SME 2.0 - Increasing competitiveness through Web 2.0-based business organization

Short product life cycles, limitless markets and resulting changes in consumer behavior have forced the development of collaborative working methods along with new organizational structures and management strategies. Especially SME’s are challenged in this regard. The training program “Virtual Working”, which has now started at the University of Applied Sciences in Steyr, is supposed to train companies to fulfil these requirements.

The University of Applied Sciences Steyr, as a supplier of the latest scientific knowledge in Web 2.0-based concepts and applications, carried out qualification seminars with a focus on “Digital Business”. Dr. Dietmar Nedbal is mainly responsible for this project, vice Dean UAS-Prof. Dr. Andreas Auinger is also involved as a lecturer. Both are concerned with this topic in research and teaching since 2007. The IT-consulting company “Cockpit Consulting” with its resident in Salzburg, dedicated to knowledge and information management since 2010, is the main cooperation partner.

In a 6-month training cycle with three SME pilot companies- BlueChip (Zell am See), SoftSolution (St. Florian) and Software Quality Lab (Linz) – application strategies and operational implementation measures for the use of Web 2.0 are developed within companies.

The basis for the content of the training is based on a previous quantitative online-evaluation “e-Flash” at 37 Austrian companies. The main question was: “How are social media such as Xing, Facebook, Twitter and co. used as part of the entrepreneurial task?” This field investigation created together with the latest findings from research was the opening of the seminar series. It revealed that e-collaboration is not a form of work only for large, but also for medium and small-sized companies. For example, there is still potential for improvement in the customer care of SME’s, as well as in innovation management, where in practice hidden knowledge of employees or know-how of suppliers is often left out.

In further consequence most important processes will be elicited, evaluated and selected with regard to effectiveness and efficiency, directly in the company and together with the employees. The results will create the basis for the decision where Web 2.0 applications are useful, inside and outside of the company.

This form of business organization is a holistic corporate philosophy, which relies on self-assembly, flat hierarchies and participation. That is, that managers are also challenged to participate in the seminar series next to their employees. The seminars will be held until the end of December 2014 and completed with experience reports from the change processes in their companies.

The training seminar “Virtual Working” is funded under the program “Research Skills for Business” by the Federal Ministry for Economy, Family and Youth (BMWFJ). The costs of the participating companies are refunded 60 % to 80%.

Image caption: The use of social media in companies results in a much differentiated picture.