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Co-evolution of Information Systems in Fast-Growing Small Firms

Reid, Gavin C. and Smith, Julia A. (2003) Co-evolution of Information Systems in Fast-Growing Small Firms. Discussion paper. Centre for Research into Industry, Enterprise, Finance and the Firm, St Andrews, Scotland.

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Abstract

The paper examines the co-evolution of different dimensions of information systems for a sample of fast-growing small firms. The investigation uses primary source longitudinal empirical evidence. The data are taken from a large database on the lifecycle experience of one-hundred-and-fifty new business starts over a four-year period. They were collected by face to face interviews with owner-managers of small entrepreneurial firms. Interviews were conducted using an administered questionnaire that covered the agenda of markets, finance, costs, business strategy, the development of a management information system, human capital, organisation and technical change. This work uses primarily the data on management information systems. The basic approach used is to compare the attributes of the fastest and slowest paced firms, as identified by their growth rates. We then examine the evolution of these firms' management information systems. The measures used to identify changes in systems include: capital investment techniques, such as return on investment, residual income, net present value, internal rate of return and payback period; methods for managing costs, like just-in-time management, activity-based costing, quantitative risk analysis, value analysis, strategic pricing and transfer pricing; and using computer applications for storing information, project appraisal, financial modelling, forecasting and sensitivity analysis. 'Time lines' are graphed to show the points at which various features of information systems are introduced (e.g. data storage, forecasting, sensitivity analysis), and derived techniques (e.g. ROI, ABC) implemented. Firms are dichotomised into highgrowth and low-growth groups. Comparisons are made within firms and across firms in terms of the co-evolution of different aspects of their accounting information systems.