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Flexibility is an effective means by which an e-business can hedge against uncertainty in a swiftly changing environment. Systems, applications, and business processes—in short, the entire environment supporting e-business—must seamlessly adapt to changes without costly and time-consuming infrastructure overhauls. Decision makers therefore have a growing need for knowledge about e-business flexibility. However, flexibility remains largely an abstraction in the e-business domain, with the term often meaning different things to different people. Whereas very little systematic research has been directed towards the study of flexibility issues associated with e-business, a rich and burgeoning literature on manufacturing flexibility has accumulated over the past 25 years. In this paper we review the existing literature on manufacturing flexibility, and extract from it guiding principles for creating and managing e-business flexibility.
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