Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Faculty of Business and Public Management

First Advisor

Professor Janice Burn

Second Advisor

Associate Professor Dieter Fink


The majority of SMEs have neither the internal expertise nor financial resources to enable in-house development of electronic commerce and therefore turn to the services of website design consultants to assist them. Unfortunately, they often engage consultants without any clear idea of their intended e-business strategy and without due care as to effective engagement processes. This frequently leads to ineffective e-business development and a highly disaffected group of small entrepreneurs. The study suggests that there is a significant gap between the intended strategies of SMEs and the actual e-business strategy implemented. The study aimed to investigate the relationship between Australian Small and Medium Enterprises, Internet strategy and the engagement of website design consultants. The objectives of the research project were firstly, to identify factors including SME engagement of website design consultants, and other factors presented in previous research that may influence the success of online organizations. Secondly, to construct a framework for analysing those factors' which may influence the success of online organizations. Finally, to provide a set of critical development factors that may be used by Australian SMEs to implement the online organisation. The research methodology chosen used an interpretivist perspective and incorporated a multiple cross-case study approach. Four research instruments were employed in the study to enable triangulation of data and to increase validity and reliability. A pilot study was conducted and the results were used to refine and develop the data collection methods, procedures and theory development for the main study. The expected outcomes of the research project included developing a framework to enhance negotiations between website design consultants and Australian SMEs; to design a set of critical development factors, in relation to Internet strategy and consultant engagement, that may be used by Australian SMEs and consultants to facilitate the implementation of the online organization; and to provide a summarised report to Dow Digital in fulfilment of the requirements of the research funding, and to publish a number of papers based on the research project.