Reid, Iain and Charles, B. (2010) The hurdles of change: How KTPs have benefited the implementation of ICT within SMEs. In: 33rd Institute for Small Business & Entrepreneurship Conference, 3rd - 4th November 2010, London, UK. (Unpublished)

Prior Work: Within these turbulent economic times, and continual markets pressures, SMEs are maintaining to grow (The Economist, 2009) and therefore challenge the capabilities of SMEs in terms ICT, operations and supply chain management practices. Academic research into the factors associated with SME practices is vast and it continues to grow annually (Ismail, 2009), despite this, criticisms have been voiced as to the relevance of much of this research from a policy point-of-view (e.g. Gibb 2000). However for companies to engage with academia has been a hot topic in recent times Henderson et al. (2006). This research focuses on an extension for Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs) within the particular challenge of implementing ICT practices within such SMEs. KTPs for the last 30 years have been a valuable route for SME to develop and growth, as well as building the knowledge exchange between academia and business practice. This paper also offers insights for policymakers and for those developing KTP programmes as to how to better position research and support for ICT adoption across such SMEs.

Approach: This multi-method approach has particular strengths when the research is exploratory in nature and is seeking to answer “why” research questions (Yin, 1994). This qualitative research takes a multiple case study approach highlighting the experiences when implementing an ERP system, and why KTPs has benefited such SMEs. Two historical case studies and one ‘live’ longitudinal study will be presented, highlighting the challenges why this particular approach was significant implementing such ICT technologies.

Results: The research revealed that the main opportunities that derived from KTPs. The findings suggest that a structure framework such as a KTP programme is significantly greater compared to the other consultancy or in-house management when implementing a major step change within the organisation. However one of the main challenges of involvement in KTPs were that the owner/managers where working in collaboration with “academics”. The potential of ICT was not being maximised due to a lack of awareness and knowledge of ICT by the Owner/Manager. It also offers suggestions for further research and review within this topic area.

Implications: The knowledge base has accrued that ICT implementation continues to continue to evolve and there are no visible signs that this is slowing. The knowledge that does exist is fragmented in terms of successful ERP implementation with SMEs and it is not in a framework that can readily be used. A more fruitful approach would be for researchers to focus on providing some synthesis for knowledge transfer that already exists, especially in the ICT-SME environment.

Value: This study has significance for future KTP programmes, in particular, policy maker’s academic and SMEs. The findings will highlight the need for such bodies to effectively pursuing KTPs and the role academia can play in building collaborations with industry.

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