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Technovation 27 (2007) 241–253

Organisational determinants of information technology adoption and

implementation in SMEs: The case of family and cooperative firms
Sebastián Bruquea,, José Moyanob
University of Jaén, Department of Business Administration, Accounting and Sociology, E.U.P. Linares, C/Alfonso X el Sabio,
28, 23700 Linares (Jaen), Spain
University of Jaén, Department of Business Administration, Accounting and Sociology, E.U.P. Linares, C/Alfonso X el Sabio,
28, 23700 Linares (Jaen), Spain


The current work attempts to identify the factors behind the intensity and speed of adoption of information technology in small and
medium-sized firms (SMEs) in which family or cooperative character play an important role. For this purpose, we have used a qualitative
perspective, in which we have taken into account the opinions of entrepreneurs and managers of SMEs that have been involved in
technological change processes in recent years. Our results indicate that there are a number of internal factors that influence the success
of the adoption decision, on the one hand, and the implementation process, on the other hand. Among these, we might mention various
systems for the socialisation of the workers, the rotation of personnel for exemplary purposes, the simultaneous implementation of
information technology and quality systems, and professionalisation in the case of family firms. There are also inhibiting factors of the
adoption and implementation, such as the modification of the firm’s hierarchy and power structures, as well as the absence of qualified
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Keywords: Information technology; Adoption; Implementation; Cooperative firms; Family firms; Small and medium-sized firms; Internal factors

1. Introduction produce 39% of the gross national product (GNP), and

generate more than half of the technological innovation
Identifying why and how firms adopt technological (Kuan and Chau, 2001). In Europe, 99.8% of the firms are
innovations, and more specifically ‘‘information technol- SMEs, responsible for two-thirds of the turnover and
ogy’’, is fundamental for ensuring a successful adoption business employment (Carayannis et al., 2006). In Southern
process (Swanson and Wang, 2005). A research stream has Europe, the importance of SMEs in the total employment is
identified variables that can explain why firms adopt even higher. For instance, SMEs generate 70% of the
information technology with different intensities and employment in Spain (European Commission, 2005).
speeds (e.g., Premkumar et al., 1997; Mehrtens et al., Among SMEs, family businesses and cooperative firms
2001; Teo and Pian, 2003). are two highly important forms of ownership structure in
However, there has been little research on the factors many countries. In the case of the United States, family
inducing small and medium-sized firms (SMEs) to introduce firms generate 50% of GNP (Coleman and Carsky, 1999)
information technology (Premkumar, 2003; Riemenschneider and employ 50% of the active population (Ibrahim and
et al., 2003; Morgan et al., 2006). SMEs are the engine of the Ellis, 1994). In the European Union, family firms are a
economies of many countries. For instance, in the United majority in almost all member countries (Donckels and
States, small businesses create two-thirds of the new jobs, Fröhlich, 1991). In Spain, family firms make up a major
part of the SMEs, since these firms represent between 65%
Corresponding author. Tel.: +34 953 648571; fax: +34 953 648508. and 80% of the business structure, employ 65% of the
E-mail addresses: (S. Bruque), active population and generate 65% of GNP (Amat, 1998).
(J. Moyano). Cooperative firms also represent an important part of the

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242 S. Bruque, J. Moyano / Technovation 27 (2007) 241–253

