MBA Research

Hi-Tech SMEs and Partnership Management (2009 MBA Project)

Download a 2-page executive summary: (English, PDF)

The topic for my MBA research sprung largely out of my previous experience working in the EU for a B2B software developer.

On a world scale, the company was a mouse at the time. Market penetration in Canada and the US was proceeding well. However, Europe provided a different order of challenge. Our particular niche was all about high-value strategic B2B software projects, multi-level selling, public tenders and selling professional services alongside the software. Easy, right?

Wrong. Breaking into Europe required competencies and resources we didn’t have yet: local knowledge, contacts, links to locally-established brands and personalities. Perhaps most importantly, we lacked scale.  While we could “buy” some of these resources ourselves (for example by hiring locals), budget limitations meant we couldn’t initially have a permanent presence in every market, or even pursue these markets consistently from a distance. Partnerships at multiple levels were required – including resellers and systems integrators.

We were mice working with gorillas: we had to attract the gorillas’ attention, convince them to work with us, and then build a relationship that benefited us both… being careful not to get crushed or ignored in the process!

These challenges have largely inspired the theme for my research project – how small and medium enterprises in the I.T. sector engage and partner with much larger multi-national corporations .

Some of the questions I addressed in my research include:

  • How do small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) establish and maintain partnerships with large firms that are mutually beneficial?
  • What are the ways in which SMEs can play on their particular advantages to ensure that their value is recognised by the larger partner, without being swallowed up or ignored?
  • Is there a current “best practice”, or does each SME improvise their partnership strategy as best they can?  (These best practices might need to span multiple business functions, including HR, marketing/communications, R&D, business development and senior management)
  • Is ‘Partnership Management’ a distinct competency/role in itself ? To what degree is it a skill that needs to be developed in multiple parts of the business?

My project focused on strategies and practices that work for SMEs, with a particular reference to IT/hi-tech businesses, and the European/EMEA business context.

Download a 2-page executive summary: (English, PDF)

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