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Worlds apart: SMEs, e-business and policy initiatives.

Wiggins, Anne (2007) Worlds apart: SMEs, e-business and policy initiatives. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis draws together and reconciles three seemingly dichotomous "worlds"; small-and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), e-business and government policy making. A significant number of EU and UK government projects and policy initiatives have been introduced in recent years to motivate e-business adoption and implementation by SMEs, yet the relatively low take-up rate strongly indicates that these policies and initiatives are failing. Designed as a preliminary study, this research ascertains the practical impact of such policy initiatives on SMEs, based on the experiences of seven UK case studies, with a view to instruct constructive and feasible changes in policy making. The implication is that future policy initiatives may become more appropriate, coherent and accessible to SMEs, resulting in greater opportunities for them, a greater level of innovation adoption by them, and an economy that is - as a direct result - more dynamic. In this "problem situation," both the SMEs and the policy makers who aim to serve them are joint owners of the problem situation. There is a very real need to think about ways to bring these "actors" in disparate "worlds" together into a more collaborative arrangement, and to consider how government policies that are currently failing SMEs might have more relevance - it would seem that most SMEs are unaware of many of the services and initiatives provided by their government. Ascertaining what SMEs want and need, designing policies and services in light of this, and finding better ways of letting them know these services are available, would seem to be the key. Through a narrative research approach informed by Action Case Research (ACR) and Dialogical Action Research (Dialogical AR), in combination with Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) conceptual modelling, this doctoral research develops our understanding of SME policy initiatives in the UK and the EU. The thesis addresses the absence of well-structured multiple case study designs in the literature, and tests existing knowledge about SMEs and policy generation in an original way. The development of appropriate and complementary (ACR and Dialogical AR) analysis tools constitutes a methodological extension of the SSM conceptual modelling process for ISD, which focuses on social, political and cultural factors and the social construction of problems and solutions. The thesis is an exploration of complex and ill-structured problem situations with multiple owners that can be viewed from a variety of stances - this has rarely been featured in the literature. This research is also an extension of SSM theory development, in that SSM has not been widely used in the SME environment, and there are very few examples of iteration having taken place in the literature. The research is an interpretive approach to the study of a domain about which we know very little. As such, it provides a contribution to literature, theory and practice. A (1981) study by Galliers et al. is drawn upon. Although that study was originally applied in a very different context, it nonetheless parallels this doctoral research, in that both examine a complex and difficult real world system with a utilitarian approach, and in that both are soft systems studies that draw together anachronous worlds and suggest a way of pursuing a dialogue that is meaningful to all involved parties. The research concludes with a proposal to incentivise SME owner/managers to attend workshop(s), in order that an in-depth and meaningful dialogue between policy makers and SMEs can develop, and in order to draw out attitudes and issues previously unexpressed. Policy makers would thus be able to build on the findings in order to generate and advertise more appurtenant policies for SMEs, thereby bringing these "worlds" together.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Business Administration, Management, Economics, Commerce-Business
Sets: Collections > ProQuest Etheses

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