economic activity in several Western European countries, Other studies focus on the previous existence of related
such as Spain, France and Italy (European Commission, technologies as a positive adoption factor, and the inertia
2005). In Spain, cooperative firms generate 7% of GNP generated by old technologies and systems as a negative
and employ 4% of the total workforce (Barea-Tejeiro and adoption factor (Hovav et al., 2004). Organisational
Monzón-Campos, 2002). Moreover, practically 99.8% of culture has been an important topic in the field (Fink,
them are SMEs. 1998). Some dimensions of culture, such as, flexibility,
Despite the importance of family and cooperative firms, communication, absence of conflict and orientation to-
very few studies have analysed information technology wards innovation have been identified as information
adoption and implementation in SMEs of this type. Thus, technology adoption facilitators (Powell and Dent-Mical-
the research question of the current work is to identify lef, 1997; Mirvis et al., 1991). Organic vs. mechanistic
organisational variables that may have a role in informa- culture has also been identified as a predictor of the extent
tion technology adoption and implementation in coopera- to which firms adopt and use information technology and
tive and family SMEs. how they go about it (Tung et al., 2000).
In order to accomplish the above-mentioned objective, However, most of the previous research has centred on
we have structured this work in seven sections including the large firms. Some studies suggest that information system
current introduction. In Section 2, we discuss the organisa- theories and practices developed for large firms may not be
tional factors that favour the adoption of information suitable for small ones (Farhoomand and Hrycyk, 1985;
technology in firms according to the literature. In Section Premkumar, 2003). SMEs are different from large firms in
3, we describe the method employed in our research. In several ways. In SMEs, decision-making is centralised in a
Section 4, we present the findings, while in Section 5 we reduced number of persons, standard procedures are not
propose the information technology adoption and imple- well laid out, there is limited long-term planning, and there
mentation model for SMEs. The main conclusions of our is greater dependence on external expertise and services for
research are outlined in Section 6 and finally in Section 7, information systems (Premkumar, 2003). Furthermore,
we discuss some managerial implications that may prove SMEs face substantially greater risks in information system
useful for practitioners responsible for technological implementation than large businesses, since they have
change processes in their firms. inadequate resources and limited education about informa-
tion systems (Cragg and King, 1993). They have difficulties
2. Literature review in recruiting and retaining internal information system
experts due to the scarcity of qualified information system
Since information technology began to have an important experts and the limited career advancement prospects in
impact on the way firms are both managed and organised, SMEs (Kuan and Chau, 2001).
researchers have investigated the organisational factors In the case of European countries, such as Spain, SMEs
behind the degree of adoption of computing, robotic or tele- have special characteristics linked to their family and
communications technologies. Organisational factors behind cooperative nature that merit particular attention. First,
information technology adoption may be as important as for family firms, the adoption and use of information
other elements such as technical factors (Premkumar et al., technology may be a more contested issue, particularly in
1997), although they are usually seen as less significant by businesses with strong historic and cultural legacies
practitioners (Fletcher and Wright, 1995). (Ogbonna and Harris, 2005). The objectives that the firms
The previous literature has identified several organisa- hope to achieve by adopting information technology may
tional factors associated with information technology differ depending on the character of the family. Family
adoption (Desai et al., 1998). Among them, we might firms usually develop more informal organisational struc-
mention: the management’s direct and explicit support for tures than non-family firms, with an overlapping between
the adoption of information technology (Damanpour, the roles played in the family and in the business.
1991; Thong, 1999; Soliman and Janz, 2004); the existence Furthermore, the lack of professionalisation and the
of technology leaders (‘‘champions’’ or ‘‘prominent ac- autocratic managerial style that characterise some family
tors’’) who support the technological change (Sharma and firms (Heck, 1998) may hinder a proper management of the
Rai, 2003; Pitt et al., 2006); the level of technological information technology implementation process. Second,
education of the workers in the technical departments in cooperative firms, active and effective participation in
(Premkumar et al., 1994); the level of technological the production and/or commercialisation process is what
education of the rest of the workers; the strategy chosen legitimises the capacity to take decisions democratically
with regards implementation (proactive, reactive, technol- among the members (Garcı́a-Gutiérrez, 1988–1989). In-
ogy leader/follower, etc.) (Swanson and Ramiller, 1997; formation technology adoption by cooperative firms may
Lewis and Cockrill, 2002; Teo and Pian, 2003, 2004); the differ from that of non-cooperative firms. Cooperative
level of integration of the information system/information firms have a distinctive culture, based on principles of
technology in the business strategy (Fletcher and Wright, democracy and equity, which are shared and assumed
1995); and the size of the firm (Young et al., 1999; freely by all their members (Locke and Schweiger, 1979).
Raymond and Bergeron, 1997). Participation in the decision-making by clients, workers or
S. Bruque, J. Moyano / Technovation 27 (2007) 241–253 243

suppliers, who are at the same time owners of the firm, may Andalusia), as well as databases collecting information
have an impact on information technology adoption and from the Mercantile Register (SABI database, from
implementation processes. On the one hand, the higher INFORMA, S. A.). With the available information, we
commitment of the members of cooperative firms may drew up a list of firms satisfying our requirements for
foster the adoption of new information technology, but on participating in the study. These requirements were two:
the other hand, the democratic decision-making may slow first, we chose SMEs (family or cooperative firms) with a
down the decision process involved in information positive economic-financial record in terms of profitability
technology adoption and implementation (Bruque et al., or sales turnover; second, the firms selected had all
2003). undergone a process of technological change involving
In spite of the above-mentioned differences between information technology, and in most cases they are firms
small and large firms, research on the adoption of with a strong tradition of adopting and implementing new
information technology by SMEs is very limited. Further- technologies, which have moreover been technology
more, previous literature is widely divergent and not leaders in their respective sectors. From this point, we
comprehensive enough to create a cumulative research opted for a gradual process of information gathering in
corpus (Premkumar, 2003). In the case of family and which, in the first stage, we prioritised leading firms in
cooperative firms, evidence on information technology technological innovation in each sector. Second, we chose
adoption is even more lacking (Ogbonna and Harris, 2005). confirmatory cases in each of the sectors analysed. For this
Hence we feel that there is a need to deepen our purpose, here we considered SMEs to be firms employing
understanding of the internal factors that may foster or at most 500 workers (Grandon and Pearson, 2004). The
inhibit processes of adoption and implementation of process concluded when the saturation point was achieved
technologies in cooperative and family firms. For this that a condition when adding a new unit of analysis did not
purpose, we have used the method that we explain in the provide any additional relevant information. We reached
following section. the saturation point by 15 firms where five amongst them
were cooperative firms and 10 family firms.
The technique used for data collection was the in-depth
3. Research method interview, as we consider the technique to be flexible,
unstructured and suitable for collecting the information
In order to accomplish this work, we have carried out a required for our work. Moreover, in-depth interview was
qualitative analysis. Qualitative research has been success- able to identify the underlying factors related to informa-
fully used in the field of information systems and tion technology adoption and to detect relations between
information technology (e.g., Hayne and Pollard, 2000) the identified factors (Pettigrew, 1985; Yin, 1984).
especially, when a deeper understanding is required on the In this research, we used techniques such as triangulation
factors that have influence to a relatively new reality. This and the literature review to safeguard the reliability and
research method has been chosen in the case study in order validity of the results. To improve the reliability of the data
to describe the factors. collection instrument, and as has been done in previous
The unit of analysis used in the research corresponds to research (Cragg and King, 1993), we used a triangulated
the companies selected for the case study. Since the data collection procedure based on well-organised inter-
geographic location of the firms could distort the analysis, views with various respondents from each firm. Thus, we
we decided to examine firms, which are located in the same interviewed a minimum of two and a maximum of three
geographical area. In this respect, we analysed the individuals from each firm. Specifically, we interviewed the
information technology adoption processes in firms from Information Technology Manager and up to two more
the province of Jaén, in the region of Andalusia, southern managers from each firm. In order to ensure the internal
part of Spain, belonged to the following sectors: wood and and external validity of the results, the research team
furniture, services, computing, textiles and manufacture of carried out a prior review of the work relating to
plastic components. The sampling used to select the cases information technology adoption and implementation.
was judgement purposive sampling, which involved select- Likewise, we used a relatively high number of cases (15),
ing those units that best guarantee comprehension of the in order to replicate the results obtained.
studied phenomenon (Sekaran, 2000). To choose the units
of analysis, we took into account the research team’s 4. Research findings
knowledge of analysing the territorial scope. The second-
ary data required to classify the units of analysis were When we report the results of the research process we shall
obtained from official registers (classification of gazelle bear in mind those results relating to the adoption decision,
firms1 by the Central Balance Sheet Data Office of on the one hand, and those to do with the implementation
1 process, on the other hand. The analysis is conducted
Gazelle firms are firms that have increased their sales continuously in
the period 1997–2000. In addition, they must also have earned profits through the transcription of the interviews carried out. Each
throughout this period (Central de Balances de Andalucı́a, 2004). See Sims of the aspects identified has been illustrated with a quotation
and O’Regan (2006) for a complete description of this type of firm. from the interviews (see also Tables 1 and 2).
244 S. Bruque, J. Moyano / Technovation 27 (2007) 241–253

