Supporting SMEs in partnerships: towards a relational capability framework

Els, Caro (2019-04)

Thesis (MEng)--Stellenbosch University, 2019.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: In a developing country such as South Africa, the survival and growth of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) is critical to the growth and prosperity of the country. Their importance for the modern economy, and their contribution to economic development is widely recognised and accepted. Nevertheless, they face several challenges which result in high failure rates. With the fast pace of technological change, and an increasingly dynamic business landscape, the topic of SME support is becoming more important. The changing business landscape can be viewed from an ecosystem perspective to make sense of the emerging, abstract concepts. The ecosystem perspective provides an alternative lens that captures this transformation by emphasising the importance of relationships, partnerships, and collaboration. It is becoming increasingly recognised that there are several strategic benefits for both large and small firms to enter into collaborative, symbiotic partnerships. Many characteristics inherent to SMEs, such as agility, flexibility and innovative capabilities are characteristics that larger firms are increasingly looking for in partners. The reality of partnerships however, particularly for an SME, is that they are both complex and challenging. If SMEs do not have guidance to strategically apply these characteristics, their already limited resources would constantly be placed under even more strain. In this vein, the study was continued with the objective to develop a framework that can guide a South African SME to identify, and improve the capabilities required to develop business-to-business (B2B) relationships in business ecosystems. In pursuit of this objective, the systems engineering approach was utilised to guide the problem solving process. This involved identifying the requirements that are necessary or compulsory for a relationship to function as desired, and converting these requirements into relational capabilities through which the requirements can be addressed in an SME. The relational capabilities were subsequently consolidated into a two-dimensional framework, referred to as the Relational Capability Framework (RCF). The RCF however needed to be transformed into a tool that could be used to guide an SME to identify and improve the necessary relational capabilities. This was done by adding a third dimension, Capability maturity, to the RCF to develop the Relational Capability Maturity Model (RCMM). The RCF and related RCMM were subject to a three-stage validation process. This involved 1) a capability ranking questionnaire, 2) two illustrated case studies, and 3) semi-structured interviews. Throughout this process, the RCF was continuously refined in order to provide the confidence that the framework delivers on its main objective. The RCMM was applied using a three-stage improvement process, including 1) evaluation, 2) planning and 3) improvement. Through the practical application, the framework has been proven to be useful in creating explicit knowledge. This knowledge can in turn be used to guide an SME to become self-aware, learn about their capabilities and identify opportunities for improvement. The framework presents a vehicle through which SMEs have the opportunity to address and improve their relational capabilities, and strengthen their position in B2B relationships. Through enabling SMEs to do this, it is believed to bring them one step closer to increased survivability, and increased success.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die welstand en ontwikkeling van klein- en medium ondernemings (KMO's) in 'n ontwikkelende land soos Suid-Afrika, is uiters belangrik vir die groei en vooruitgang van die land. Die rol van KMO’s in die moderne ekonomie, en hul bydrae tot ekonomiese ontwikkeling word wyd erken en aanvaar. Ten spyte van die belangrikheid, staar hul verskeie uitdagings in die gesig, en dit lei uiteindelik tot hoë mislukkingskoerse. Teen die pas wat tegnologie vorder, word die besigheidslandskap dinamies. Om hierdie rede word die onderwerp van KMO-ondersteuning belangriker. Om ʼn beter begrip te kry van die ontluikende, abstrakte konsepte wat gepaard gaan met die veranderende besigheidslandskap, word dit bestudeer vanaf ʼn ekosisteem perspektief. Hierdie perspektief bied 'n alternatiewe lens wat die transformasie kan vasvang. Dit beklemtoom die belangrikheid van verhoudings, vennootskappe en samewerking. Besigheids-ekosisteme behels verskeie strategiese voordele vir beide groot en klein ondernemings om samewerkende, simbiotiese vennootskappe te betree. Baie eienskappe wat aan KMO's onderhewig is, soos behendigheid, aanpasbaarheid en innovasie vermoëns, is eienskappe wat groter maatskappye al hoe meer in vennote begeer. Die realiteit van vennootskappe, veral vir 'n KMO, is egter dat hulle kompleks en uitdagend is. As KMO's nie leiding het om hierdie eienskappe strategies te benut nie, sal hul reeds beperkte hulpbronne voortdurend onder meer druk geplaas word. Die studie is voortgesit met die doel om 'n raamwerk te ontwikkel wat 'n Suid-Afrikaanse KMO kan lei om die vermoëns wat nodig is om besigheid-tot-besigheid (B2B) verhoudings te ontwikkel, te identifiseer en te verbeter. Die stelsel-ingenieursbenadering is gevolg met die doelwit om die probleemoplossingsproses te lei. Die proses behels eerstens die identifisering van die vereistes wat nodig en verpligtend is vir 'n verhouding om te funksioneer soos verlang. Daarna word die vereistes omskep in verhoudingsvermoë waardeur hierdie vereistes in 'n KMO aangespreek kan word. Die verhoudingsvermoëns is vervolgens saamgevat in 'n tweedimensionele raamwerk, naamlik die Verhoudingsvermoë Raamwerk (VVR). Die VVR moes egter omskep word in 'n hulpmiddel wat gebruik kan word deur 'n KMO om die nodige verhoudingsvermoë te identifiseer en te verbeter. Die hulpmiddel is ontwikkel deur 'n derde dimensie by te voeg tot die VVR, naamlik vermoëns-volwassenheid. Hierdie hulpmiddel word die Verhoudingsvermoë Volwassenheid Model (VVVM) genoem. Die VVM en verwante VVVM was onderhewig aan drie opeenvolgende fases van validering. Dit sluit 'n vermoë ranglys vraelys, twee gevallestudies, en semi-gestruktureerde onderhoude in. Gedurende hierdie proses is die VVM voortdurend verfyn om te verseker dat die raamwerk op sy hoofdoelstelling lewer. Die VVVM is toegepas met behulp van 'n drie-stap verbetering proses, naamlik evaluering, beplanning en verbetering. Deur hierdie praktiese toepassing is dit bewys dat die raamwerk bruikbaar is om eksplisiete kennis te skep. Hierdie kennis kan op sy beurt gebruik word om 'n KMO te lei om bewus te word van hul interne eienskappe, te leer oor hul vermoëns en geleenthede vir verbetering te identifiseer. Die raamwerk bied 'n instrument waarvolgens KMO's die geleentheid het om hul verhoudingsvermoëns aan te spreek en te verbeter, en sodoende hul posisie in B2B-verhoudings te versterk. Deur KMO’s in staat te stel om dit te doen, word geglo dat dit hulle een stap nader aan beter oorlewingsvermoë en groter sukses sal bring.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/106019
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