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A Study and Analysis of Management Training Techniques for the Heads of SMEs, particularly Using the Information and

Communication Technologies (ICTs)

Final Report 22nd December 2000

Contract DGENT 99/C/A3/31 S12.128934


Funded by DG Enterprise of the European Commission

NJM European, Economic and Management Consultants Ltd.

Contents

Section Schematic Presentation 1 2 3 Executive Summary Introduction Expertise Needs of Heads of SMEs: a review of existing knowledge 3.1 Approach 3.2 Characteristics of SMEs 3.3 Characteristics of Entrepreneurs 3.4 EU Policy concerning SMEs and ICT development 3.5 General Usage of ICTs by SMEs 3.6 Summary of position for heads of SMEs 4 The Use of Information and Communication Technologies in Training 4.1 What is ICT Based Training 4.2 A Virtual Learning Environment 4.3 Current Position of ICTBT 5 Research into Priorities of Heads of SMEs 5.1 Composition of sample 5.2 General use of ICTs 5.3 Experience of ICT-based training

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5.4 Training preferences of SME managers 5.5 The effect of size 5.6 Analysis of effect of sex of respondent 5.7 Learning styles of SME managers 5.8 Requirements of Heads of SMEs

38 51 57 61 62

Analysis of Best Practice in the European Union 6.1 Interviews with training providers 6.2 Evidence of size differentiation 6.3 What training programmes are being offered? 6.4 Evidence of quality and involvement of SMEs 6.5 What networks do the training providers belong to? 6.6 Evidence of best practice in delivery - traditional techniques 6.7 Evidence of best practice in delivery - ICT techniques

63 63 63 63 64 65 66 67 67 68 70 72 75 77

6.7.1 How is ICT being used? 6.7.2 What advantages does ICT offer for training SME managers? 6.7.3 What are the problems in using ICT in training? 6.7.4 What would make it easier to deliver ICT-based training?
6.8 Identifying best practice: focus group results 6.9 Conclusions regarding best practice from the European Union

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Identifying Best Practice in the United States 7.1 E-learning 7.2 US Small Business Administration 7.3 The virtual university 7.4 Best practice from EU-US collaboration 7.5 Best practice in traditional techniques 7.6 Conclusions - Best Practice from the United States

79 79 80 80 81 82 83 85 85 85 86 86 87 89 89 90 90

Conclusions 8.1 Demand from Heads of SMEs 8.2 Preferences of Heads of SMEs 8.3 Use of ICTBT by Heads of SMEs 8.4 Provision of Management Training 8.5 Bridging training and consultancy 8.6 Priorities of Heads of SMEs 8.7 Good Practice in Course Development 8.8 The ICTBT Opportunity 8.9 Problems and Constraints in providing Management Training to Heads of SMEs

Recommendations

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Heads of SMEs 1. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Section 1: Executive Summary

The study has investigated management training techniques for the heads of SMEs. This has involved: assessing training requirements of a sample of Heads of SMEs within seven EU Member States (Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Portugal, and United Kingdom). examination of the use of ICTs by Heads of SMEs in their management role and within the context of training review of current practices in the EU and USA with respect to SME management training and use of ICT in training development of best practice recommendations regarding training for Heads of SMEs, with particular reference to the use of ICTs The Role and Characteristics of the SME Manager As the chief decision-maker, the head of an SME has to respond quickly to changes in all areas of business. There is a focus on problem solving across all business areas and managing time in the short term. He or she is constantly moving from the exercise of one management skill to another. The rounded entrepreneurial role is different from that of a manager in a large company. To be relevant training needs to deal with immediate tasks and real problems. Training Provision for the SME Manager Within the regions surveyed there is a low level of management training directed specifically at SMEs. This is particularly the case for micro firms. Training provision suffers from defects of content, access, flexibility and cost. Trainers often lack experience in SMEs. SMEs are also concerned about quality of training and getting information about training. In terms of delivery of training, the majority of managers want training at their request. They have preferences for short courses, group work and one to one advice or mentoring. However, there is a variety of demand determined by the nature of the firm and the character of the manager. A variety of provision needs to respond to this. There is a lack of use of ICT for training among managers. There is also a lack of appropriate material available in ICT form. Furthermore, there are concerns over quality and relevance of existing material. Managers have some negative opinions about ICT for training and there is a lack of knowledge about the technology and techniques of ICT based learning. This is partly a reflection of the still undeveloped state of ICT supported training, where good practice has yet to be fully developed. Recognised good practice in training of all groups with ICT support involves a balance of human interaction and ICT elements. The former has been underestimated in the entire domain. This element is particularly important to the SME manager, and has been a major reservation in taking up ICT supported training. Existence of Good Practice Good practice in meeting the needs of Heads of SMEs exists in Europe. It is also growing. There are three main elements concerning the design process, delivery and use of ICT. Design needs to take account of the needs of the manager and firm. These include sector-specific material, differentiation in provision between small and
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Heads of SMEs