Table 1
Factors related to information technology (IT) adoption

Factors Family firms Cooperative firms

Management role (MR)  Implementation of Quality Management Systems requires a large amount of information, so that they could act
as one of the triggers of IT adoption (IT Manager, F13; Administration Manager, F6; Quality and New
Technology Manager, F5)
 Professionalisation processes as the origin of growth and IT adoption for family firms (Quality and New
Technology Manager, F5; IT Manager, F13; HR Manager, F5)

 Participation of member-workers in the capital.

Coinciding ownership, management and workers
favours IT adoption through a higher commitment
(Administration Manager, F15; Data Processing
Manager, F11)

Technological leader role  IT leader or champion responsible for convincing the rest of the firm about the need for change (HR Manager,
(TLR) F3; Chief Executive, F7; General Manager, F13)
 IT leader may coincide with a member of the family (Chief Executive, F7; General Manager, F13)
Technology strategy (TS)  Formal procedures of benchmarking precede adoption decision (Purchasing Manager, F11; General Manager,

Training & socialisation  Scarcity of qualified personnel as an inhibitor for IT adoption decision (General Manager, F13; Organisation
(T&S) Manager, F3)

Size of firm/need for growth  IT adoption in response to the tensions provoked by the growth, which has to do with pressure exerted on the firm
(S/G) by its competitors (HR Manager, F3; Production Manager, F14; Administration Manager, F8; IT Manager, F8)
 Creation of new departments during the change process with the incorporation of new personnel fosters IT
adoption (Production Manager, F14; Personnel & Administration Manager, F1; Marketing Manager, F5)

During the research process, we identified external or tion of new personnel into the organisational structure, and
environmental factors, and internal factors, as was described these employees have played a critical part in the
in Section 2. Although we focus here on the internal aspects, technological development that has occurred:
the complexity of an organisational analysis such as this
will occasionally make it necessary for us to refer to the ‘‘Six years ago a study was made of this firm and they
external factors, such as, pressure exerted on the firm by its saw that it had grown too fast for the type of
competitors, suppliers or customers. management that it had then, I mean, er, it was a
typical type of workshop management. Because of this,
4.1. Factors associated with information technology they offered me a post—I’d been working in a multi-
adoption national. Well, at that time there were a number of
things that it was pretty clear had to be done, such as for
First, we consider the origin of the adoption process. In example changing the technology.’’ Production Man-
many of the firms analysed the respondents mentioned that ager (F14).
the decision to adopt information technology was made in
Likewise, the adoption process tended to be led by a
response to the tensions provoked by the growth of the
‘‘technological leader’’ or ‘‘champion’’ responsible for
firm. We should also note that this growth was promoted
convincing the rest of the firm about the need for change.
because the firm had developed proactive change strategies
The champion’s role was more important when they
based on diversification and/or internationalisation due to
supported the introduction of information technology
pressure exerted by competitors, suppliers or customers.
unequivocally, firmly and decisively, so that the rest of
‘‘What’s clear is that if you stay closed in a tiny the firm was convinced of the need to adopt it.
environment, then what you need is tiny. If you start
opening up, you obviously need new technologies, new ‘‘Here, the person that is most identified with techno-
tools (y) It’s basically that, our need to grow, what logical change is the Chief Executive. The CEO’s
made us invest in new technologies and start changing committed to this group of firms, and involved with
our mentality.’’ HR Manager (F3). the group.’’ HR Manager (F3).

