Organising Performance in E-Commerce Firms: A Multi-Case Study of Small Retailers in the South of England

Authors: Erdélyi, P.

Conference: The Fourth Social Study of ICT Open Research Forum (SSIT-ORF4)

Dates: 23-24 April 2008


In the past decade policy makers in the United Kingdom as well as the European Union have considered the adoption of information and communication technologies (ICTs) by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as a key driver for productivity growth and overall economic competitiveness. The SME has been designated as an important site for fostering innovation and entrepreneurship through the use of ICTs, including e-commerce technologies. These political aspirations for building a “knowledge economy” coincided with the increasing prominence of the competence perspective in economic strategy research, which sees the source of a firm’s competitive advantage in organisational knowledge and learning. While political and organisational initiatives aimed at improving knowledge management and organisational learning through the use of ICTs continue to proliferate, there is also an emerging sense in the literature that the notion of competence is inadequate for explaining the organising and strategising practices of firms. The opaqueness of the concept is blamed for the difficulty in operationalising it for qualitative empirical research, which is in turn considered to be scarce. In order to approach this problem area, I draw on the literature of science and technology studies (STS), actor-network theory (ANT), economic sociology, and the strategy-as-practice perspective for my conceptual apparatus. Such an approach allows me to rephrase the classical question of strategic management and the economic theory of the firm. Instead of asking “How are knowledge and ICT artefacts the source of an SME’s competitive advantage?” I focus on the organising and strategising practices that constitute the small firm. The firm itself is conceptualised as the performance of a heterogeneous assemblage, an arrangement of a variety of actors and relationships. The rephrased question asks: “How is performance organised (and organising performed) in small e-commerce retailers and what is the role of ICTs in this performance?

Source: Manual

Preferred by: Peter Erdelyi