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The elements and processes to understand organisational business-to-business interactions have been extensively explored. The context and forms these interactions takeunderpinmajor threads of research in the Markets-as-Networks tradition of understanding business networks. Standard operating procedures (SOPs), job specs, contracts andbriefs as physical objects play material roles within these business-to-business interactions, guiding and managing how these relationships play out. This paper primarily builds on the rich Markets-as-Networks tradition by refocusing attention on the role artifacts play in the interaction process. In addition there appears to be non-material artifacts, without physical forms, that also aid in guiding and managing interactions. This paper incorporates the construct of materiality into considering non-material artifacts,broadening the scope of our analysis and allowing us to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the role various artifacts play in business-to-business interactions. Two cases considering inter-organisational routines through the lens of an artifactual unit of analysis are outlined.These two cases raise issues of focus in relation to the context of interaction core to the Markets-as-Networks tradition. As a consequence this paper takes a closer look at: the processual characteristics within long term, close and complex relationships; the roles that artifacts play in these interactions represented by organisational and inter-organisational routines; how the artifactual characteristics in themselves either aid, alter or hinder the context of interaction.By drawing distinctions,relating to the materiality of artifacts, we illustrate how mangers’ understanding of the role artifacts, and unseen artifacts can play in impacting on guiding and managing business-to-business relationships. The conclusion of this paper discusses the managerial relevance of the processual characteristics of artifacts and their form of materiality. By comparing and contrasting two inter-organisational cases through the lens of materiality and the processual characteristics embodied in artifacts managers can gain a better understanding how various artifacts can guide and manage processes of interaction.
Horan, C., Finch, J. and Reid, E. Understanding interaction through the lens of materiality and the processual nature of artifacts. Industrial Marketing and Purchasing Conference, Rome, September 2012.