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KNOWLEDGE ACQUISITION IN SMALL BUSINESSES

Capacity building goes beyond the notion of using training to build business know-how. From a small business viewpoint it is about the use of informal and formal networks to help overcome the barriers they face in adding to their understanding. For purposes of this paper that understanding is related to how best to build capacity to know how to effectively employ their information systems.

Definitions

Small Business – When studying the use of Information Systems (IS) in small business, the definitions used to describe ‘small business’ varies across international boundaries. This range can make it extremely difficult for researchers to ‘match up’ different small business studies. A 2003 study by worldwide members of the Information Resources Management Association Special Research Cluster on Small Business and Information Technology (Burgess, 2003) found that definitions of ‘small business’ ranged from less than 20, 50 and 100 employees.

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BACKGROUND

In 1994, a study of 358 small business in New Zealand (Igbaria et al, 1997) suggested that many small businesses cannot afford to employ speciahsed IS staff The authors concluded that potential system users should be made aware of its functionality, and that this can occur through internal training, management support and external support. Although the computing environment has altered since the study the premises still appear to be applicable today

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SMALL BUSINESS STUDIES

The next section describes the nature of capacity building adopted by different types of small businesses in a number of recent studies by the authors. For each study a short description of the research method will be provided, followed by a description of how the study participants faced the challenge of capacity building for their IS.

CONCLUSION

The task of capacity building in small business is not an easy one. This paper has shown three research studies into the use of IS by small businesses and discussed the various ways in which they approached their capacity building. Although each of the situations involved small businesses that seemed to be entrepreneurial in nature and keen to grow, there was still quite a healthy reliance on the informal networks.

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