Recent research has shown that the use of c-business can provide an important advantage in today's competitive business environment and it is likely that not using ebusiness will be a disadvantage in the future. Recent research has also shown the need for a strategic approach when undertaking a new investment such as c-business. In this context, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) face special problems; they are often dependent on larger enterprises where they are suppliers of products (goods or services)or the buyers of products. They also tend to neglect strategies more than large enterprises and they cannot adopt the strategies of large enterprises because of their different situation. The literature review discovered that research in this area is deficient. While the subjects SME, c-business, and strategy are frequently covered in academic literature there is insufficient research available covering integration of all three subjects. The research available suggests that, although general models and frameworks exist, SMEs generally do not use these models and frameworks and even tend to neglect strategies, operate without strategies or do not have the time to develop a strategy: they are reactive rather than proactive, when making decisions.
For the first stage of the study a questionnaire was conducted with 1000 SMEs in the North West of England to find out more about the SMEs' e-business strategies. The analysis of the collected responses has corroborated the belief that many SMEs are neglecting c-business strategies and that they enter the e-business arena without careful planning. Moreover the data has indicated that the choice of strategic models, if any, is to a large extent confined to the use of one model. The data suggests that the SMEs can be grouped into five different clusters, according to their adoption of e-business technology and their use of general business and e-business strategies.
For the second stage 29 SMEs from the five different clusters were interviewed to find out more about their use of e-business technologies, their c-adoption and their use of business strategies and e-business strategies. The interviews found that old fashioned SMEs, blind e-business users, formal strategy leaders, e-adoption leaders and e-business strategy leaders were distinct groups whose existence can also be confirmed through the interviews. The knowledge gained form this stage, together with the findings from the quantitative survey were used to create a model addressing the need of SMEs to develop e-business strategies in a quick and easy way.
This work contributes to knowledge in the area of strategic management and information systems by providing a taxonomic classification of SMEs based on the dimensions of c-adoption, business strategy and c-business strategy and by providing a model that can help SMEs by allowing them to carry out suitable strategic analysis rapidly before undertaking an investment in c-business.