The need to grow tended to coincide in time with the In the case of family firms, the role of technology
creation of new departments and hence with the incorpora- innovator could coincide with a member of the family.
S. Bruque, J. Moyano / Technovation 27 (2007) 241–253 245

Table 2
Factors related to IT implementation

Factors Family firms Cooperative firms

Management role (MR)  New IT is implemented more rationally when it is introduced in conjunction with a Quality Management System
(Quality and New Technologies Manager, F5; Marketing Manager, F5)
 Technological crisis and technological optimism cycles, which interfere with the implementation process
(Organisation manager, F7; IT Manager, F8)

Training & Socialisation  Staff renovation is the main means of employee socialisation in terms of technological change, rather than actions
(T&S) aiming to change the attitudes of older workers (Quality and New Technologies Manager, F5; Administration
Manager, F1)
 Socialisation and training usually go together. Basic on-the-job instruction or pyramidal systems are useful not
only to transfer knowledge but also for socialisation purposes during IT implementation (HR Manager, F3;
Technician, Users Solution Centre, F3; Production Manager, F14; General Manager, F4; Quality Manager, F15)
 Job rotation is a key aspect during socialisation and training in IT. Workers who do not adapt satisfactorily
return to their original positions, which have an exemplary and even punitive effect (Chief Executive, F13; IT
Manager, F9)
 Worker’s age as an explanatory factor for failure to adapt, mainly in extreme cases. Employees of an intermediate
age do not have great difficulty in adapting to technology innovations (Organisation Manager, F3; Technician,
User Solution Centre, F3; General Manager, F10; General Manager, F13)
 A greater involvement and knowledge about the business aspects on the part of the IT supplier/vendor ease IT
implementation (Technician, User Solutions Centre, F3; IT Manager, F8)

 Exemplary behaviours of family members regarding  Involvement of workers during implementation by

new IT use are seen as a motivating factor for older means of pyramidal systems taking advantage of
workers who have to adapt to the change higher commitment and participation in
(Technician, User solution centre, F3) cooperative firms (Technician, User Solution
Centre, F3)
 Age factor may be affected also by the level of
commitment and motivation among the members
of the cooperative firm (General Manager, F13;
Production Manager, F14)

Impact on power/hierarchy  Fear of some managers or employees that they will lose part of responsibilities, power or recognition of the work
structures (P&H) they did before the new technology was introduced (Chief Executive, F7; Quality and New Technology Manager,
 New technology implementation felt as a threat to family members who are reluctant to change (Chief Executive,
F7; General Manager, F13)

‘‘I think it’s the management, and in particular I’d have where the supplier of the technology is.’’ Purchasing
to say my brother and me. Because computers, you Manager (F11).
know, X is a bit lost really, and as for my father, don’t
mention computing to him! He’s more a big-decisions The process of adopting information technology was
man, if you see what I mean.’’ Chief Executive (F7). occasionally linked to an intense professionalisation
process, particularly in family firms. Growth, professiona-
‘‘Well, the driving force for that, it’s us really. We’re
lisation and adoption of new technology tended to
three brothers, one is here, another’s in production in
converge in time, so that we could say that there was a
charge of this area, and there’s another person in the
cause–effect relation between professionalisation and the
office, and then there’s me, who is sort of above
other variables (growth and information technology
everybody. And so it’s, er, my brother who’s in
production and me who perhaps really push for this
thing and who ask for things, you know? The ones who ‘‘Yes, we started out as, er, a family firm, and practically
are pushing for change.’’ General Manager (F13). all the workers were friends of the bosses and that, you
A common feature that tended to accompany the know, and then the point comes when a number of
adoption process had to do with establishing procedures managers arrive and they evaluate the posts there are,
to imitate firms from the same or different sectors that had and they make a more detailed selection, which moves
already successfully implemented information technology: away from this family-type firm—that’s left behind a
bit—and they start giving it the structure of a company.
‘‘Before carrying out the change we were looking at It starts consolidating, with its command structures and
some firms that had already introduced it, in Alicante, its professionals working, you know, with its workers.’’
Granada, Malaga, Ciudad Real, Madrid and in Austria, Quality and New Technologies Manager (F5).
246 S. Bruque, J. Moyano / Technovation 27 (2007) 241–253