Section 1: Executive Summary

medium firms and regular feedback and evaluation from managers of SMEs. Delivery can involve a variety of mechanisms within the training programme to increase interest and flexibility. Best practice delivery techniques include: groupwork, mentoring, problem solving, use of SME case studies, networking and use of ICT support tools. ICT does represent an opportunity for managers and training providers to overcome a number of barriers to the delivery of training. The advantages include: access at any time and place; proceeding at ones own tempo; access to a variety of sources; interactivity, good teacher contact and individual support through email; instant response and the ability to update and customise the material. Recommendations Realising the potential of heads of SMEs requires action at Member State and European levels. The weight of the actions falls on the Member States with the Commission playing a supportive role. More support is needed for heads of SMEs that meets their requirements in terms of content and delivery. To do this the distinctive differences within the SME market need to be recognised, especially the different requirements of micro and small firms. Provision needs to bridge the division between training and consultancy to meet the practical needs of SME managers. The Commission should play a role to ensure the development of quality standards and exchange of expertise. ICTBT presents an enormous opportunity to overcome the hurdles of time and place in the provision of support to SMEs. However, development costs put it outside the range of most SMEs. Member States should provide services through ICTBT to overcome this problem. Again, the Commission should play a co-ordinating role, encouraging exchanges and the development of quality standards. EU programmes such as Leonardo da Vinci and the Structural Funds can play a significant role to these ends. To overcome lack of trainers with expertise in either ICTBT or SME delivery, the training of trainers with these skills should be supported at a Member State level. The Commission should support these activities through Concerted Actions. At a European level, the benchmarking of provision in Member States is important to support the above three recommendations. This activity should involve quantitative benchmarking to determine the actual access heads of SMEs have to provisions and qualitative benchmarking of provision through the development of quality standards.

Heads of SMEs 1.1 Summary of New Findings

Section 1: Executive Summary

The need for further investigation in certain crucial areas surrounding the needs of heads of SMEs in terms of training and access to expertise is itemised. The principal ways in which this study has met that need is set out below. About Heads of SMEs Requirements for training of heads of SMEs Heads of SMEs are different from employees. They exhibit activist and pragmatist learning styles, prefer learning by doing and favour problem-centred approaches that offer flexibility. For more formal courses, heads of SMEs expressed six priorities: Relevance to real business situation Problem solving Short duration Flexible delivery Networking Quality assurance However, the requirements of the managers was for provision, which bridged consultancy and training. The three crucial elements are individualised support, focus on the SME itself and interaction. Size of company is a factor in preferences, with managers of micro, small and medium firms often having different requirements. There is a lack of training provision for micro firms. Opinions of heads on available training Constraints to take up of training include: time and place, cost and quality. There is a difficulty in finding information on the nature of the training available. The credibility of the deliverer for an SME audience is important. Suggested mechanisms for overcoming constraints include: better access and flexibility, grants and information on the nature and quality of training. Use has grown fast, and many managers are competent in standard applications. The sample showed a high general use of ICTs, with nearly 90% of managers using email and Internet. 92% are using ICT for financial management and 40-50% are using it for other types of management. 25% have used e-commerce. The sample is therefore likely to be one of early adopters of ICT solutions About a quarter of managers have used ICTBT, with most common forms being CD-ROM, email and Internet search. Managers like the potential for immediacy, up-to-date material and learning at own pace offered by ICTBT. Problems exist regarding lack of human support, poor presentation and unreliability of technology. There is a need to develop quality assurance and reduce the cost of access. Recommendation from other SMEs is a factor in use of ICTBT.

