The purpose of this paper is to examine how small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are involved in emerging information and communication technology (EICT) adoption by concentrating on the adoption process and the role played by various actors in the process. Information and communication technology (ICT) adoption research, especially in SMEs, has moved from a simple adopters’ participation process to involving diverse actors that continually interact and influence the process. SMEs need to constantly interact with various human and non-human actors to keep up with the EICT adoption. However, this has proved difficult.
This study adopted a qualitative method to examine the dynamic process of EICT adoption in service SMEs in the UK, and deployed both unstructured and semi-structured interviews in two separate rounds with 26 participants drawn from Crunch Online Database and Luton Business Directory. The participants include managers, customers, government agencies, SMEs consultants and information technology (IT) vendors, with the help of purposeful random sampling.
The study develops a framework informed by actor network theory (ANT) concepts and found that using ANT to examine the process of adoption helps to unveil the recursive nature of the process and the roles of actors which vary from one stage to another. The finding reveals that adoption of EICT is not straightforward; rather, it is evolutionary and dynamic, and small business managers’ play an important role in the process amidst other actors influence. The framework supports businesses of all types. Although ICT applications are influenced by diverse actors including IT experts, customers and vendors, the decision of SME managers regularly shape the values and beliefs of other actors if adequate information are conveyed by the numerous actors. Therefore, adoption of EICT is embraced faster by organizations, especially small businesses, if diverse actors are committed in conveying the right information to the key actors, thereby helping them to make adequate decision, and streamline their business processes.
This study is limited by its focus and other factors. Studying the opinions of small service UK SMEs limits the power of generalizing the identified causal relationships; therefore, extended measures are required on accounts of environmental, cultural, geographical and sectorial differences. While some errors seemed unavoidable when measures appear subjective and prone to common error biases, the study advised on recognizing the overriding influence of the roles at each stage of the adoption process to be proactive in committing resources.
This work is of value to practitioners and academics, as it provides further insight into ICT adoption framework by showing how the diverse actors guarantee EICT adoption in small service(s) businesses. This is relevant given that SMEs have limited knowledge of new ICT and understanding diverse actors and their roles in the adoption process would enhance their knowledge of the analysts in the context of new technology adoption and to cope with EICT continually amidst of the roles of actors in the adoption process. The framework serves as an analytical instrument in explaining ICT adoption process and its outcomes characterized by conflicting views.
The initial version of this paper was presented at the 17th International Conference on Informatics and Semiotics in Organisations (ICISO), August 2016, Campinas, Brazil.
Eze, S.C. and Chinedu-Eze, V.C. (2018), "Strategic roles of actors in emerging information communication technology (EICT) adoption in SMEs: Actor network theory analysis", The Bottom Line, Vol. 31 No. 2, pp. 114-136. https://doi.org/10.1108/BL-09-2017-0029
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