Are small and medium sized (SME) businesses making the most effective use of information?

How can the information confidence of small businesses be improved?  How can a company maximise the value of information in decision-making? These studies form part of our ongoing "Making Connections" research programme examining the use and impact of information in the workplace.

External-facing information literacy: Effective external information engagement/provision by SMEs.  A web presence analysis. (2012 - 13)

An analysis of company websites to examine whether and how effectively small and medium enterprises (SMEs) use their web presence as an information resource.  The websites of 376 Scottish SMEs were analysed against a detailed set of criteria to determine the extent to which they were effectively using, managing and presenting information in their website interactions with customers, suppliers and others.

Findings:

  • SMEs do little to inform website users of their fair, ethical and secure use of information;
  • websites are more likely to be used for basic one-way information dissemination (e.g.advertising) and, where relevant, e-retail;
  • SMEs show relatively little use of more sophisticated online information strategies for external engagement with potential customers or markets;
  • smaller businesses make less use of online information opportunities than do medium-sized businesses.

The study raises questions about the way in which SMEs value external-facing information engagement and the extent to which their relatively limited online engagement is the result of a lack of resource or lack of awareness of potential benefits and opportunities of effective use of online information resources.  The next stage of this research will probe these questions.

Effective Use of Information within Small and Medium-sized Enterprises. (2009 - 10)

A small-scale investigation of the information challenges faced by micro-businesses and the importance of information skills to these businesses, particularly:

• how owner-managers see the role of information within their business;

• how they find and evaluate sources of information;

• how effectively they use the information; and

• what impact these information literacy skills have on the business.

Findings:

•  businesses link the benefits of effective information use to client satisfaction and a good reputation;

• they report even a small amount of training has increased the speed and quality of their information searches and raised awareness of the role and value of information in the business.

Research Team

Professor Dorothy Williams

Katie Cooper

Lyndsay Bloice