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Information Technology for Small Business: Managing the Digital Enterprise provides an overview of how small and medium business enterprises (SMEs) can use flexibility, agility, and anticipation strategies to better utilize information technology and knowledge management. Because small and medium businesses tend to be late technology adopters, they could miss versatile and strategic workforce advantages that enable them to achieve higher efficiency and effectiveness through technology.

This book shows these SMEs new technology trends that can transform the nature of their operations both in an evolutionary business path and through revolutionary opportunities. Information Technology for Small Business: Managing the Digital Enterprise applied correctly to small and medium business can be used as a strategic tool to reach growth and profit goals for the SMEs competing in a very dynamic and global marketplace. Examples include: identifying ways that IT can be used to develop strong relationships with customers and suppliers, and how to select the best technologies for business needs.

Information Technology for Small Business: Managing the Digital Enterprise targets SME owners, educators, and practitioners working in the related fields of management, IT, IS, and CS-related disciplines. Advanced-level students and policy makers focusing on SMEs will also find this book valuable in terms of main concepts for discussion.



Chapter 1. SMEs and Information Technologies in the Broadband Economy

Today’s broadband-supported tools are enabling small and medium enterprises (SMEs) access to and easier management of information technologies (IT). These tools are offering new ways to communicate and reach customers. Although large corporations have resources and money to invest in emerging information technologies, they also have a major disadvantage: their size may cause complexities (and sometimes inertia) that may slow down new technology adoption. The size and dynamic nature of SMEs can enable such businesses to quickly take advantage of technological progress while minimizing risks. The key, however, is for SMEs not only to adopt, but also to effectively plan, implement, maintain, and manage the broadband-supported technological evolution.
This opening chapter defines small and medium enterprises and introduces technological trends that can be leveraged by SMEs to gain competitive advantage. It discusses technological advancements (as well as limitations) caused by broadband technologies and maps the recent technological trends to SME business needs. The chapter emphasizes that technological investments must comply with the SMEs’ core capabilities and business drivers. That is, choices about IT investments need to be planned, intentional, and driven by SMEs’ business priorities and market demands.
Katia Passerini, Ayman El Tarabishy, Karen Patten

Chapter 2. SME Opportunities with Broadband-Driven Information Technologies: Supporting SME Business Needs

In the broadband economy, SMEs enjoy technology-supported opportunities to interact with customers in ways that were neither possible nor thinkable until recently. However, to effectively sustain SMEs’ competitive position, technology must first meet the business needs of small enterprises. In this chapter, we discuss how broadband-driven mobile technologies can actually support SME business needs. In the first part of the chapter, we present examples from multi-year research focused on identifying SME business needs by mapping the technological evolution and investments of small enterprises that are at the forefront of IT adoption. In the second part of the chapter, we specifically introduce mobile applications and discuss how they can play a role in SMEs’ competitive evolution. Finally, we cannot discuss an emerging topic such as broadband-driven mobile technologies without acknowledging issues related to security and privacy protection in the “anytime/anywhere” environment. Hence, the chapter concludes with a discussion of privacy principles that all professionals, and particularly the nomadic SME professionals, need to take into account when utilizing mobile apps.
Katia Passerini, Ayman El Tarabishy, Karen Patten

Chapter 3. The Changing Nature of “Workspace” and “Workplace:” What It Means for SMEs

As the virtual pipelines are laid to extend the reach of broadband connectivity to remote locations and to increase capacity on already available locations, connectivity and availability with those previously unreachable is increasing as well. The connectivity barriers are constantly being reduced as the broadband reach extends. The breakdown of connectivity barriers causes a dramatic change in the “work-space” and “work-place.” In an information age, where the work output is mostly digital and easily transmitted in the broadband medium, the pressing need for physical interaction in the workplace is diminishing. Add to that the growing technology that digitizes the human senses (auditory and visual), virtual communication methods allow for increased remote interaction. In this chapter, we discuss the evolving nature of the “work-space” and “work-place.” In the past few years, the digitization of work along with the increasingly expanding and accelerating rate of connectivity resulted in the evolution (or revolution) currently underway.
Katia Passerini, Ayman El Tarabishy, Karen Patten

Chapter 4. Existing and Emerging Information Technologies for SMEs

Every enterprise has the challenge of establishing a stable and competitive environment. In most enterprises, information plays a key (if not critical) role. Establishing the best fitting information technology could break or catapult an enterprise to the next level.
In today’s competitive marketplace, the proper mix of information technologies can provide a competitive advantage for an enterprise. The key to gaining a competitive advantage through the use of information technologies is the proper fit and the compatibility of only the multiple information technologies needed by the enterprise. In some cases, the “best of breed” information technology does not equate to the best “fit” for any particular enterprise.
In this chapter, we discuss existing and emerging information technologies that enterprises can explore and possibly deploy in their environments. We also present an enterprise’s exploration of best-fit information technologies.
Katia Passerini, Ayman El Tarabishy, Karen Patten

