Tables 5–9 show themes relating to each code, their supporting cases and supporting evidence. The factors (themes) created were gathered based on the features of the theoretical codes drawn from the TOE framework. These factors were shown in Tables 5–9. This process unveiled the critical success factors shaping the adoption of DMD in micro-businesses in the study area.
Framework on critical success factors influencing the adoption of DMD by microbusinesses
The conceptual framework in Fig. 3 developed in this study shows critical factors influencing the adoption of DMD. These factors depicted in the framework were based on the classification of theoretical codes—TOE and one empirical code—Impact expectancy, which emerged inductively in the cause of the analysis. Both the exploratory and the explanatory features of the framework and the critical success factors depicted in the framework are dependent on the respondents’ narratives, theoretical and empirical codes as well as the literature which aid in the explanation of the factors shaping the DMD adoption by micro-businesses. While the developed framework can serve as a frame of references (Agarwal, 2000; Macredie and Mijinyawa, 2011) in understanding the factors shaping DMD adoption, operational meanings of the codes and the identified factors may also be used as an analytical instrument for researchers to understand and explain factors influencing DMD adoption in the future.
DMD may assist SMEs to develop business ideas and create partnerships that would enhance the value-chain through inter and intra-organisation information sharing which aid collaborative environments (Raymond and Bergeron, 2008; Dubé et al., 2017). This leads to advanced levels of product and process innovation (Economides and Jeziorski, 2017) which may lead to competitiveness (Ciechanowski et al., 2019) and reduce cost due to disintermediation (Kannabiran and Dharmalingam, 2012; Alba et al., 2005; Economides and Jeziorski, 2017) inventory holding, total cycle-time (Ukoha et al., 2011), virtual stores, communications, and network, lead-time compression, and transparency in improving customer service (Yesbank, 2009). However, one of the surprising findings is the impact expectancy dimensions which is incorporated in the framework and assist in the extended TOE framework. The finding revealed that although most SMEs may have the capacity to exploit opportunities associated with DMD compared to large organisations considering their limited human and financial resources, and the mode of operations which support fast decision making (Ciechanowski et al., 2019), most SMEs are not always passionate in trying and adopting new solutions. The reason being that such devices must demonstrate an immediate and significant positive impact on their businesses. The finding emerged because most SMEs are moved to trying new solution especially when such application helps in reduction of costs, business growth, regular return on investment and creates unique services that may differentiate them from others since over 2/3 of IT applications still fail in most businesses (Barrat et al., 2006). This finding is significant to this study because SMEs are likely to be more proactive and strategic in dealing with issues like this in the future when the need arises. The critical success factors are now discussed below under technology, organisation, environment and impact expectancy dimensions.
Operational efficiency is the extent to which the DMD help meet the overall needs of the firm. From the analysis, micro-businesses face pressure to become commercially viable and sustainable. However, because of the economic hardship, the DMD adoption may even be much more difficult though these applications may be relatively cheap (Okundaye et al., 2019). While several micro-businesses have engaged in DMD adoption, it was noted that DMD would be of utmost value if it is of high performance, efficient and accomplishes much without complexity.
“[–] Is the IT devices efficient? Does it provides similar services in the large organisation provide” (M5).
“The DMD must prove to move the company to a higher level” (M2).
“[–] Can the DMD aid in operational efficiency and provide some of the benefits large organisations benefit from?” (M7).
In support of the above points, several interviewees [M1], [M11], [M14], and [M15] raised a similar point. Aboelmaged (2010), Li et al. (2011), and Madukua et al. (2016) in their studies further supported the findings. Also, studies have argued that new applications that appear to be complicated and slow business activities will hinder its widespread (Ritchies and Brindley, 2005; Teo et al., 2011; Ramayah et al., 2016; Brown and Lockett, 2004; Teo and Pan, 2008; Yunis et al., 2017; Gbadegeshin et al., 2019; Nuryyev et al., 2020).