Another internal element related to information technol- number of factors played a part in the speed and final
ogy adoption had to do with the previous implementation success of this stage, many of them linked to internal
of quality systems both in family and cooperative firms. As aspects, directly associated with the culture and socialisa-
a general rule, these quality systems required a large tion processes of the staff in family and cooperative firms.
amount of information, so that they could act as one of the One of the first aspects to note was that the respondents
triggers of information technology adoption. recognised the importance of cultural values as either
inducers or inhibitors. However, a very interesting finding
‘‘No, but the program came precisely for that reason,
was that the managers considered that staff renovation is
thinking that one of its benefits would be that it would
the main means of employee socialisation in terms of
serve to implement a quality system. Yes, because X [the
technological change, rather than actions aimed to change
General Manager] has said so on various occasions, that
the attitudes of their older workers.
it would be good to put in a quality system, such as ISO
9000 or similar, but one of the conditions of the ‘‘Yes, there were many people, particularly in the
program was precisely that.’’ Information Technologies beginning, who were a bit reluctant, you know? You
Manager (F13). would say to them: listen, you’ve got to do it like this, or
we’re going to implement this like that, and them,
The participation of the member–workers in the capital
because of their ideology and all that, they were
of their cooperative firm was also seen as a catalyst of
reluctant to change, you know? And so there was a
technological innovation. Some respondents felt that the
very intense stage at the beginning of mental prepara-
fact that the ownership, management and workers coin-
tion of the staff, to raise their awareness, and that was
cided could favour the introduction of technological
really tough. The point is, once the firm is in that
innovations.2 This situation became even more evident in
dynamic then obviously the new staff that are coming in
the case of workers’ cooperatives than in suppliers’ or
start with that ideology, those guidelines, those objec-
clients’ cooperatives.
tives.’’ Quality and New Technologies Manager (F5).
‘‘Yes, of course. Because they know they’re risking their
own homes. It’s not the same: well, here they pay me, Socialisation and training are two processes that went
and in the other [firm] they don’t. It’s different. They’re together. In fact, training—which is normally direct,
all going 100 per cent here because it’s their money on through basic on-the-job instruction—served not only to
the line in any decisions taken, do you see what I mean? transfer knowledge but also to inculcate the values and
And you know it’s your share, it’s your firm.’’ technological culture of the firm.
Administration Manager (F15). ‘‘As for the training, we have made a massive effort (y)
The above factors acted as facilitators of information We’re going to invest even more resources in training, so
technology adoption. However, there might also be some that we cany try to see if we can recycle the people that
elements that inhibited adoption. One of these was the scarcity are finding it very difficult to adapt to the thing [the
of qualified personnel in a particular geographical area. technological change]. And, well, the new generations
that are coming in to teach them as well, because, you
‘‘There aren’t enough specialised people either, because I know, nowadays the cultural level is not all that counts,
know people [firms] that have the same [ERP] program, on top of that they have to learn the business culture,
(y) and another firm has come along and taken one of and we’re going to try to adapt everybody with this
their workers, because, er, I mean working with this type training. With this type of people [the older workers] it’s
of program brings you problems like that, because it more difficult, not just because they were used to
isn’t working from day one either, either that or don’t working a certain way but because they often reach a
get it, which is what many people [firms] are scared of point in which they don’t feel they can do it (y) and
too, they don’t get a type of program because they say, that makes them just give up, and yes, it’s very difficult
ok, so I’ve got it now, it’s worth h70,000, but what do I for them to integrate, and I think it’s a question of
do with it if I can’t find qualified people?’’ General changing their mentality.’’ HR Manager (F3).
Manager (F13).
In some cases, particularly in cooperative firms that took
4.2. Factors associated with information technology into account the involvement of the workers by means of a
implementation pyramidal system, instructors from different categories
were chosen, and they taught the workers at lower
Once the firm had taken the decision to adopt the new hierarchical levels. This method had the advantage that
technology, it embarked on the implementation stage. A the knowledge acquired by the workers was more solid,
since they had had to explain the new technology
In this respect, Ferneley and Bell (2006) point out that for this to be previously to their colleagues.3
possible the owner–manager needs to achieve a level of technical under-
standing, they need to nurture an organisational culture that supports their Oyelaran-Oyeyinka and Lal (2006) find that non-formal learning is the
staff in the utilisation of their current and potential skill sets. dominant form of mastering new technologies.
S. Bruque, J. Moyano / Technovation 27 (2007) 241–253 247

