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Title: E-Business developments with small and medium sized manufacturing enterprises in Ireland
Author: Boyd, Mary
ISNI:       0000 0004 2721 5204
Awarding Body: University of Ulster
Current Institution: Ulster University
Date of Award: 2009
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The aim of this thesis is to examine electronic business developments in manufacturing SMEs in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The lack of studies into the field of e-business and manufacturing SMEs stimulated this piece of research which aims to bridge the knowledge gap that exists in current academic research and literature. The recent economic history of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland shows that whilst the manufacturing industry has played an important role in economic development over the years, it is now facing the same problems as many of the advanced western economies. Consequently the industrial structure of the marketplace is no longer sufficient, particularly for manufacturing SMEs, who have been impacted by enormous changes in their business processes (Raymond and Bergeron, 2008). Difficulties are apparent within the traditional (sunset) manufacturing industries and in part, technological changes have fuelled their continued decline. At the same time, new technology-based, knowledge intensive manufacturing sector (sunrise) firms have emerged. However due to a dearth of research, the diffusion and assimilation of e- business in various manufacturing sectors represents a key area of investigation (Raymond, 2005; Raymond and St. Pierre, 2007). Theoretically this study has been informed by two contrasting schools of thought namely technological determinism and social constructivism, which philosophically underpin both the diffusion and adoption of a technological innovation, in this case e-business developments. Technological determinism provides a broad view of technology diffusion where technology is viewed as the principal root of societal transformation and is a totally independent process beyond all human control (McLuchan, 1970). Social constructivism proffers the alternative view that the development of a technology is a dependent process, involving actors and social groups who engage in strategies to win from the opposition and to shape technology according to their own plan (Brey, 1997) The research employs a sequential mixed methods (survey questionnaire and in-depth interviews) approach. The rationale for this approach is that the quantitative phase provides an exploratory and broad understanding of the research problem, while the qualitative phase refines and explains those statistical results by exploring participants' views in more depth (Creswell, 2003; Rossman and Wilson, 1985; Tashakkori and Teddlie, 1998). The objectives of the study are to: assess the level of adoption and usage of e-business in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland; to determine the drivers that influence e-business adoption and the benefits derived from e-business developments; to examine the barriers that influence e-business developments; and to understand the factors that impact upon e-business usage and development in Ireland. The main conclusions drawn from the findings are that within the Irish manufacturing sector, SMEs are adopting and developing e-business at varying degrees. However in the majority of cases e-business adoption is erratic and e-business development remains 11 elementary. It is also the case that the full benefits of e-business are not being realised in the majority of firms. Competitive rivalry is dictating the manufacturing firms' strategic approach to e-business adoption and development and ironically one of the most significant barriers recognised by firms to e-enablement is lack of government support. Contrary to the technologically deterministic school of thought which suggests that e- business is adopted sequentially over time, the findings in this study indicate that within manufacturing SMEs the adoption process is a haphazard affair and takes a diverse, contingent and social route, which concurs with the philosophy of social constructivism. In light of the current study it is evident that a firm's environmental, strategic, managerial, operational and technological context are deemed to influence a manufacturing SME's assimilation of electronic business activities. Several practical recommendations are made to assist manufacturing SMEs in developing their use of JCTs. The research also adds to the knowledge base by making several theoretical contributions that serve to confirm, extend and disconfirm previous knowledge in the wider areas of e-business, manufacturing and SME literature. Future research in this area could be extended to other regions and other sectors. It could perhaps attempt to bridge the theory-practice gap by conducting a three strand study involving government, practitioners and academics. Longitudinal and multiple case studies research approaches could also expand on the current study.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available