6th WSEAS International Conference on E-ACTIVITIES, Tenerife, Spain, December 14-16, 2007 102
Introduction of supply chain management concepts in e-government
research and practice
PETER TRKMAN, ALES GROZNIK
Faculty of Economics
University of Ljubljana
Kardeljeva ploscad 17, 1000 Ljubljana
Abstract: The paper deals with various aspects of e-government and highlights the importance of the holistic treatment
of business process renovation in order to facilitate the transition towards e-government. It analyses both upstream and
downstream supply chain renovation and describes a four-step procedure for downstream renovation. A new definition
of e-government that includes the whole supply chain of the public administration is proposed. The chief problems of
the proposed approach are analysed, along with some interesting topics for further research.
Key-Words: e-government, supply chain management, business process renovation, e-procurement
1 Introduction - a possible methodology for business process
E-government (EG) has been conceptualised as the modelling and renovation of upstream supply
intensive or generalised use of information technologies chain is proposed.
in government for the provision of public services, the The paper has the following structure: in the next section
improvement of managerial effectiveness and the the general concepts of process renovation are presented.
promotion of democratic values and mechanisms. The importance and specifics of renovating upstream
Information technology (IT) has the potential to and downstream SCs are highlighted. Possible problems
transform government structures and improve the quality in implementation are briefly discussed in the case study.
of government services. Technology provides improved The main findings and suggestions for further research
operational efficiency by reducing costs while increasing are summarised in the conclusion.
productivity and creating services provided by
government agencies that are of better quality .
EG should integrate information systems and business 2 Process renovation in e-government
processes through the whole value chain . However, context
EG implementation is only feasible if it is introduced The essence of EG is to radically change the ways and
hand in hand with business renovation . mechanisms of operating the administration and, as a
Governments should focus on streamlining the core result, also the basic principles on which these
processes and reaching customers in a more efficient mechanisms have been developing in the last few
manner . decades or even centuries. Despite EG having received
Despite certain calls to study supply chain management much attention from academics and business the success
in e-government context , , , this seems to be of EG projects is limited. Even the most mature
an under researched area. Therefore, the development of countries have tapped less than 20% of their potential
efficient approaches to government renovation for both . Further, the literature reports the experience with EG
upstream and downstream supply chains (SC) is needed. initiatives as chaotic and unmanageable . In spite of
This is especially true of the upstream chain of EG this, many papers in leading research journals could be
because most practical and research efforts have been characterised as displaying naive optimism by simply
targeted towards the downstream side. regarding IT as a good thing and ignoring the evidence
The paper’s main contributions are thus twofold: of the widespread failure of EG .
- it highlights the importance of the holistic Following the four-stage EG development model
treatment of EG with BR/BPR in both upstream developed by Layne and Lee , a literature review
and downstream SCs; and  shows that in most countries it was relatively easy
to achieve the first (information) stage, which refers to
the introduction of information services, as this step does
6th WSEAS International Conference on E-ACTIVITIES, Tenerife, Spain, December 14-16, 2007 103
not require specific changes in the internal operations of great care to the public sector. Usually, public sector
the administration and in business processes and organisations face challenges that differ from the
procedures. What is much more complex is the challenges of private companies. Public sector
introduction of more demanding, so-called transaction organisations have to meet multiple, often conflicting
services which enable all phases of a selected goals and they are subject to constraints of a financial,
administrative procedure or process to be executed legal, contractual, personnel and institutional nature.
electronically. As a rule, this requires a complete Radical process-focused change in public sector
renovation of administrative operations, internal organisations can only be achieved through deep
business processes and procedures, the integration of changes in their bureaucratic practices which cannot be
registers and public databases, the alteration and achieved without a change in the law. The desired
completion of material legislation and the development outcome of BR is a growing, profitable and competitive
of new organisational regulations, classifications and enterprise for a private organisation; whereas for a public
standards. BR is therefore a prerequisite for attaining the organisation the desired outcomes focus on the delivery
3rd or 4th stage. of necessary, cost and time effective services.