Adaptive capability is the extent DMD integrate into both the current business processes and the existing technology in the business. According to Zhu et al. (2003), connectivity reduces inconsistency and can as well restrict compatibility if the technology is challenging to integrate with the current technology arrangement. According to participants (e.g. M1, M2, M10, and M14), small businesses need to identify opportunities DMD offer before adopting them. This requires gathering adequate information to learn how to overcome failure. Some participants echoed this and supported by others:
“Can the DMD modelled in a manner that it can work with what we have in the organisation? Is it much easier to integrate?” (M3).
To what extent does the DMD interface with the existing application we have?” (M13).
The finding is in line with Khoumbati et al. (2006) that argued that the failure to integrate existing infrastructure with the new ones might be expensive, and organisations should avoid this from the onset (Aduwa-Ogiebaen and Iyamu, 2005; Napitupulu et al., 2018). According to Fitzgerald and Kenny (2003), this occurs when the characteristics of the new technology are incapable of fitting into the existing organisational norms.
Expendability is the capacity of the DMD to adapt to either the new old business processes frequently (Eze et al., 2019). Observations revealed that the flexible nature and the ability of the DMD to continually intertwine with the new features is the starting point for other business processes to be achieved. Some participants noted that the expandability of the DMD aid the processes of innovation and business process and moderates the cost of developing or adopting entirely new technology. Although some micro-businesses during the analysis noted that advances in technology have made some DMDs expandable, some are still not. The finding reveals that majority of micro-businesses would be out to adopt DMD where the applications could easily be integrated with others. This was highlighted:
“I think in our organisation, it will get to a point we can decide to replicate or make the application bigger”. Can the capacity be expanded shortly? (M12).
“Our business will adopt applications that will take over or existing house applications we have? That will shape our decision toward acquiring new product” (M14).
Similar studies (e.g. Gilmore et al., 2007; Fitzgerald and Kenny, 2003; Gholami et al., 2009; Wamba and Carter, 2014; Yunis et al., 2017; TAL, 2018; Gbadegeshin et al., 2019) findings have noted that flexible IT applications often adapt to an existing organisational arrangement which often leads to trial. This was further supported by M2, M3, M4, M12, M19, and M20.
Collective understanding is the understanding of the business purpose among various persons in the organisation through open interaction. Although the perception of small business managers on DMD might differ based on the knowledge and social setting, small business managers must acquire and distribute technical information that every person must understand some meaning to all both within and outside the organisation which are understood by all. This was highlights across cases:
“We often come together to evaluate what the new technology can bring to the table, which leads to our decision to adopt or not to adopt” (M19).
I do not take the decision alone. It requires a collective effort of everybody both within and outside the organisation (M23).
Nelson and Cooprider (1996) note that knowledge that is shared among various units of the organisations help in the improvement of both the performance and operational efficiency and bring about IT understanding (Reich and Benbasat, 2000; Tobora, 2014). This finding implies that shared meaning is essential in every organisation, and how the information is circulated impacts technology adoption (Armstrong and Sambamurthy, 1991; Gbanidi and Amissah, 2014; Tob-Ogu et al., 2018; Gbadegeshin et al., 2019).
Degree of partnership
Because of the competitive advantages enjoyed by organisations, most organisations tend to partner extensively. A partnership is the commitment of various actors in a harmonised manner to solve a problem. Working Collaboratively aid IT adoption decision. From the analysis, the majority of micro-businesses do not collaborate even when this strategy assists organisations to understand their partners. The finding reveals that most managers do not partner because they feel that they might be exposing their ideas to their rivalry, hence their competitive edge is not exposed. However, it was observed by participants that such collaboration is becoming beneficial:
“Most often a substantial number of small businesses do not like collaborating with others”(M15). “[–]when we partner with others concerning digital marketing devices it is often helpful even with competition” (M12).
“I must tell you that every member of the organisation played a role to ensure that we get a technology that our customers will appreciate” (M15).
The implication of the finding is that DMD facilitates and enable relationships to be established among workgroups for better adoption decision to be made. This was further mentioned by other participants (A15, A22] and A23). This finding was consistent with previous studies (Gholami et al., 2009; Zafar and Mustafa, 2017; Rahayu and Day, 2017; Gbadegeshin et al., 2019).
