28th Annual SEAANZ Conference Research Book


Launch of the 2015 SEAANZ Annual Research Book: "SMEs in the Digital Economy - Surviving the Digital Revolution"

The second edition of the SEAANZ Annual Research Book Series was officially launched at the 28th Annual SEAANZ Conference in Melbourne on 2 July 2015 by the Hon Craig Foss MP, New Zealand Minister for Small Business and Statistics. Building on the themes that focused the 27th Annual SEAANZ Conference, this book addresses the challenges facing small to medium enterprises (SMEs) within the rapidly changing market place where digital, online and mobile customer engagements are becoming the norm. 

SMEs in the Digital Economy: Surviving the Digital Revolution explores the many benefits, but also the risks, for SMEs in the digital economy. The overall message is that it is crucial to engage with the digital economy. Ignoring it is not an option. Owner-managers need to improve their knowledge and acquire the skills to effectively participate in the emerging digital market.

This book contains ten chapters from a range of specialist authors. Each chapter has a unique but important message on the impact of the digital economy on SMEs in Australia and New Zealand, and the various ways in which SMEs are engaging in this economy. It reflects the diversity of issues and the complexity of small business as an area for government, industry and academics seeking to shape effective policies to support this important sector.

As a feature of the conference authors of the book chapters were invited to make presentations of their work to showcase the publication and explain their findings.

Outline of the book

The book is organised into three parts focusing on an introduction, followed by an examination of "The Digital Ecosystem" and the "Extent of SME Engagement in the Digital Economy". 

Part I - Introduction

Chapter 1 - The digital economy and its impact on Australia and New Zealand SMEs
Bernice Kotey (University of New England) and Martina Battisti (Massey University)

This chapter overviews the current state of play within Australia and New Zealand in relation to the emergence of digital technology and the increasing penetration of online technologies by business and consumers. It examines the impact that this is having on different industry sectors and the need for firms to adapt their business models in the face of rapid technological change. It also explores the legal issues that the rise of internet-based trading has generated and the regulatory responses to this. As an introduction the chapter provides an overview of the remaining sections of the book

Part II - The Digital Ecosystem

Chapter 2 - Small Business Commissioners: Improving the quality of the business environment in the digital economy
Mark Brennan, Australian Small Business Commissioner

This chapter examines how improvements can be made to the quality of the business environment within the increasing level of digital technological change. Authored by the Australian Small Business Commissioner, the chapter discusses the role of the Small Business Commissioners (SBC) across the states that have them (e.g. New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia). In addition to providing an overview of the role of the SBC, the chapter also discusses the role that can and should be played by other key actors within the business ecosystem. These include big business, media, academics, industry and professional associations, regulators and government agencies, and the small business operators. Download presentation>>>

Chapter 3 - The antitrust concerns of SMEs: Who contacts the competition regulator and why?
Michael T. Schaper, Deputy Chairman, Australian Competition & Consumer Comission

Dr Michael Schaper is the Deputy Chairman of the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) and an Adjunct Professor at the University of Western Australia. As a regulator he is aware of the challenges facing SMEs seeking to survive in the digital economy and the many complaints that they make about unfair competition from online trading. This chapter looks at the national and international situation facing online business and the pressure that this is placing on governments as small business operators make complaints. The nature and frequency of complaints made by SMEs to the ACCC are summarised and conclusions drawn as to the future directions for this. Download presentation>>>

Chapter 4 - Rural development in the digital era: A case of a born-global SME in Estonia
Tonis Mets (Queensland University of Technology) and Aleksei Kelli (University of Tartu, Estonia)

This chapter examines a case study of a small software development firm MassMedia OU from Voru County, Estonia. It explores the opportunities available to technology entrepreneurs in developing high-tech global firms within rural environments. In doing so it highlights the factors influencing a knowledge creation environment and the knowledge-based digital technology sector in which the firm operates. The role of key actors within the local "regional innovation system" are examined including the major universities, funding and support systems, culture, human capital and workforce development, and geography. 