Usage and expertise in ICT

Experience of ICT supported training Attitudes to ICT supported training

Heads of SMEs

Section 1: Executive Summary

Training provision Nature of training for heads of SMEs

There is a lack of specific training for heads of SMEs. The SME training that is provided tends to serve either start-ups or medium sized firms. Executive training at business schools is often targeted at larger companies, and demands fairly strict timetables. There is a lack of best practice/expertise for training SME managers. There are no guides or standards as to how training providers should deliver quality training to SME managers.

Constraints on providers

SME managers are not a remunerative market. It is therefore difficult to justify the costs for the specialised provision. It is also difficult to recruit trainers with appropriate backgrounds in SMEs. Although the SME market is not a prime market for training providers, both EU and US bodies active in the field held interaction and, dealing with real problems to be important elements of provision. The survey of training providers identified good practice in the process of development and delivery of management training for heads of SMEs. Research or market analysis Involvement of SMEs in design, to enable a client-centred approach involves building relationships with SMEs or groups of SMEs On-site initial assessment of the needs of the SME manager Expertise and experience of trainers in SMEs Generation of entrepreneur networks for participants Evaluation and feedback ICT is used as a support tool in training delivery to SME managers by several providers. Much provision is low quality, books on the screen. However, this is changing fast. E learning companies exist in the USA and EU. North America has a much larger e learning industry. However, provision is predominantly corporate or academic, with little provision for SMEs. The North American industry has developed the technology and many of the delivery techniques, which are being imported into Europe. However, there remains a large need for content. Constraints on ICTBT are pedagogical, technical and commercial Pedagogical Disadvantages include: Rigidity in navigation through the material Lack of human interaction with trainer and other trainees Technical Disadvantages include: Prior Knowledge of ICT techniques Appropriate ICT Infrastructure Delivery Speed inadequate for the use of sound and motion video, because of inadequate bandwith. Security: Internet usage involves a security risk to published materials as well as raising the possibility of viral attack

Attitudes of providers

Use of ICT in training delivery for SMEs

Constraints in ICT delivery

Heads of SMEs

Section 1: Executive Summary

Commercial Disadvantages focus on cost. Creation of materials involves the use of expensive labour. It may not be economical for those with only a minority interest. This has a direct implication for SMEs, as their training needs are often very specific. Attitudes of providers to ICT delivery Providers had positive attitudes to ICTBT. The most common were Time saving Easier to give individual advice Overcoming distance and time barriers Ability of trainee to organise his or her learning better ICT offers a good way of getting information Trainees become more familiar with the technologies that are now important for e-commerce Personalising of training Repetition is easier However, there were concerns over cost, less to do with development of sites and materials, but more to do with maintaining adequate tutor support at a distance.

Heads of SMEs 2. INTRODUCTION

Section 2: Introduction

This document forms the final report of Contract DGENT 99/C/A3/31 S12.128934. "A Study and Analysis of Management Training Techniques for the Heads of SMEs, particularly Using the Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs)" All work presented in this study has been carried out by a project consortium comprising the main contractor: NJM European, Economic and Management Consultants Ltd and the following organisations: Tampere Technology Centre Ltd Bretagne Innovation Technologie Transfer Zentrum Thessaloniki Technologi Park CSEA ISQ CRE Group Ltd FINLAND FRANCE GERMANY GREECE ITALY PORTUGAL UNITED KINGDOM

Details of these organisations are presented as Appendix 4 to this report. 2.1 Objectives of the Study

The objectives of this study were to: Assess training requirements of a sample of Heads of SMEs within seven EU Member States (Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Portugal, and United Kingdom). Examine the use of ICTs by Heads of SMEs in each of the seven Member States in (a) their management role and (b) within the context of training Review current status in the EU and USA with respect to (a) management training, (b) SME-specific training and (c) use of ICT in training Develop, based on the findings of the previous objectives, best practice recommendations regarding training for Heads of SMEs, with particular reference to the use of ICTs Obtain feedback on best practice recommendations from Heads of SMEs and training providers Present best practice recommendations in the context of (a) relevant EU policy and programmes and (b) future actions for support at an EU level

By fulfilling these objectives, the study has been able to present empirical data regarding the current status of management training and use of ICTs in training in seven Member States. It has developed a set of recommendations for action and support at an EU level.

