Conceptualising the Role of Intermediaries in Developing SMEs’ ICT Capabilities
Romano Dyerson, University of London
G. Harindranath, University of London
Margi Levy, Warwick University
Objectives: To develop a conceptual framework that explores how the role of intermediaries is mediated by the owner manager in a SME with particular reference to adopting an IT strategy.
Prior Work: The concept of absorptive capacity has been increasingly applied to SMEs in the analysis of capability development (See for example, Gray 2006; Harrington and Guimaraes, 2005). Equally, there has been a growing interest in the analysis of the role played by various intermediaries in knowledge acquisition by SMEs, especially at a regional/cluster level, such as the work by Bennett et al (2005) and Dyer and Ross (2007) for example has demonstrated how different intermediaries are trusted by SMEs. However, what is missing is an integrated framework that brings together these two somewhat separate strands of theoretical development
Approach: The approach is conceptual; the framework is derived from a consideration of prior literature and empirical observations.
Results: see Figure
Implications: One theme that has emerged from the SME literature is that while SMEs have access to advice from consultants and technology suppliers, this source of advice tends to be viewed with suspicion by owner managers. In contrast, owner managers are far more likely to place their trust in informal peer to peer networks that have been built up over time. An area that has been neglected in considering ICT investment decisions by SMEs is the potential role played by other intermediaries such as accountant firms employed by the owner managers. Such firms will typically have long lasting relationships built up over time and are a “trusted” source of advice on business matters. Intermediaries are themselves often SMEs in their own right and will be using ICT in their own business processes. To date though, their role as an intermediary and as an advisor to SMEs on ICT matters has not been explored.
Value: The conceptual framework helps to clarify the mechanisms at work in developing ICT capabilities within SMEs by bringing together two different areas of theoretical development. Developing an on going research agenda with testable propositions.
Keywords: Information and communications technology (ICT), small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), adoption, absorptive capability.