Chapter 5 - Financing SMEs in the digital economy: Barriers to public equity funding from the National Stock Exchange of Australia
Bruce Dwyer (Business Custodians Pty Ltd) and Bernice Kotey (University of New England)

This chapter investigates the main issues facing SMEs within Australia that are seeking equity funding through the Australian National Stock Exchange (NSX). It overviews the venture capital market in Australia and the role of stock markets for providing captial to small companies. In particular it focuses on the underperformance of the NSX and uses a qualitative methodology to interview NSX officials and financial advisors to SMEs who listed on the exchange. A range of factors attributed to the under performance of the NSX are highlighted.

Part III - Extent of SME Engagement in the Digital Economy

Chapter 6 - The use of information and communication technologies by SMEs
Tim Mazzarol (University of Western Australia), Sophie Reboud (Groupe ESC Dijon Bourgogne) and Delwyn Clark (University of Waikato)

Drawing on an case-study survey of 289 small business owner-managers across 30 industry sectors, this chapter examines the use of information and communications technologies (ICT) by SMEs. It examines how they use ICTs, the factors that influence the adoption of these technologies and the main benefits they get from using them. The study found that most owner-managers engaged with ICT to undertake e-business strategies focused on enhancing their operations, HRM and customer service experience. This was often driven by customers or suppliers forcing them to adopt these technologies. The adoption of e-commerce and e-marketing for online trading was less common despite pressure from online competitors. Download presentation>>>

Chapter 7 - Independent professionals and the digital age: online as an essential element for success
Tui McKewon and Robyn Cochrane (Monash University)

This chapter examines the largely under researched area of how nano-businesses engage in networks and make use of online digital technology to facilitate their work. Commencing with an overview of the independent professional (IPro) the chapter moves onto discuss the way in which such individuals form networks and the role these play in their business operations. Drawing on a sample of 375 IPros, the study looks at offline and online networks used by these individuals to secure work and exchange ideas. The study suggests that most IPros prefer to make use of offline, face-to-face networking as opposed to the use of online social media engagements. 

Chapter 8 - Small and medium-sized regional accounting firms: Information and communications technologies
Sujana Adapa (University of New England)

With a focus on accounting firms in regional Australia, this chapter examines the use of informationa and communications technologies (ICT) by such firms in their day-to-day business operations. Based on interviews with owner-managers of 13 small to mid-sized accounting firms, the study found that use of ICT increased with the size of the business. Medium sized firms were making use of ICT for a wide range of purposes including business, social and environmental. By conrast small firms were more likely to focus on the business operations. However, both types of firm used ICTs to overcome geographic distance effects. Major factors impeding the small firms from ICT adoption were resource constraints and costs. 

Chapter 9 - SMEs and workplace technology
Claire Phelan, Canon Australia Pty Ltd

The rapid pace of technological change has impacted the way in which office environments are designed and managed. In this chapter the findings from major surveys of industry use of office automation technologies conducted by Canon are outlined. Commencing with a brief history of the evolution of office automation and digitisation, the chapter discusses the impact of such technologies on SMEs, and reviews the findings of the Canon studies. The surveys, undertaken in 2012 and 2013 suggest that traditional desk-based work environments are being challenged by more mobile, remote teleworking. This need for mobility is replacing the need for a fixed or permanent office in many organisations. Business, particularly large companies, are embracing this adoption of office automation in order to secure enhanced employee productivity and competitive advantages.

Chapter 10 - New business models that incorporate the digital economy
Lorraine Warren (Massey University) and Ted Fuller (University of Lincoln)

This chapter discusses the emergence of new business models that are generated in response to the rise of the digital economy. With references to a case study of a UK-based airline service company, the chapter examines the evolution of the firm over a period of 25 years, and the way in which the company has adapted to technological change within the airline industry. It provides a valuable overview of the impact of digital technology on business model design, and some of the conceptual foundations of business models within the academic literature. Key lessons are provided for future research as well as policy and practice.