Diversity of information
The continuous need for technology devices has made most organisations’ information intensive. Firms no longer rely on information with the organisation but also embraced such from both within and outside the firm. This often creates a new knowledge of the IT to adopt. Tenkasi and Boland (1995), note that information helps in the learning process and it ensures that the complexity related to any new application is understood. This was highlighted:
“[–] I must let you know that in most cases I am the innovators driving the technology including the IT people and those that develop them to ensure that the technology is modelled in line with our needs application is in line with our need. I may not do it alone.” (M9)
“[–] we often bring our expertise together and regular reviewing review the outcome. External advice becomes important at this point.” (M12).
These findings were consistent with other participants (A6, A13, A15) and supported by previous studies (see McGrath and Maiye, 2010; Zafar and Mustafa, 2017; Eze et al., 2018). The finding implies the adoption success of DMD will often depend on how active micro-business managers can build their capabilities, integrate and exchange information with other employees and the external context.
Level of training
DMD evolve continuously such that they can become obsolete so quickly. The analysis revealed that the majority of micro-businesses go for training to learn how best to improve in the implication of new technology and to assess what is now. The training helps small business managers and the workers to learn how the new applications can contribute to their organisational growth. However, the finding reveals that if the training takes time, such application may be ignored. This was pointed out across cases:
“Although we are a small company, we often train. This may depend on the time” (M11).
“How much time is required to get used to the technology? If it takes too much time to learn it, we may not adopt it” (M2).
“When an item is introduced it is not always easy at the initial stage [–]. It required that we will study it first” (M9).
According to Rantapuska and Ihanainen (2008) most managers found it difficult to wait and learn about the new technology because they feel that it will be time-consuming. This attitude hinders them to acquire the right knowledge for effective decision to be made instead they automate the existing ones (Eze and Chinedu-Eze, 2018a, 2018b; Rahayu and Day, 2017)
Quality service delivery
Quality service delivery is the capacity of the DMD to improve service delivery manner, the company’s processes and profit in an efficient manner. SMEs interviewed thought that DMD offered by vendors would be adopted if the information disseminated is reliable, and assist crucial enquiry important to customers. This was primarily mentioned across cases:
“[–] is the technology going to be fast at all times? [–] for me as a manager, speed and consistency is a determinant factor” (M15).
The DMD must be one capable of improving our process and delivery (M12).
Several studies (Xu et al., 2007; TAL, 2018; Samad et al., 2018; Prause, 2019) have found that service delivery is a major element of any successful business. The quality of services rendered by new technology such as the creation of new or improve customers’ benefits and enable efficient service delivery to move potential customers to actual adopters (Eze et al., 2018).
Customer fulfilment is the capability of the DMD to render services aimed at satisfying the firms’ clients since clients majorly rely on DMD for the purchase of the new product and payment for such product or services (Moon, 2003). The analysis revealed that customers were involved in DMD adoption decision because they often determine firms survival. This was echoed across cases and further supported by participant [A14]:
“Our customers are the reasons why we are still in business customers. Therefore, the DMD must be capable of satisfying the needs and desires of our customer” (M11).
“DMD helps to relate to our customers, without it it will be difficult to relate with customers and meet their desires [–]” M12.
This is consistent with Moon (2003) that found that when technology plays an essential role in the buying decision process, their performance is critical to business success (Eze and Chinedu-Eze, 2018a, 2018b; Gbadegeshin et al., 2019). The implication of this is that SME managers are willing to adopt DMD if it would help them acquire new ones and retain the existing ones.
Competition is forces that compel the stability of a business. According to managers’strong competition influences DMD adoption success. This was echoed across cases:
“Because we are small and we want to remain in business, we must compete by getting an application that can help up fight competition” (M5).
“Because of the intense competition going on, I was concerned that we might be left behind” (M1).
“One thing that made us competitive, is because we often adopt new IT” (M9).
Khoumbati et al. (2006) similarly argue that competition is a significant determinants technology adoption by micro-businesses. DMD was both considered small business managers as a strategy that may improve the marketshare, promote businessactivities and remain competitive (Zhu et al., 2003; Zafar and Mustafa, 2017; Rahayu and Day, 2017; Gbadegeshin et al., 2019). The implication is that value SME managers attach to DMD is to be able to fight competition which is consistent with Salmela and Turunen (2003)’ study.
