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Title: The creation of competitive advantage in SMEs through e-business
Author: Pavic, Suzana
Awarding Body: University of Sheffield
Current Institution: University of Sheffield
Date of Award: 2011
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Open markets and the rapid development of the Internet have given shape to the competitive pressures faced by the UK's Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) and, consequently, created the grounds for this study. Extensive research shows that, although SMEs are indeed adopting the Internet, most of them are slow to take up electronic business (e-business) as the basis for business communications and transactions. This is because many SMEs are not equipped with, or supported by, the appropriate guidelines and business models to allow them to take advantage of the developing digital economy and e-business. The lack of this kind of support makes it difficult for SMEs to use e-business as a means to gain competitive advantage, locally, nationally or globally. What is more, the constraints of appropriate technological resources and inadequate knowledge among key personnel at the same time inhibit the operational efficiency and innovation of SMEs. This limits the competitive advantage that ebusiness could bring to their businesses. The research presented in this study has a twofold aim. The first, which is the contribution this study makes to the field of Management Studies, is to promote a better understanding of ebusiness and its role in SMEs. The second, which has the more pragmatic aim of contributing to SMEs, is to find a way of enhancing their business competitiveness via the use of e-business. It builds on previous work suggesting that traditional business strategies, which create competitive advantage, have to be changed in order to facilitate the adoption, implementation and use of ebusiness technology. An examination of the transition of SMEs from an 'old' traditional business strategy to a 'new' e-business strategy is at the heart of this study. The study was conducted using the 'mixed methodology' of both qualitative and quantitative data as its primary tool. As a starting point, a range of academic and practitioner literature relating to IT, e-business, and different business models, was reviewed. This review and accompanying analysis were followed by nine longitudinal case studies and a national survey which were used to collect primary data from UK SMEs. This combination of micro-level longitudinal studies with macro-level national surveys provides the core data for the findings made in this study. Overall, the findings point to a paradoxical conclusion: on the one hand, SMEs use IT and the Internet in order to enhance their business competitiveness. However, on the other, the attitude of the owners and the knowledge shown at the managerial level was often the very obstacle to using IT. In other words, while the 'hard' of technology is available, the 'soft' of attitudes and knowledge often is not. This gap between the existence of technology and the absence of the appropriate attitudes and knowledge pose a number of potential challenges for SMEs in the creation of competitive advantage through e-business. To overcome these challenges, the findings were deployed in order to develop an e-business model named the "Competitive Advantage Through E-business" (CATE-b). This is the major innovation of this study in terms of applying the fruits of my research in order not only to make a contribution to knowledge, but also to solve the practical problems faced by business practitioners. This model is meant to serve the heuristic purpose of acting as a guide to help SMEs to comprehend an e-business vision, formulate strategy, identify e-business application areas, put together a portfolio, and design a plan for e-business implementation. In short, the long-term goal of this study is to help SMEs to enhance their local, national or global competitiveness through applying CATE-b, with the hope that new technology can become a force for creating competitive advantage.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available