Heads of SMEs 2.2 Structure of the work undertaken

Section 2: Introduction

The work took the following pattern. Review of literature Bringing together an expert team Survey of heads of SMEs in seven European regions Identification of heads of SMEs needs & demands Identification of suppliers in seven European regions Review of North American provision Selection of best practice cases for interview Interviews with providers Production of initial elements of good practice Feedback from heads of SMEs & providers on the elements of good practice Recommendations A description of the methodology applied and examples of the information collection tools are provided as appendices to this report. 2.3 The contents of this report

The main body of this report comprises the following sections: Expertise needs of heads of SMEs: a review of existing knowledge The Use of ICTBT: a review of the current position of ICTBT Research into Priorities of Heads of SMEs: findings of research into the use of ICTBT and training preferences of heads of SMEs Identification of best practice providers: the methods and techniques used to identify best practice and its providers. An analysis of EU and US practices Conclusions: summary of good practice using both traditional and ICT techniques and constraints in delivery. Recommendations

Heads of SMEs
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Section 3 : Expertise Needs of heads of SMEs.

EXPERTISE NEEDS OF HEADS OF SMES: a review of existing knowledge Approach

3.1

The first component of the study was an initial assessment of the current status in Europe and the US regarding: (a) (b) (c) Management training, with specific reference to training Heads of SMEs Use of ICT in training, again with specific reference to training Heads of SMEs The nature of SMEs and their development

This work took the form of a literature survey, making use of the following sources: Reviews of research reports and studies Reviews of reports relating to projects undertaken through LEONARDO DA VINCI, ADAPT, Framework IV Reviews of relevant EU policy documentation Web searches Informal discussions with training providers Attendance at conferences Initial searches were updated throughout the lifetime of the project to ensure relevance of material. 3.2 Characteristics of SMEs

The challenge in designing management training for SMEs is to gain an understanding of the needs and difficulties they face and to design training which responds to these needs in terms of both content and means of delivery. There are over 19 million small and medium sized firms in the European Union. They amount to over 99 per cent of non-primary private enterprises and employ almost twice as many people (77 million) as large firms. The notion of a 'typical' SME is misleading. The group of firms is very heterogeneous. It is convenient to classify firms by size1. size very small small medium no of enterprises 18,040,000 1,130,000 160,000 average no of employees 2 20 90 labour productivity 30,000 50,000 95,000

While very small and small firms have a lower labour productivity than large firms (90,000), medium sized firms do better. Furthermore, profitability in small firms was the highest of all size classes. Beyond the simple size categories, SMEs display large differences in other ways. The CEDEFOP report2 considered the views of a number of SME experts. Low managerial
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source The European Observatory for SMEs, Sixth Report, December 1999

Improving SME access to training: strategies for success A report on best practice in EC Member States European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (1994).

Heads of SMEs

Section 3 : Expertise Needs of heads of SMEs.

