IT strategizing of small firms in Malta: a grounded theory approach.
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The contribution of small firms towards the creation of economic value in a country’s Gross Domestic Product, employment and innovation is widely acknowledged. Relatively little is known on how small firms are adopting IT strategically to acheive business-IT alignment and how alignment changes over time. This study examines from a dynamic perspective IT adoption actions undertaken by owner-managers, in relation to business-IT alignment in small firms in the island state of Malta. To attain its research objectives, the methodological stance adopted in this research study is that of grounded theory. Moving away from a deductive approach, this study embraces a constructivist approach using a combination of inductive and abductive thought. No fewer than thirty-one in-depth interviews are conducted with owner-managers to observe alignment patterns of IT adoption behaviour in their respective small firms operating in Malta and employing up to 49 employees. Four business-IT alignment equilibrium states are identified, serving as markers to map out the common IT alignment paths that each firm pursued, not necessarily in linear form, during their operational years. A substantive model, which identifies four distinct IT alignment patterns, denotes each common path that a group of firms took in their movement from one alignment equilibrium state to another, throughout their life-cycle stages. This study has substantive application and comprises several implications for the development of IT adoption behaviour when small firms endeavour to strategically align business with IT. It provides policy-makers, academic researchers and small firms’ owner-managers with a theoretical framework that can provide them with factors that can predict the kind of alignment patterns that are likely to occur. Findings indicate that the quality of IT related technological solutions that are taken up by each small firm are reliant on the owner-manager’s characteristics that focus mainly on the knowledge of internal IT expertise and the project management capabilities to manage IT outsourcers. Given that few studies have been conducted to study and establish patterns of IT alignment in small firms, this research provides an important contribution to knowledge and to the existing academic literature.