A model for digital development of SMEs: an interaction-based approach

Paolo Depaoli, Stefano Za, Eusebio Scornavacca

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Purpose: E-business maturity models have been widely used to guide the process of digital transformation of business. However, these models have been criticized for their predominantly technocentric approach, which is poorly suited for SMEs. The purpose of this paper is to produce a holistic, nonlinear e-business development model for SMEs that takes into account the interactions of the organization in the pursuit of its business objectives. Design/methodology/approach: Based on the literature review, this paper proposes a nonlinear digital development model for SMEs that factors in the interactions between digital technologies and organizational processes. The model is applied to three cases using a qualitative research approach. Findings: The analysis of the cases demonstrates how the model recognizes that SMEs have an agile and flexible operating structure and reduces the role of technology in order to refocus the entrepreneurs on the relationship among business goals, organizational capabilities and communication requirements. Practical implications: The proposed model helps the business owners to clarify and better understand what kind of interaction levels exist between the relevant actors in the pursuit of the firm's goals and to identify the best mix of digital and nondigital communication methods to support their work. It also assists policymakers to overcome technological bias when assessing the current state of play of e-business development in the SME universe and formulate actions that support the development of digitally oriented SMEs. Originality/value: This paper proposes a novel, nonlinear, interaction-based development model for SMEs in order to complement previous technocentric models focusing mainly on a mechanist perspective of e-business maturity models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1049-1068
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Small Business and Enterprise Development
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 29 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Digital competences
  • Digital technologies
  • E-Business
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Maturity model
  • SMEs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business, Management and Accounting (miscellaneous)
  • Strategy and Management


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