qualifications, poor quality management, limited quality control, poor prospects and a negative attitude to training were considered to exist in SMEs by 10 out of 12 experts. However the SME category also encompasses numbers of dynamic fims which have a high capacity for growth. They exhibit characteristics, such as above average pay and a particular concern with training3, the very high educational background of managers of New Technology Based Firms4, human resource managerial skills and a concern with quality5. As firms grow, they demand different skills of management. Firms may be classified into three main types, in terms of the workload of the entrepreneur. These are: owner manager with a few assistants, who fits in administration on top of delivering work owner manager, who largely supervises staff, while undertaking both delivery and administrative duties manager, who delegates many tasks to responsible other members of staff6. Managers in the three positions are likely to have different training demands. The ability to negotiate the transitions between such positions is seen as a crucial skill7. However, divisions such as stages are an inevitable simplification. Storey shows through the results of a number of studies that factors such as the nature of the firm, chosen business strategy and the nature of the entrepreneur are all crucial for business growth.8 The management training needs for SMEs in the same size bracket may still be very different. Although the SME group is heterogeneous, SMEs do share a number of characteristics, which may be important, when looking at the need to develop expertise. The size of the firm ensures that it functions in different way from larger firms. Informality and the performance of multiple tasks characterise the management style of a SME. The pressures on the SME have been characterised by Henri Mah de Boislandelle9, as the effects of magnification, which itself can be broken down into three elements: l' effet papillon, (the butterfly effect), whereby small factors, such as the loss of one member of staff, may disrupt business greatly. For many SMEs, the business situation is inherently unstable. l'effet de microcosme, (the effect of small scale), through which the unstable business situation brings both short term flexibility and short term focus. Hence there is a lack of planning. l'effet d' egotrophie, (the effect of one person focus) whereby the manager tends to centralise all decision making in his or her own hands to cope with unstable situation. There is thus a barrier to growth beyond a point through an inability to delegate.

http://www.eim.nl/docum/observat.htm European Innovation Monitoring System Publication 31, New Technology Based Firms in Europe, European Commission, 1997. 5 Europes 500: Dynamic Entrepreneurs: the job creators A preliminary summary of the major findings. Gent, Belgium, November 16-18, EFER (1995) 6 The Entrepreneurial Middle Class, Scase, R., and Goffee, R., (1982), Croome Helme, London 7 European Innovation Monitoring System Study 42, Review of studies on innovative fast growing SMEs, European Commission, 1997. 8 Understanding the Small Business Sector Storey, D.J. (1994), Routledge, London 9 Gestion des resources humaines dans les PME, Economica 2e d, 1998
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Section 3 : Expertise Needs of heads of SMEs.

Although an 'ideal type' classification, the above picture represents challenges, which the managers of small and medium sized firms must confront, and overcome in order to prosper. Thus delegation is an essential element in high growth firms10. However, Storey has pointed out that 4 per cent of new firm foundations will eventually provide 50 per cent of all employment created by new firms. Therefore the number of firms overcoming these barriers may be small. 3.3 Characteristics of Entrepreneurs Entrepreneurs vary as much as their firms. The main motivations for owner management involve those of independence, desire for a secure family income, and the lack of an alternative job opportunity. Most have no higher education, and have fewer management qualifications than managers in larger firms. In this respect, the SME survey for this study does not present a typical SME manager as 78% are educated to degree level or higher (see section 5 figure 4). Most entrepreneurs never intend to run high growth firms. For many it is simply a means of earning a living, and aggressive competition in the market place is something they wish to avoid. This is true of NTBFs as well as of more traditional sectors. Furthermore founders of NTBFs have a tendency to concentrate on the technology, rather than the business, and such an approach is consistent with their priorities. UK studies also indicate the managers are very reluctant to lose control of the firms. This is not simply a European phenomenon, studies of Canadian owner managers also indicate a great reluctance to gain external capital to grow, if this means losing complete control of the businesses11. The strong importance placed on independence in setting up a small firm is reflected in a reluctance to allow the firm to grow beyond the point, where such independence can be maintained. There have been a number of studies examining the characteristics of successful entrepreneurs, i.e. those with high growth companies, or several successful businesses. An archetype innovative fast-growing SME is about 10-20 years old, employing about 100 people with a turnover of about 20 million. The SME Observatory indicates that managers of rapidly growing SMEs are open minded, value training, are market oriented and experienced, and can delegate responsibilities. This picture of a person with balanced skills is confirmed by the EIMS 42 and EFER studies. Studies do indicate the crucial importance of the personality of the entrepreneur in the development of the firm. Rae and Carswell indicate that the learning style and approach of the entrepreneur are key factors, rather than any formal learning of management or business techniques. Inculcating attitudes to openness and opportunity and techniques to achieve these may be more important than specific content in training programmes. Hence the need for programmes to include entrepreneurial skills. It is suggested in EIMS 42 that innovative entrepreneurship relies on building, nurturing and maintaining an extensive and diverse set of network relationships in order to gather intelligence, supplement internal resources and provide moral support.