Chapter 5. Selecting, Planning, and Deploying SME Broadband-based Information Services, Applications, and Technologies

The existing and emerging information technologies discussed in Chap. 4 demonstrate how information technologies can be used to provide a competitive advantage and add value to SME businesses. This chapter describes what SMEs should consider and what they need to know once they decide to use information technologies. It is not a “how to” step-by-step manual, but a guide to what questions SMEs should ask and which decisions they need to make as they first select the right information technologies for their business and then plan and deploy them.
We provide an information technology implementation framework that SMEs could use to evaluate their own business needs and make information technology decisions. This framework helps SMEs to evaluate business needs based on organizational characteristics, environmental characteristics, and technological characteristics. The first part of this chapter discusses key SME considerations as they move through the planning and deployment stages. Once SME owners determine the information technology strategy based on the business needs, they should conduct several different “feasibility analyses” to select the specific information technologies and the related service providers. The decision is then made to determine whether the project is conducted in-house or outsourced to a third-party.
The last section of this chapter discusses how, once the appropriate technologies and vendors are selected, SMEs should plan and deploy the new information technologies to insure that the technologies are installed in a cost effective manner and actually perform as expected. The information technology implementation framework may also be used by SMEs to understand and consider how new services impact SMEs’ business, customers, and finances.
Katia Passerini, Ayman El Tarabishy, Karen Patten

Chapter 6. Managing & Maintaining SMEs Information Services and Applications

The SME owner’s understanding of the role of information technology (IT) in organizations may be sophisticated, yet the resources and staff dedicated to IT are rarely up to the tasks. In this chapter, we present a comprehensive model of the enterprise IT organization highlighting the process areas that are essential to promote SMEs competitive positions through IT. Of particular importance, even with outsourced IT work, is the focus on employee training to increase productivity and returns of IT investments. Equally vital, if not more important, is the ability to sustain a knowledge-sharing culture that will support the long-term survival and competitiveness of the enterprise.
Katia Passerini, Ayman El Tarabishy, Karen Patten

Chapter 7. Cases on SMEs Digital Innovations

To help explain some of the concepts addressed throughout the book, in this chapter, we present four case studies. Each case concerns a small entrepreneurial company that has innovatively used information technology (IT) to achieve success. These cases were all developed as one part of a collaborative research project between the International Council of Small Business (ICSB) and Dell, Inc. While the four companies are quite different, representing a variety of industries, they have important commonalities in the way they used IT for innovation.
The countries and companies represented by these cases include:
  • United States—Transport Designs
  • Italy—Tecnomodel
  • Canada—Fifth P Solutions
  • United Kingdom—Wiggly Wigglers.
Each of the companies was a national winner of the 2008 “Dell Small Business Excellence Award.” Wiggly Wigglers was the overall world winner.
Katia Passerini, Ayman El Tarabishy, Karen Patten

Chapter 8. The IT Entrepreneur in SMEs

Throughout the book, we have referred to the leaders of SMEs without actually saying much about such individuals. There is, of course, much more to understanding leadership in SMEs who engage in IT innovation. In this conclusion, we explore the key characteristics of IT entrepreneurs who have created successful SMEs. For example, entrepreneurs usually have a high need for achievement as well as a great deal of self-confidence. Successful entrepreneurs are also quite knowledgeable with regard to the technical content of their organization’s product or service. But entrepreneurs whose organizations are successful over the long run also share a set of characteristics that define exceptional organizational leaders. So what sort of person is the “IT entrepreneur?”
Many assume that the aim of entrepreneurs is wealth, but this is not really the case. Entrepreneurs often aim for profit as a way of measuring their success as entrepreneurs, rather than solely to accumulate personal wealth. What’s more, some entrepreneurs derive primary satisfaction from creating successful ventures, rather than from leading those ventures over the long term. Such individuals often sell a successful firm and then repeat the process of creating a successful new venture. There are, however, entrepreneurs who go on to become successful organizational leaders, as well as successful entrepreneurs.
First we will look at the fundamentals of entrepreneurship. Then we explore the key characteristics of successful IT entrepreneurs. Finally, we look briefly at where IT entrepreneurship may go in the twenty-first century.
Katia Passerini, Ayman El Tarabishy, Karen Patten


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