The business environment of the 1990's saw companies focusing more on building and maintaining closer relationships with suppliers and customers due to the many benefits that could be realized. While building closer relationships requires a great deal of time and effort from the parties involved, they are thought to increase efficiency and effectiveness and are among the most durable of advantages because of their inherent barriers to competition. The emergence of business on the Internet in the mid-1990s brought a new set of challenges for supply chain relationships. Because e-commerce encourages direct and immediate contact between companies with reduced transaction costs, it was initially believed that producers of goods and services would bypass middlemen and use the Internet to sell to customers directly, or disintermediate (Carr 2000; Vandermerwe 1999). However, the intermediary function remains although the nature of intermediation is changing. Internet-based intermediaries offer a variety of traditional as well as new services without maintaining an asset base. These companies, termed
(Hawkins, Mansell and Steinmueller 1999), deliver value to the supply chain.