In the age of manufacturing globalization, individual organizations are finding it increasingly difficult to compete: prices are being driven down, quality demands are being increased and lead times are being reduced. Under these market conditions, it is networks, rather than individual organizations, that compete. The majority of manufacturing organizations operate, at some scale, within 'manufacturing chains or networks.' This is the basis of the 'Virtual Enterprise (V-E).' For V-Es to be viable, they must consistently perform in the way that is required by their stakeholders. Hence, there is a need for tools to allow potential V-E structures to be configured and evaluated: so- called V-E design tools. A key aspect of any V-E design tool is a well-founded way of describing V-Es. This is an early step in the establishment of tools to enable the evaluation of V-E configurations. Such a characterization would support the evaluation of V-E configuration alternatives. Other authors have argued that the individual elements (organizations) and the relationships between them are critical to the performance of the V-E. This paper describes a characterization scheme that draws upon other published research, and is a first step in systematizing V-E descriptions. The characterization scheme is evaluated through a case study.