Budget is linked to how effective the DMD would be in providing services with another expensive application offer as well as helping the firms’ business processes without having to pay much. Micro-businesses are often deprived because they often lack resources to maintain their businesses; hence, they would prefer to minimise cost and improve profit margin continually. Therefore, the impact most micro-businesses anticipate from DMD is its ability to reduce cost. This was reverberated by managers: [M2], [M4], [M6], [M10], [M11], and [M23], and further supported:
“At the moment we are small. If it is relatively cheap and can accommodate our budget we are good to try it” (M1).
“[–] Budget is one of the key success factors we consider [–]. Can the application help reduce our budget in terms of cost and workforce?” (M15).
“We take both thneed and budget into consideration” (A20).
Consistent with the finding, Pirich et al. (2001) note that choice of micro-business managers to embrace any new technology dependent on the cost as well as the benefit and help in the long-term benefit of the firm (Lacovou and Dexter, 1995; Ramayah et al., 2016). The finding implies that if the budget associated with DMD is believed to be high, such technology may not be considered (Madukua et al., 2016; Khoumbati et al., 2006; Eze and Chinedu-Eze, 2018a; PR Newswire, 2019).
Technology advances productivity and helps small business in conducting their business activities and develop new industries. SMEs would experience improvement in business performance for those with specific growth objectives (Locke, 2004; Eze et al., 2014, 2018; McGrath and Maiye, 2010; Zafar and Mustafa, 2017). Business expansion is associated with the strength of the employees and market share tied to the IT devices. From the analysis, it was revealed that micro-businesses might be slow in engagingin DMD. However, such application must guarantee high performance as this can only be achieved through expansion:
“Our motivates to look for new DMDs is growth. How regular can the technology assist in increasing our customer base?” (M14).
“Can we acquire 45 clients or more in less than three months? That alone will be a deciding factor” (M5).
“If the DMD is good for the business’s growth and expansion it will be tried” (A9).
The finding suggests that managers see business expansionas values the technology can bring to the business such as an increase in market share, sales volume as well as the extent to which customer is acquired and retained.
Technology diversity is the capacity of the DMD to create unique services at all times or a niche that competitors may not be able to cope with, which may increase the chances of acquiring new clients. In the cause of the analysis, it was revealed that managers of micro-businesses might adopt DMD because of fair of being left behind. Hence, technology diversity was seen as a crucial influential factor, as noted across cases:
“for us to decide on that will depend largely on cost reduction of the application as well as assisting us in creating a niche in the market” (M5).
The DMDs should be able to differentiate us from our rivalry? (M13) by helping us to create something new at all times.
“We often consider special attributes of the technology and what it can bring to the business.” A16
The finding is similar to previous studies (Lip-Sam and Hock-Eam, 2011; Ramayah et al., 2016; Brown and Lockett, 2004; Yunis et al., 2017; Gbadegeshin et al., 2019). The finding implies that the diversity of any DMD is often linked to the capacity of the devices to distinguish a business from competitors.
Return on investment
Return on investment is linked to the profits that DMD are capable of generating. It includes but not limited to market values and future abnormal returns by a business (Henderson et al., 2010; Eze et al., 2012). It was revealed that the majority of privately owned are profit-oriented, and businesses fail to generate a return on investments and increases in market shares which may windup in no distant time. This was supported supported: [M2], [M5], [M12], [M13] and M14,
“[–] We would always consider DMDs that can help us maximise profit” (M20).
“If we invest #30,000, can it yield #15,000?” (M23).
“We are after satisfying our clients as well as profit-making. If we are not doing that, we will short the company down” (A9).
The implication of this is that return on investment triggers investment in technology (Lim et al., 2011; Cavusoglu et al., 2004; TAL, 2018; Zafar and Mustafa, 2017; Rahayu and Day, 2017; Gbadegeshin et al., 2019; Teo et al., 2011). Hence, profit means that the organisation is satisfying its customers because the DMD adopted renders services that meet customers’ demands.