‘‘There were eight people, five from the zones [branches] ‘‘The age: in principle I think it works against some
and three from the central services. The idea was that people, although there are older people who can use the
these eight people would be trained, and once ready, in program easily, and younger people who can’t. But, in
turn, for each region a number of instructors B were principle, if we were to describe the average user that
selected, and then these instructors B give the training can handle the program easily, it would be a young
course to various offices. In total, from these eight person who has used Windows before, they find it easier.
people we had at the end 350 people trained.’’ However, for older people, the fact of seeing us [two
Technician, User Solutions Centre (F3). brothers of 50 and 53 years old] using the new software
is a good motivation’’. Technician, User Solutions
Furthermore, in other cases firms used formalised plans Centre (F3).
to incorporate personnel that specifically included informa-
tion technology training. For cooperative firms, respondents did recognise that the
age factor might be affected by the level of motivation
‘‘For example, in the factory there’re now some training among the members of the firm.
plans for incorporating new staff, so that whenever a
‘‘The main thing is for the people to be motivated. We
new person comes in they have some papers containing
see all sorts, it’s just as bad to be too young as to be too
summaries of all that you have to know in that section,
old, what’s important is for the people to be positive and
you know? So that the process of effective incorporation
that’s that. I don’t notice any difference between our
of a new person in their job is much quicker, and so
older and younger people, the important thing is for
much more efficient than it was before.’’ Production
them to like it and that’s that. And that’s why they’re in
Manager (F14).
their jobs, because they’re the ones that say what they
Another key aspect in the socialisation and in the think, because it’s people that you see they have
training in information technology had to do with the job qualities, and at the end they are the owners as well.’’
rotation system. Firms tended to implant a system for General Manager (F13).
rotating the workers in the positions in which information Often we saw problems in the training provided by the
technology had been introduced. The workers who did not supplier of the technology. In this respect, some respon-
adapt satisfactorily returned to their original positions. dents would like to see a greater involvement and greater
This process had an exemplary and even a punitive effect in knowledge about the business aspects (not just the
terms of convincing the staff of the importance of the new technical area) on the part of the supplier.
values of adaptation and technological change.
‘‘That’s where we did have a bit of a complaint, because
‘‘What we do have continually is staff rotation, there are the training could’ve been better. The point is that they
people that don’t adapt well to the jobs and so they haven’t been in offices [in this sector], they just make the
change, er, back to the same place where they started.’’ program, and that’s that, and in a lot of practical cases
Chief Executive (F13). they hadn’t got the faintest idea. We had a bit of a
problem there, you know, but in the end it turned out
From the interviews analysed, we founded that age
ok, as well as could be expected.’’ Technician, User
might be an explanatory factor of some workers’ failure to
Solutions Centre (F3).
adapt, but only in extreme cases. In other words, the
younger workers were better predisposed, while the older During the implementation process tensions often
ones generally had more problems. appeared, especially in family firms, as a result of the fear
of some managers or employees that they could lose part of
‘‘I remember a point—it might seem really silly but it the responsibilities, power or recognition that had gone
was just crazy—when we started using the mouse. That with the work they did before the new technology was
was massive depressions all round, because they just introduced. This factor can be regarded as an obstacle in
couldn’t find them [i.e., the device did not register in the implementation process.
their minds as having the function it has], quite old
people, people who had had to work with the keyboard, ‘‘Generally, when people see that it makes life easier
and could do that well enough, but as for using the they accept it immediately [a new ERP Management
mouse to go into Windows and move about Windows, System], but you always find somebody who had won a
there was just no wayy’’ Organisation Manager (F3). certain amount of power and, er, he was pretty
comfortable, you could say he moved around very
Some of the respondents claimed that technological comfortably in his environment, so when you change the
adaptation was easier for younger people. In contrast, situation a bit for themy I must admit that the head of
some managers felt that employees of an intermediate age administration in the firm finally—although the rela-
did not have great difficulty in adapting to technological tionship with him is still great and he is still collaborat-
innovations, especially when the older members of the ing with us—left the firm [due to the implementation of
family firm were used to information technology. information technology]’’. Chief Executive (F7).
248 S. Bruque, J. Moyano / Technovation 27 (2007) 241–253

At other times, however, the managers used the 5. Information technology adoption and implementation
technology as a way of motivating the employees most model for SMEs
involved in the change. The motivation was achieved in
some cases by recognition, and in others by improving the From the analysis carried out here, it is possible to
professional careers of those employees with a better deduce a model incorporating the largest number of factors
attitude towards technological change. Among employees detected in the fieldwork, as well as their respective
with a better attitude to change, we found those forming interactions. This model is shown in Tables 1 and 2, as
part of the internal training systems. well in Fig. 1. In the tables, we have grouped the
explanations of the different concepts that we have found
‘‘People who demonstrate that they adapt well to the with respect to six large factors (management role,
changes have been changing jobs and improving. In fact, technological leader role, technology strategy, training
I think they appreciate that change now. I [a family and socialisation, size of firm/need for growth and impact
member] motivated them and they appreciate it that we on power/hierarchy structures). Table 1 refers to the
give them the tools and possibilities, so that if they factors relating to information technology adoption and
decide to leave the firm tomorrow or start up their own Table 2 refers to the factors relating to information
business, they will have the basis to do that, unlike some technology implementation. In both the tables, we have
others.’’ General Manager (F13). also included the code of some of the respondents
supporting each element referred to by the adoption and
The situations of tension in the structure of the firm implementation factors. Each of the concepts identified
worsened at particular points in the implementation may be linked to cooperative firms, family firms, or both,
process. It is interesting to note that these moments of depending on the column where they are (first, second or
‘‘technological crisis’’ were both preceded and followed by both).
other moments of technological optimism (or even Fig. 1 illustrates the groups of factors identified in Tables
euphoria). The optimism–pessimism profile gave rise to a 1 and 2, as well as the specific concepts that were identified
cycle about which various respondents coincided. during the interviews. Fig. 1 has two distinct parts. In the
‘‘The point is, there are two stages when there’s a first part (the top half of the figure) we can see the factors
change: a first phase when everything’s great, it’s really detected that may be related to the decision to adopt a new
impressive, then 15, 20, 30 days go by and people say it’s information and communications technology. In the
no good, what we had before was much better, this bottom half of the figure are those factors that may
system is no good, and then after six months or a year, explain the success of the implementation process, where
when all the problems have been ironed outy the success is understood to mean a rapid and effective use of
implementation is completed successfully.’’ Organisa- the new technology, bearing in mind the objectives pursued
tion Manager (F7). in its adoption. We first describe the system of factors
explaining the adoption of information technology in
Apart from the factors mentioned above, the implemen- SMEs, and then subsequently, we describe the factors that
tation of quality systems not only influenced the adoption may be associated with the implementation of these
of information technology, but also its implementation. technologies.
Some respondents pointed out that information technology As we noted in Section 4, both external and internal
was implemented more rationally when it was introduced factors can intervene in the adoption decision. Looking
in conjunction with a quality system. The quality system exclusively at the internal factors, the growth of the firm
implied a change in the process flow of the firm, and hence can be regarded as one of the main driving forces in a firm’s
in the flow of information, which in turn influenced the adoption of new technology. However, there are other
development and adoption of information technology by internal elements, such as the technology strategy (a
the firm itself. proactive strategy will favour the adoption), the support
of the managers (especially the technology leaders), the
‘‘Then, we adopted the quality management certification professionalisation of the family firm, participation and
systems. We started an ISO 9000 certification to commitment in cooperative firms, or the implementation of
control all our processes, we integrated everything, quality systems. At the same time, firms tend to implement
you could say we developed our own system—specific systems to follow the competition by means of technolo-
software to control the production, integrating the gical benchmarking procedures. It is interesting to note
warehouse, the invoicing, the accounting, the lot. And that according to the analysis, these above-mentioned
that was an in-house program where you could say factors may interact with each other and at the same time
we can adapt to all our customers’ needs really with the adoption decision. Thus, professionalisation and
fast, really quickly. If a customer asks you for some- growth are two phenomena that are difficult to disentangle,
thing very specific, well, you have the capacity to since they normally appear closely interwoven, a situation
respond immediately.’’ Quality and New Technologies that also occurs with the implementation of quality systems
Manager (F5). and the adoption of new information technology.
S. Bruque, J. Moyano / Technovation 27 (2007) 241–253 249

