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Electronic negotiations -> Projects

Our answers to seven questions

Objectives of the INE Collaborative Research Initiatives:
  The purpose of the INE Collaborative Research Initiative is to support collaborative initiatives that bring together critical masses of research talent on complex INE issues that require both breadth and depth of perspective. … As with the other core INE programs, the Collaborative Research Initiative program also seeks to foster unique opportunities to collaborate in important international research activities where the Canadian team plays a critical role. (SSHRC INE)

1. What do we know?

The new economy depends on the information and communication technologies (ICTs). The technologies also increasingly affect social interactions, the functioning of government and other organizations, and contacts among people and organizations. Software and electronic media provide the platform through which socioeconomic transactions are conducted; they enable new modes and forms of communication, collaboration and problem solving.

Negotiations have always been an integral part of social, political and economic interactions. E-negotiations are a prime example of innovations resulting from the interactions between the society, the new economy and technology. Information and communication technologies now bring negotiations to “every one's desktop.” The sheer volume of negotiations that are occurring necessitates the need to study them and to construct systems that support negotiators in their efforts to achieve agreements.

Most present e-negotiation systems (ENSs) rely on simple, often unguided, message exchange between negotiating parties. Hence, current e-negotiations rarely make use of the potential of technology that can help negotiators to negotiate more effectively and efficiently.

2. What are we trying to understand?

We are witnessing a technological revolution in networking and telecommunications. The social and organizational modes, institutions and models of mass-scale interaction in this medium are only slowly emerging. To a large extent, they depend on intelligent software solutions that lag behind other technologies. It is the nascent forms of behavioural and social processes that we try to understand.

We study the impact of software solutions on social interactions and, in particular, on various types of negotiations either fully conducted or supported by ICTs. Our overall objective is to understand the relationships between people and technology that transform our society, and the effect of technologies on social and economic processes. In particular, we are interested in understanding:

  • The effects of technologies on economic, behavioural and social processes in the context of cooperation and negotiation;
  • The nature of the interaction of negotiation and technology in various contexts;
  • How e-negotiation models and protocols influence the efficacy of markets and organizations;
  • How cultural, group and organizational values and identities are related to e-negotiation processes and outcomes;
  • What ENS s bring to the e-marketplaces, inter- and intra-organizational negotiations, and the citizens' participation in civic and political institutions; and
  • What are the key issues and critical factors affecting the use and the success of e-negotiation services in business and other organizations.

3. What are we trying to achieve?

Technological developments caused many of the changes in the socio-economic processes, including the new forms of organizations, business models and interactions. Our efforts to understand—in the negotiation domain—the relationships between the society and the technology are driven by the desire to seek concrete prescriptions for ENS s that are expressive and human-oriented, capable of helping their users to better understand themselves and the negotiated problems. To this end we plan to:

  • Formulate behavioural models of the impact of cultural, group and organizational values and identities on the direct and indirect results of e-negotiations.
  • Develop methodological foundations for e-negotiations and for the design and implementation of ENSs.
  • Integrate results from social, economic, management and computer sciences to formulate a consistent framework towards designing, modelling and assessing e-negotiations .
  • Determine how knowledge gained in e-negotiations can be captured, represented and used in other decision-making and negotiation processes.
  • Formulate the business model of e-negotiation services. Understand the market demand, the business value and the cost structure of these services.
  • Design content-rich on-line and off-line teaching and training curricula in negotiations and e-negotiation for both supervised and unsupervised (open to public) learning.

4. Who are we and who are our partners?

  • Canadian universities: Concordia University, McMaster University, Trinity Western University, University of Ottawa.
  • Canadian partners: ICAN Systems Inc., NovaForum Inc.
  • International partners: BMW (Germany), MeetingOne (U.S.A), National Sun Yat-sen University (Taiwan), Rheinisch Westfaelische Techische Hochschule (Germany), Technical University of Munich (Germany), University of Hawaii Manoa (U.S.A.), University of Karlsruhe (Germany), University of Vienna (Austria).

5. What have we achieved so far?

  • A very active and collaborating community. While this is an ongoing process, we can say that our programme has already achieved international recognition. Scholars from Australia, England, Taiwan and the USA have become international project collaborators.
  • Attracted graduate and postgraduate students: 2 post-doctorate students postdoctoral fellows; 12 Ph.D. students; 7 Master students and 2 undergraduate students participate in the project. Again this is an ongoing process and we expect to attract more students.
  • Published : 19 articles in refereed journals; 15 papers in refereed conference proceedings; 2 chapters in books; and edited 3 special issues on e-negotiations.
  • Organized and participated in meetings: 2 project meetings; 5 international seminars and workshops; and made 17 presentations.
  • Developed the Montreal taxonomy of e-negotiations . It is the extended version of the London taxonomy that is the first such taxonomy and has already been used by two companies providing e-negotiation services.
  • Designed courses and provided training: 2 negotiation/e-negotiation courses were jointly delivered in Austria and Canada.
  • Organized e-negotiation tournament: 262 participants negotiated a contract between a union and management using one of 6 e-negotiation systems.
  • Publicity: "Electronic Courthouse offers quick, cheaper service than traditional litigation."Globe and Mail, Dec. 18, 2003. "Négocier: tout un art!" PerspecTIves, Vol. 2, 2004.

6. How will our work help Canada? 

Canada is one of the most completely “wired” societies in the world. The likelihood of a Canadian engaging in e-negotiations (and other similar activities) is high enough to merit careful study. Few other nations will be so soon and so thoroughly affected by the emerging new social patterns.

Canada is a recognized leader among nations for its role in developing and implementing e-government. This project would not only help demonstrate Canada 's role in the development of one of the key aspects of e-commerce, but it would also further its efforts in e-government and e-democracy. E NS s that help citizens to express, organize and compare their views, identify conflicting and convergent perspectives, and suggest alternative solutions may be a useful tool to educate people and increase their participation in community affairs at the local level and beyond. Such an ENS may interact with a system used to identify, e.g., possible schools closures or garbage dump sites.

Since we are an international community, we add a cross-cultural perspective. As we have seen in our cross-cultural research, developing an understanding for cultural differences is a crucial factor for acceptance in Web-based systems, including e-commerce. Our results should thus help the Canadian organizations to develop applications and business models useful in multicultural environments and thus successful at a global scale.

Playing a leading role in international collaboration in e-negotiation research we established an active and growing international research network.

Working together with ICAN Systems Inc. we help this firm to introduce of e-negotiation to businesses as a practical and efficient process for resolving conflict improve and expand its services , (e.g., through e-negotiation tournaments and joint research). Our collaboration with NovaForum Inc. focuses on the design of business models for the Electronic Courthouse.

7. Why should Canadians care?

Interactions on-line are a fact of life. The networking technology has made them perfectly affordable—and this is the problem. Anyone can use email and negotiate a simple contract with someone else. But when it comes to negotiating complex contracts email and similar systems make the negotiation difficult if at all possible.

Our studies indicate that complex negotiations that required several months for the parties to reach an agreement would be concluded in a few when an ENS is used. We have also found that a significantly greater number of users of an ENS that provides negotiation support reach an agreement, than users of the system that only facilitates communication.

E-negotiations help to enhance business collaboration by facilitating contract negotiation and dispute resolution in more efficient and effective ways.

The effects of our work, while immediately relevant to social processes related to doing business on-line, may be easily extended onto other domains of “e-life,” beginning with dealings with governments and e-health. Our findings are therefore of interest to all those who already spend, or soon will spend much of their time on-line.



January 19, 2004