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Understanding entrepreneurial learning Rae & Carswell, ISBA, 1999 Feeney, L., Haines, G., Riding, A.., SME owners awareness and acceptance of equity capital, presented at The small capital conference, Warwick, April 1999.

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Heads of SMEs

Section 3 : Expertise Needs of heads of SMEs.

SMEs of all sizes present a consistent picture of the conditions, under which they will undertake training. These involve: quality; timing; and location12. Quality is understood to include training, which is directly relevant to the business, as well as involving trainers, who can understand, what it is like to run an SME. Many managers are self-taught and hold no management qualifications. Many may recognise the value of training but have difficulty in identifying their specific needs. Thus self-diagnosis skills may be important. The Curren13 study shows that 47% of owner managers rely on themselves and other members of the firm for training, supported by technical literature. Equipment suppliers, private sector companies and trade bodies were also used. Many SMEs are reluctant to take up outside training offers. The CEDEFOP experts' study indicates causes such as : negative attitudes to training, poor and unqualified management, few staff, and the individualism of the manager. The difficulty of releasing staff is confirmed by Temple in firms with positive attitudes to training. This applies particularly to heads of firms, who face the heaviest cost in releasing themselves (COM(98)222). 3.4 EU policy concerning SMEs and ICT development

This section looks at the EU policy that will determine the priorities for future training of SMEs. A key policy document, which is central to many of the programmes and policy areas discussed in this section, is the European Commission Competitiveness White Paper. Amongst the priorities cited within this document are promotion of the use of IT and development of training in new technologies.14 More specifically, the Paper points out not only that Managers need specific training to make them aware of the potential of ICTs, but also that insufficient attention has been given so far to the application of new technologies in training and education systems.15 As such, this study has its basis within the Competitiveness White Paper. Of particular relevance to this work are the Multiannual Programme for Enterprise and Entrepreneurship (2001-2005)16, the eEurope17 initiative, and the BEST Report18. These policy areas are outlined in the following paragraphs. Multiannual Programme for Enterprise and Entrepreneurship The first of the policy areas listed above, the Multiannual Programme for Enterprise and Entrepreneurship, has five objectives: Promotion of entrepreneurship as a valuable and productive lifeskill, based on customer orientation and a stronger culture of service;

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Cost effectiveness of open learning for small firms Hilary Temple, DfEE, 1995, London Establishing small firms training practices, needs, difficulties and use of industry training organisations, Curran, J., Blackburn. R., Kitching, J., and North, J, 1997, DfEE, London. 14 European Commission, Growth, Competitiveness, Employment, The Challenges and Ways Forward into the 21st Century. White Paper, P24, Luxembourg 1994 15 Ibid P113. 16 COM (2000) 256, Brussels 26.04.2000 17 eEurope An Information Society for All, Progress Report, Lisbon, March 2000 18 Report on the Business Environment Simplification Task Force, Volumes I & II, Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, 1998

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Heads of SMEs

Section 3 : Expertise Needs of heads of SMEs.

Encouraging a regulatory and business environment that takes account of sustainable development, and in which research, innovation and entrepreneurship can flourish; Improving the financial environment for SMEs; Enhance the competitiveness of SMEs in the knowledge-based economy; Ensure that business support networks and services to enterprises are provided and coordinated. This study has the potential to provide business support service providers with information about the needs and preferences of heads of SMEs. The eEurope Initiative The eEurope initiative (as described in eEurope An Information Society for All)19 has three key objectives: It should bring every citizen, school, business and administration online and into the digital age. Create a digitally literate Europe Ensure that the whole process is socially inclusive. This report presents information regarding current use of ICTs by SME managers, what the perceived barriers to use of ICTs are, and what would encourage managers to make more use of ICTs. This information may be useful in determining how these objectives can be realised in the case of SME heads. The BEST Report The BEST Report presents a number of recommendations and findings that are related to this study regarding SME support, education of training and the use of ICTs in training. A summary of these findings and recommendations are provided below: 1) Mentoring and Business Angels: BEST suggests the need for incentive schemes to catalyse mentoring by experienced individuals. Introduction to business angels to raise finance should be facilitated by organising easily accessible networks. 2) The Education and Training of Entrepreneurs: - Training needs to take greater account of the special needs of SMEs. - Training for entrepreneurship needs to be developed. - There is a need for more emphasis on business management skills, including the application of business computer software. - It should be easier to find out about the content and structure of training measures for professional skills and business administration in other Member States. - Exchange of business experience between experienced entrepreneurs and young entrepreneurs is to be commended. - There should be financial incentives for entrepreneurs to participate in further training - There should be promotion of training to assist women to become entrepreneurs. 3) The use of ICTs in Education and Training: - The need to support tele and distance learning methods, reducing time spent in training institutions. - These methods should supplement practical training - There is a need for a stronger integration of innovative technologies into the different training methods.