Organisational boundary External factors

TLR : Champion or
technological leaders role
Managerial support

TS : Technological
S/G: Growth

TS : Technology
MR : Commitment,
Firm size
participation in cooperative

MR : Professionalisation of
the family firm

S/G: Organisational
New IT adoption decision
New IT-related
MR : Quality
Optimism-pessimism technological


T&S : Job rotation

T&S : Staff average age

T&S: Staff socialisation process

T&S : IT training
(pyramidal, classrom, basic on-the-job
T&S: Staff renovation training)
-Provider IT training
-IT training as a way of staff
P&H : Impact on power and indoctrination
hierarchy structures

GROUPS OF FACTORS Success of the implentation process

MR: Management Role
TLR: Technology Leader Role
TS: Technology Strategy
T&S:Training & Socialisation
S/G: Size/Need to Grow
P&H: Impact on Power and Hierarchy IMPLEMENTATION PROCESS

Fig. 1. Integrative model.

250 S. Bruque, J. Moyano / Technovation 27 (2007) 241–253

On the other hand, the factors associated with the rationalises the interchange of information in the new
success of the implementation process have to do mainly structure.
with the socialisation of the employees in aspects concern- Another related management role concept is the owner-
ing the values of adaptation and acceptance of technolo- ship structure of cooperative firms, which leads to a higher
gical change. This socialisation is achieved fundamentally level of commitment and participation among the mem-
through training, in which various agents intervene, and ber–workers in their firm, and consequently, a stronger
which is conducted in various modes. The agents are both involvement in technology adoption (see Fig. 1). This
internal and external (the supplier of the technology). relation is the strongest in workers’ cooperatives and
Meanwhile, the training modes identified are on-the-job, consumer cooperatives in which cooperativised activity
classroom and pyramidal training. It is interesting to note makes up member–owners’ largest source of income
that the managers also occasionally use training as a form (Bruque Cámara et al., 2004). This result is related to the
of indoctrination of their workers, in an attempt to create one obtained by O’Regan et al. (2006b), in which
an attitude favourable to change among them. The effect of empowerment culture is associated with innovation.
training may be moderated by other factors, such as job Other internal elements that foster technological adop-
rotation (especially when this is exemplary or punitive), age tion in SMEs have to do with the introduction of new
(especially in extreme cases), and staff renovation (which departments (occasionally unipersonal) relating to the
fosters the socialisation processes favourable to technology technological change. In addition, the respondents mention
implementation). We should also highlight that, as can be the importance of the managers’ explicit support for the
seen in the bottom half of the figure, technological change implementation, especially when one or several family
normally has an impact on the structures of hierarchy and members (or a small group of people) become the
power, which could negatively affect the success of the standard-bearers of change, convince others of its advan-
implementation process. tages and counteract the states of generalised pessimism
during situations of crisis (technological ‘‘champions’’).
6. Discussion and conclusions These findings are supported by previous studies that also
demonstrate the importance of technology leaders in
With this work, we have aimed to contribute to the adoption processes (Premkumar et al., 1994; O’Regan et
literature on the determinants underlying information al., 2006b). We have also identified some factors linked
technology adoption and implementation in family and with the technology strategy, such as the imitation of firms
cooperative firms. The results of the research allow us to that have already implemented the technology (Swanson
draw a number of relevant conclusions, which will in turn and Ramiller, 1997), or the proactive orientation of the
lead to recommendations for both researchers and practi- strategy towards technological change (Teo and Pian, 2003;
tioners. In this section, we describe the main conclusions of O’Regan et al. (2006a).
our work, while in the last section we outline the most This work also presents a series of results concerning the
important implications for management and the future implementation process of the technology. The research
trends. carried out here allows us to offer a number of facilita-
With regards the internal factors, and in the context of tors of technology implementation in cooperative and
SMEs, our findings demonstrate that various elements family SMEs. Among these, we might mention training
influence the adoption of information technology. First, systems, which not only allow for a transfer of the
there is a broad consensus on the part of the respondents knowledge required to make use of the new tools, but
that the adoption is motivated by the growth experienced also modify the workers’ attitude towards technological
by the firm. Growth makes it necessary for firms to adopt change. The transmission of knowledge and the improve-
new and more powerful technological solutions. This ment in attitudes foster the values of flexibility and
conclusion is in line with other research demonstrating adaptation to change, which could be called a positive
the importance of size in technology adoption models for socialisation process (Schein, 1968; Mintzberg, 1979). This
SMEs (Premkumar, 2003). process can, however, be affected by elements such as
However, there are other internal elements that have the average age of the workers, the degree to which the
received little attention in the literature on information staff are renovated, the job rotation system (particularly
technology adoption. Among these, we should mention if the rotations are exemplary or punitive), and especially
two processes that are occasionally directly associated with by the modification of the hierarchy and power structures
growth: the professionalisation processes (Anderson and (Doolin, 2004). We should also point out that the managers
Reeb, 2004) of the management in family SMEs and the interviewed prefer socialisation in the new technologies
implementation of total quality systems. Both phenomena, to start from zero, with workers that have recently arrived
which we include in the management role factor, create a in the firm, rather than re-socialising current workers.
new work structure that affects the flows of decision- This finding could also be explained by the learning
making and information in the firm. A logical response curve, which shows that the level of learning is relatively
from the managers to these modifications would be to greater at the beginning of the individual’s working life
implement information technology that facilitates and (Argote, 1999).
S. Bruque, J. Moyano / Technovation 27 (2007) 241–253 251

