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The Web, the Spider and the Fly: A Cautionary Tale for SMEs Going Online

The Web, the Spider and the Fly: A Cautionary Tale for SMEs Going Online
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Author(s): Shirley Bode (Edith Cowan University, Australia)and Janice M. Burn (Edith Cowan University, Australia)
Copyright: 2000
Pages: 4
Source title: Challenges of Information Technology Management in the 21st Century
Source Editor(s): Mehdi Khosrow-Pour, D.B.A. (Information Resources Management Association, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-878289-84-1.ch041
ISBN13: 9781878289841
EISBN13: 9781466665316


Electronic commerce is often considered too expensive, technologically complicated and unsuitable for the small business environment and is not seen as a core activity for most small enterprises. In spite of these inhibitors, there are a growing number of small organizations developing websites to market their products and an increasing number of enterprises conducting online transactions and selling their products directly to customers via the Internet. In Australia there are more than 1000 website design consultants having a strong impact on the Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) sector, particularly in their efforts to enter the world of online commerce. The majority of SMEs have neither the internal expertise nor financial resources to enable in-house development of electronic commerce and therefore turn to the services of website design consultants to assist them. As this appears to be a necessary strategy, given the operational and financial limitations of SMEs, the efficacy of this option is investigated in this paper. The aims of this paper are firstly, to identify the extent to which SMEs feel their individual business needs are understood by website design consultants. Secondly, to investigate whether SMEs have clear goals and strategies before engaging in electronic commerce. The paper incorporates a case study of two Western Australian online SMEs who contracted website design consultants to produce their sites. The SMEs chosen were established retail businesses and both used the services of different website design consultants. The results of the study indicated that the case SMEs did not have an understanding of the need for business planning or developing an Internet strategy. Instead, both SMEs had entered the world of online retailing in a relatively adhoc manner. It was found that neither SME felt their individual business needs were understood or met by the website design consultant. In fact, the case SMEs themselves appeared unable to articulate their own business needs in order to ensure a successful relationship with the consultants.

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