Therefore, this paper presents an approach to identifying Traditionally, EG has been seen as the communication
the current state and renovation of EG operations and between the government and its citizens via computers
consequently its informatisation. The paper substantiates and a Web-enabled presence . Therefore, this view
the thesis that EG requires a major business change . of EG only includes the perspective of the upstream SC
This is not self-evident to all those involved – chief – communication between the government and its
information officers in the private sector have ranked the citizens. Accordingly, in the rest of the paper two aspects
simplification of business processes as the no. 1 critical of process renovation in EG are presented – namely the
success factor (CSF). On the other hand, CIOs in the downstream (defined for the purpose of this paper as the
public sector listed that as only the 8th CSF (out of 23 oversight of materials, information and finances as they
CSFs) . This means that more has to be done in move in a process from ministries and governmental
order to communicate the importance of business bodies to citizens) and upstream (defined as the
renovation to decision-makers in the public oversight of materials, information and finances as they
administration. move in a process from suppliers to ministries and
Although business modelling as part of BPR is widely governmental bodies) SCs – both are shown in Fig. 1.
used in the private sector, BPR has to be adapted with
Suppliers (S) Ministries and Governmental Bodies (MGB) Citizens
Upstream supply chain Internal supply chain Downstream supply chain
Fig. 1. E-government supply chain
2.1 Downstream supply chain efficiency, effectiveness, capacity and design . EG is
Much of the past research on EG focused on the practical attested to have the potential to shape public orientation
and technical dimensions of getting information and so as to be more customer-oriented – the latter is one of
services online, including presence, availability, the most often cited topics in EG research . As a
6th WSEAS International Conference on E-ACTIVITIES, Tenerife, Spain, December 14-16, 2007 104
consequence, the study of EG has expanded in recent procurement purchases are estimated to involve 10-15%
years and researchers are developing theoretical and of GNP or some 25-30% of public expenditure .
conceptual models to understand different aspects of In the private sector the importance of supply chain
downstream EG . The introduction of EG increases management (SCM) is growing and should assume a
the choice for the citizens, especially the choice of more strategic role in the future . Still, the
access channel (call centre, face-to-face, Web etc.). introduction of SCM concepts to the public
However, much has to be done to improve the services administration seems to be an under-researched area –
behind the access channels that often remain entrenched namely only one (1!) out of 100 papers reviewed in 
in their departmental silos . A key approach to deals with the SCM in the public administration. There
process-oriented EG is the application of BPR across is little discussion of the implementation and
government in order to foster essential benefits . organisational/management models of e-procurement in
Namely, the needs of the users of EG services and the government sector .
resources should be the motivation of all efforts in Therefore, the applicability of concepts from the SCM
downstream SC and user-centred evaluations of EG Web field to the public administration should be studied. The
sites are needed . evolution of EG may therefore be classified in four
Downstream SC has been widely studied probably stages of putting government online (stage 1); end-user
because the informatization of services for final involvement (stage 2); integrated solutions for citizens
customers is a ‘quick gain’ and also recognised by voters (stage 3); and towards SC integration (stage 4). While
and various rankings (e.g. ). The latter recognise the the first three stages generally follow most of the known
importance of an upstream SC but have only decided to definitions (such as ), the possibility of the transition
include those services offered to citizens in their towards the fourth stage has so far not been studied.
rankings! While important, this focus obscures a EG should be viewed as an integrated SC that includes
significant and important dimension of EG – the ministries and government bodies, citizens and suppliers
renovation and informatization of upstream SCs. and integrating them up- and downstream in a SC. Such
In addition, it should not be forgotten that both a view is process-oriented and represents a shift in
downstream and upstream SCs are interconnected. business doctrine that is changing the traditional
Although the needs of the final customers are important, organisational models, business processes, relationships
customer concerns, specially in long-lasting processes, and operational models that have dominated the public
can change over time so support has to provide flexible sector in the past few decades.
services and adjustment among different providers  – Lately new procurement business models have also been
that cannot be achieved without the renovation of the implemented for organisations’ operations in the public
upstream SC. sector all over Europe . However, the largest
potential savings originate from lower prices due to
centralised spending and the full potential of IT can only
2.2. Upstream supply chain be achieved through horizontal integration among
In order to streamline and integrate the EG supply chain, governmental departments. A more comprehensive effort
BR should also include a renovation of the business to share information across agencies seems to be
model of the upstream SC. BR projects would thereby necessary . The prerequisites for the integration of
become much more complex, yet governments could new technologies in governmental purchasing are the
foster future benefits that would spill over to their analysis and improvement of the existing business
customers – citizens and other stakeholders (companies, processes, the systems and organisation structures .
non-government organisations, foreign entities etc.). EG Although federal agencies are looking to the private
leads to a business process change which necessitates an sector for examples of ‘best practices’ when
increased understanding of EG-related sourcing and its implementing EG initiatives , SCM principles often
integration with traditional public management seem to be neglected. Although scattered claims about
information systems . the rising importance of SCM in the public
Realisation of the importance of the upstream SC is not administration have appeared, so far the potential
new: a report published by McKinsey and Company  benefits have not been studied.
estimates that the US government could reduce its The main problem is that the renovation of SC in the
expenditure on procurements by USD 100 billion by private sector usually means integration with suppliers,
aggregating its procurement activities and putting them common projects and proactive relationships (see e.g.
online. Therefore USA e-government strategy (already ), which are usually impossible in the EG context
in 2002) listed SCM as a possible approach to reduce due to laws and regulations. SCM concepts cannot be
costs and improve quality . Most EU member states adopted to EG from the business environment without
caution. In the public administration all these issues are
6th WSEAS International Conference on E-ACTIVITIES, Tenerife, Spain, December 14-16, 2007 105
closely affected by the law and regulations since the Therefore, we propose the following definition (partly
public administration has to comply with the public adapted from the definition of SCM in : EG means
procurement legislation. Even putting that aside, the the renovation, informatization and possible integration
variety of purchased goods is greater and the number of of key business processes in public agencies from the
customers (governmental agencies) and the suppliers is end-user to original suppliers that provide products,
excessively large . services and information that add value for citizens and
Our main proposal is therefore the following four-step other stakeholders in order to increase general public
procedure in implementation: welfare while taking the public sector’s specifics into
1. identification of the key business processes: a account.
quick win strategy should be employed: the most In this way the proposed definition enables research on a
relevant process for renovation and SCM should be wide variety of topics that are crucial for the successful
identified. Special attention should be paid to the operation of EG. It also recognises the difference
feasibility of implementing e-procurement: standard between the goals and operations of the private and
products with considerable purchasing amounts public sectors .
should be chosen. In such a way the early results
would enable the enhanced motivation of the
employees and managers and ensure the continuation 2.3. Failure to implement SCM to e-government – a
of the project; brief case study
2. modelling and renovation of those business The possible problems in informatization of EG SC are
processes - see e.g.  for a detailed methodology illustrated with a brief case study case study that
of modelling and renovation of processes in public describes the failure of implementing the e-procurement
administration; portal in Slovenia in 2004-2005. Other countries have
3. use of simplified and clear processes to ‘plug-in’ realized between 10-12% savings with such portals 
the suppliers using a 3D matrix including processes, and the benefits for Slovenia were estimated to be
suppliers and products. The matrix should contain all between 7000 and 50000 € of daily savings .
the necessary data about the products that the public While the preparatory activities for the project were on-
administration is purchasing; the suppliers and their time, several deficiencies were found The project was
approved capabilities and a description of the delayed considerably and the report of the revision
business processes that need to be performed in order committee listed business process renovation with
to make the purchase; and subsequent informatization as one of the main
4. application of one of the concepts from the (unfulfilled) prerequisites for success of such project
business world (e.g. cross-docking, e-markets) on a . AS-IS process models were not developed. Several
case-by-case basis: the simplified processes along good practices in process renovation (step 2 in our
with the up-to-date matrix should be used to plug-in proposed procedure) were not followed, such as end-user
the suppliers on a case-to-case basis each time an involvement . Consequently the responsibilities and
aggregate purchase for one of the standardised rights of different organizations could not be properly
products is to be made. In such a way the defined and the extent of work of external developers
considerable price reductions of externally sourced and consultants could not be properly defined .
goods through direct, real-time and transparent Due to deficiencies in first two steps obviously the
competition between suppliers  could be implementation of the next two was not possible and the
achieved. development of the portal was severely delayed. The
It should be noted that the implementation of the portal (http://www.narocanje.si) was finally developed in
proposed four-step methodology is not a one-time 2007 and recently commenced its operations.
project in public administration; neither the problems of Further case studies are planned to test the applicability
the whole EG SC can be tackled in one project due to of proposed procedure to public administration – see e.g.
budget and operational perspective problems. Rather it is  as a detailed case study of renovation of a Slovenian
meant as a “strategic vision” that should be behind the Ministry
efforts in EG to avoid searching for local optimums.
Finally, since the definition of the field predetermines
the research orientation a further problem is that several 3 Conclusion
definitions are too narrow – we list ‘the communication In the paper we highlighted the importance of renovating
between the government and its citizens via computers both the upstream and downstream SCs of the whole
and a Web-enabled presence’  or ‘the use of public administration. We proposed a four-step approach
information and communications technologies in towards such renovation efforts along with the new
government settings’  as typical examples. definition of EG. Only the proper renovation and
6th WSEAS International Conference on E-ACTIVITIES, Tenerife, Spain, December 14-16, 2007 106
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