7. Managerial implications and future trends anticipate, the consequences of the optimism–pessimism
cycles that are commonly observed in the diffusion of
The conclusions obtained here allow us to offer a series innovations involving information technology. Merely
of points that may prove useful for practitioners respon- knowing about these optimism–pessimism cycles is, in all
sible for processes of information technology adoption and probability, not enough to be able to avoid them, but it will
implementation. In this section, we outline our main prove useful for preventing reactions of excessive euphoria
recommendations for managing the adoption and imple- or defeatism that may hamper the change process. Fourth,
mentation of information technology. First, managers of interaction with more advanced firms may also be a good
family firms could accelerate the adoption of new idea in implementation processes. Thus, just before the
information technology by encouraging the professionali- implementation, the firm could arrange for the managers
sation of their firms. According to the results we have or workers who are to lead the change to have ‘‘techno-
obtained here, family firms that have experienced profes- logical stays’’ in advanced firms or public institutions.
sionalisation to a greater extent tend to welcome techno- Finally, it may prove useful to coincide the technological
logical change. Second, SME managers of both change process with periods of staff renovation, since
cooperative and family businesses can exploit the impulse technological change tends to be quicker when it involves
to renovate that is generated in the implementation stages staffs who have recently been taken on, and who are on
of quality systems. As we observed above, the implementa- average younger.
tion of quality systems generates the need to re-organise the This paper is not without its limitations, which we now
information flows, as well as the interfaces of communica- outline. First, it suffers from the problems of qualitative
tion and presentation of the information. This renewal of work, in particular, regarding the generalisation of the
the formal information and communication structures may results. Second, the methodology used does not ensure the
create an environment favourable to the introduction of exhaustiveness of the model. Third, we have been able to
deep technological changes that are compatible with the identify a number of interrelations between the variables in
new quality system. Third, cooperative and family firms this current research, but it has not been possible to
can mitigate the disadvantages of their small size by measure the intensity of these interrelations. Likewise, the
undertaking active benchmarking policies in firms that model has been deduced in a particular geographic context.
have successfully implemented similar technological It is necessary to validate the model for other geographical
changes, either in other sectors or in other geographical areas and for sectors not considered in the present work.
areas. Likewise, building a close and smooth relationship These limitations could serve as starting points for future
with the technology supplier may help the firm to remain research streams. Such research could be directed at
up-to-date with innovations and their possible applications identifying new organisational factors, and also attempt
to its business. At the same time, the SME’s policies of to measure the intensity of the relations that we have
benchmarking and building closer relationships with the detected. For this purpose, it would be advisable to
technology supplier can be fostered if it establishes a combine qualitative and quantitative methodologies, as
complete network of relationships (by means of collabora- this would allow the researcher to get round the general-
tion agreements, strategic alliances, joint ventures, etc.) isation problems mentioned above.
with firms that are innovative in information technology.
Equally, there may be a positive association between
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Yin, R.K., 1984. Case Study Research: Design and Methods. Sage
Publications, Newbury Park. José Moyano-Fuentes is professor of Management in the
Young, D., Carr, Rainer Jr., R.K., 1999. Strategic implications of Department of Business Administration, Accounting and Socio-
electronic linkages. WinterInformation Systems Management Winter logy at the University of Jaén (Spain). He currently conducts
61, 29–32. research on the effect of the ownership structure on firm
performance. He also has interests on the role of technology in
organizations, with current emphasis involving social networks
Sebastián Bruque-Cámara is professor of Management in the influence on employees’ technology acceptance. His research has
Department of Business Administration, Accounting and Socio- appeared in the Administrative Science Quarterly (in press),
Journal of Management Studies, International Journal of Manage-
logy at the University of Jaén (Spain). He currently conducts
research on organizational factors affecting IT adoption and ment Reviews, and Strategic Management and Technology
social networks effects on workers’ acceptance of technological Analysis. e-mail:
changes. His research has appeared in the European Journal of
Information Systems, Internet Research, Journal of High Techno-
logy Management Research and Strategic Management and
Technology Analysis Journal. e-mail: