Potential of critical e-applications for engaging SMEs in e-business: a provider perspective

David H Brown, Nigel J Lockett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

138 Citations (Scopus)


Against a background of the low engagement of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in e-business, this paper investigates the emergence of, and potential for, critical e-applications defined as ‘an e-business application, promoted by a trusted third party, which engages a significant number of SMEs by addressing an important shared business concern within an aggregation.’ By a review of secondary data and empirical investigation with service providers and other intermediaries, the research shows that such applications can facilitate the engagement of SME aggregations. There are three key findings, namely: the emergence of aggregation-specific e-business applications; the emergence of collaboratively based ‘one to many’ business models; and the importance of trusted third parties in the adoption of higher-level complexity e-business applications by SMEs. Significantly, this work takes a deliberately provider perspective and complements the already considerable literature on SME IT adoption from a user and network perspective. In terms of future research, the importance of a better conceptual understanding of the impact of complexity on the adoption of information technologies by SMEs is highlighted.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-34
Number of pages14
JournalEuropean Journal of Information systems
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2004


  • SMEs
  • aggregation
  • networks
  • e-business
  • intermediaries
  • IT adoption


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