after a brief summary of the various collaborative forms studied in previous units, a discussion of possible new models and generalizations is made. As a starting basis, new forms of collaborative e-government, e-science, virtual institutes, Virtual laboratories, etc, are discussed. Other generalizations include: networks of sensors, networks of machines, etc. Then students are encouraged to suggest other application areas and identify the innovative collaborative forms needed.

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