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"eBusiness Enablement for Irish SMEs: the role of Human Resource Information Systems"

This project represents the key element in CISC's participation in a wider project eNableSME funded by Enterprise Ireland under the Advanced Technologies Research Programme 2002 and involving CIMRU (Computer Integrated Manufacturing Research Unit) and the Department of Information Technology at NUI Galway.

The solutions required by SMEs to help them meet the demands of eCommerce are social and technical in nature. Addressing technical issues alone can cause disfunction and resistance to change. This research project proposes to take a holistic approach to providing solutions for SMEs to compete and grow in the environment created by the digital economy. Three interrelated sets research goals have been identified following extensive discussions with representatives of the Irish SME sector. These are:
(1) The analysis and development of cost effective internet based solutions for development planning, performance measurement and project portfolio management.

(2) Analysis of human resource issues within SMEs and the development of tools and methodologies to help companies manage skills and competency transitions.

(3) Analysis of the technical infrastructure and the development of low cost digital solutions to help SMEs migrate towards being a full player in the virtual supply chain. These three sets of goals and associated tasks when addressed holistically offer the greatest opportunity of providing SMEs with practical knowledge, tools and techniques for meeting customer requirements with respect to better service and cost effective products.

Project Leader:

Dr Tony Dundon


Ralf Burbach

Role of CISC
The role of CISC in this project is fourfold. First, an extensive literature review will assess existing human resource capabilities, information systems and processes with specific regard to virtual supply chains. Second, an industry survey will be conducted among a sample of Irish SMEs to evaluate the extent of human resource information systems in relation to existing and future organisational demands. Third, follow-up case study analysis will assess the threats and opportunities of integrating a systematic HRIS with key personnel practices (recruitment, retention, training, reward and involvement). Finally, the expertise within CISC will utilise the findings to devise a set of diagnostic audit tools for HRIS among SMEs.

HRIS with SMEs
The development of a competent and capable workforce is qualitatively more difficult for SMEs than for many larger organisations. This difficult may be intensified for SMEs operating through virtual supply chains. Small indigenous firms tend to rely on a variety of informal and ad hoc managerial processes whereas the larger competitors often have at their disposal the use of advanced technologies and associated processes for people management. In contrast, many SMEs focus their attention on administrative and fragmented tasks such as record keeping and payroll data. Very few use any integrated Human Resource Information System (HRIS) that aligns the key activities such as recruitment, training, reward and knowledge competencies with broader organisational objectives. Significantly, HRIS is more than technological; it is process-driven in both its design and application.
Given the absence of systematic HRIS among many indigenous SMEs, the result is that many firms rely on informal and ad hoc systems for employees to exchange accurate information with customers, among managers and between industry regulators. Indeed, many firms have to simply rely on the ?good will? of employees. The absence of these transaction applications and processes can lead to significant loss in term of competitive objectives. Recruitment is often difficult and patchy, and with the lack of a systematic strategy for HRIS, the organisation is often left exposed to legal irregularities. In other SMEs that rely on professional and technical staff, many employees simply exit the organisation given the lack adequate voice processes when faced with managerial change dilemmas.

In this part of the research plan the issues of change management and the process applications of HRIS will be evaluated at two levels. The first is ?knowledge architecture?. This is concerned with the strategic planning and innovation required for effective HRIS implementation. It is often assumed that people with the correct competencies and abilities exist when in practice issues such as labour turnover, skill, training and involvement are delicate matters central to any strategic vision. The second level is concerned with ?knowledge facilitation?. When the need for systematic HRIS arises, these are often considered post-implementation. People management system may be better addressed further up the planning and value-added process. The capacity for people to deliver and adapt to changing technical and ebusiness environments may therefore hinder implementation or facilitate opportunities for adaptation.

The research will evaluate these issues at the industry, organisational and process levels, with a particular focus on the opportunities and potential barriers between ?Develop SME?, ?Operate SME? and HRIS processes.

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