In physics, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. In business, for every sale there is a corresponding purchase — not just at retail, but in the monumental world of wholesale. As the physics of business-to-business selling creates the ever-expanding, world-girdling arrangement known as the supply chain, a growing share of that selling is taking place on the Web. What is, at the retail level, still basically a convenient option in catalog shopping, is becoming for businesses a double advantage, providing both a competitive edge and cooperative opportunities. Currently, business-to-business selling worldwide takes up far greater volume in electronic commerce than business-to-consumer retailing.

The limitless possibilities and present challenges of business-to-business selling on the Web occasioned a November workshop, held at the Beckman Institute. Jointly sponsored by the Commerce Center for Information Systems and Technology Management (CISTM) and Caterpillar Corporation, the one-day event provided a forum for the discussion of such topics as information technology strategy, Internet business models, industrial partnerships, technology management, and even the Web-based purchasing system currently in use at the University of Illinois. Funded by a grant from the U of I Critical Research Initiatives program, the workshop drew around fifty participants, including Commerce faculty, staff, and graduate students, as well as Caterpillar managers and suppliers.

Beckman Institute — a fitting venue for both the November and April E-Commerce workshops.
Business administration prof Mike Shaw, director of CISTM, co-chaired the workshop with Caterpillar manager David J. Cassel. Shaw explains that business-to-business selling on the Web can potentially lead to better business practice through reduced paperwork, richer product information, and direct participation by corporate buyers, as well as greater access to the global marketplace, better price negotiations, and centralization of volume. "Since we know this technology will transform the whole practice of business-to-business purchasing, our objective is to coordinate the efforts of business buyers and suppliers," Shaw observes. But the two groups sometimes have conflicting interests, Shaw notes. "Business buyers want electronic catalogs to be `interoperable' so they can browse through catalogs from different suppliers. But suppliers want to provide their product information exclusively, to maintain their bargaining power."

"We think this is an exciting area, with great opportunities both for the research and business communities. The dialog should continue.



Larry Neal, professor of economics at CBA, also currently holds dual titles as president of the Economic History Association (EHA) and president-elect of the Business History Conference (BHC) — both national associations with international visibility in their respective fields. So, he's been busy organizing the annual meetings for both organizations — as well as setting up the first conference for the new European Union Center at Illinois, which he heads as well.

Held in March at UNC Chapel Hill, the BHC meetings had as their theme, "The Virtues of Business; the Business of Virtue." More than a hundred papers were presented in twenty-nine sessions. "Shocks!" is the rather arresting theme for the EHA meetings, set for Baltimore's Omni Inner Harbor Hotel next October. The focus will be on how different economies at different times in history have come through various types of shocks. The meeting will feature a special plenary session in which natural scientists will examine shocks in the areas of geology, climatology, and astronomy. Notes Neal: "All of these consider themselves `historical sciences' and all have had dramatic paradigm shifts in the past generation thanks to observational tools being developed."

And later in the fall, under Neal's direction, the new European Union Center on the Urbana campus will sponsor its first conference, on the topic of non-tariff barriers to trade. The meeting will serve as a forum for focusing on GMOs (genetically modified organisms), such as pest- and herbicide-resistant soybeans. While American agriculture has sustained exponential success with GMOs, European farming interests remain opposed to them. By bringing together decision-makers and technical information — such as that available through the formidable resources of ACES — Neal hopes the center will play an important role in resolving controversies and boosting pan-Atlantic trade, particularly between the state of Illinois and twelve nations of the EU. The European Union Center is one of a network of ten such centers, established in 1998 at colleges and universities chosen from a field of sixty-nine institutions throughout the United States.

Another workshop took place on April 15. Sponsored by CISTM and the Commerce International Trade Center, the program was designed for members of the Illinois business community and featured speakers from McGladrey & Pullen, Mertz & Associates, and Procter & Gamble.

A conference to honor the distinguished econometrician George Judge will by held this spring on the University of Illinois campus. Set for May 1-2 and organized by Roger Koenker, William B. McKinley Professor of  Economics, the conference honors Judge on the occasion of his seventy-fourth birthday, and will be co-sponsored by the Commerce Office of Research. Koenker notes that Judge, who was a member of the CBA faculty for twenty-seven years, from 1959 to 1986, "was enormously influential in nurturing econometrics as a field at Illinois and has been an important contributor to the field in many areas." A member of the faculty at UC-Berkeley since 1986, where he is a professor in the Graduate School, Judge has co-authored more than a dozen books on economics and econometrics. His teaching and research specialties include decision problems under uncertainty and interregional and international price and allocation models. Observes Koenker: "The conference will bring to Illinois many former faculty members who were colleagues of George's at Illinois as well as his friends and collaborators elsewhere." There will be a proceedings volume, tentatively titled, Developments in Econometric Methods: Essays in Honor of George Judge.
George Judge

The CBA Office of Research co-sponsored a conference titled "Institutions, Conflicts and Change," held last December at Northwestern University in Chicago. Matthew Kraatz, assistant professor of business administration, was an organizer for the two-day event, which drew faculty from universities throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Accounting in the Global Markets of the Next Century" is the theme for the 1999 International Accounting Conference, set for Champaign in April. Sponsored by the Center for International Education and Research in Accounting (CIERA) and the Vernon K. Zimmerman Foundation, the two-day event will be CIERA's thirty-fourth such conference, serving as a showcase for research papers in international accounting topics, particularly those that address the role accounting can play in the global markets of the next century. A conference held last October in Chicago was co-sponsored by CIERA and the International Association for Accounting Education and Research.


Expert practitioners in a cross-section of fields come to campus each term to share their experiences and knowledge with faculty and students. The largest and most structured program continues to be the Executive-in-Residence, which is generally a two- or three-day program. But we also have several other programs that bring experts from the business world into the classroom for periods ranging from one class to a full day.

This year our visitors included David Abrahamson, President and CEO, Medicine Shoppe International; Robert M. Ady, Managing Partner, World Business
Chicago; Brian Brille, Managing Director, Morgan Stanley Dean Witter Discover, Inc.; Kent P. Dauten, Founder and President, Keystone Capital, Inc.; Janet E. Klug, Marketing Communications Manager, Ford Division, Ford Motor Company; Thomas S. Lewicki, Principal, Lewicki & Associates; Michael Muhney, Senior Manager, Deloitte & Touche; and Monte Wolfson, President, Monte Wolfson, Assoc.

Jan Klug, marketing communications manager, Ford Division, Ford Motor Company, was on campus March 30-April 2. She is responsible for developing and implementing advertising and communication strategies for all Ford Division products. (See related story.)