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www.ispo.cec.be/basics/i_europe.html

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Heads of SMEs

Section 3 : Expertise Needs of heads of SMEs.

4) The need to improve the quality and visibility of support services for businesses: The Action Plan to Promote Entrepreneurship and Competitiveness proposes a dedicated Internet site for exchange of information to improve support services. A directory of web information services for small businesses called Screen is also proposed. There is a need to support businesses in the growth phase. These areas of the BEST Report have been considered in order to present recommendations, which complement previous EU policy and developments. The Business Education Network of Europe (BENE) Linked to the BEST recommendations and the Evaluation of the Third Multiannual Programme for SMEs is the setting up of BENE, the business education network of Europe. This will link up institutions specialised in entrepreneurial training to stimulate the exchange of best practice throughout Europe. BENE will be evaluating best practice from business training institutions. There are clear links with Phase 2 of this study. BENE will be making assessments in the following areas: quality of provision; how the Internet is used for training; use of training methods for entrepreneurs; mode of training; field of training; development of personal skills. Summary of areas highlighted by policy documents regarding training for SMEs In addition to the three policy areas highlighted above a number of policy documents and reports of research on ICTs and development of SMEs has been published in a number of documents, including: COM (99) 319, evaluating the Third Multiannual Programme for SMEs; the European Commission Action Plan to Promote Entrepreneurship and Competitiveness, 1999; COM (1999) 569 on concerted action in the field of enterprise policy; COM (2000) 2320; Multimedia Educational Software Observatory, 1998; the Prometeus Initiative.21 From these reports and the three documents highlighted in the previous sub-sections, a number of conclusions emerge about training for SMEs. They can be summarised as follows The need for tailor-made training. SMEs are highly heterogeneous. Training needs to be sensitive to the different stages of development of a firm. There are different types of enterprise depending on size, sector, management style, technology and growth potential. Training needs to have a high practical relevance. The priority areas for training are business management skills including marketing, international business procedures, quality and control and application of business computer software. The need for a client-oriented training. This means that there is a need for co-operation with SMEs in setting up services and designing training. Better networks for SMEs are needed. Exchange mechanisms for mentoring and business angels need to be set up.

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Designing Tomorrows Education Promoting Innovation with New Technologies, European Commission, 2000. PROMETEUS promotes multimedia access, in CORDIS RTD-NEWS, European Commission 2000, The Prometeus initiative was established under the European Commissions Telematics Application Programme, to bridge the gap between research and use of learning technologies, content and services.

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Heads of SMEs

Section 3 : Expertise Needs of heads of SMEs.

Quality assurance and standards of training for SMEs. This is associated with the need for rationalisation of services. SMEs have difficulty finding out about training. This is partly because there are many providers and training programmes and a lack of consensus on what the core services should be and what training is the most useful. Promoting entrepreneurship throughout a firms entire lifecycle. Globalisation, technological change and the new economy generate greater competition. This implies a need for change in management strategy. Generating and encouraging entrepreneurs requires the generation of more sophisticated training measures. The need to overcome the North/South divide in Europe in terms of penetration of ICTs and price differences. Need for more SMEs to incorporate the Internet throughout their production and distribution chain to assist growth. General need to raise awareness of ICT techniques for training, especially using Internet, electronic mail and videoconferencing General Usage of ICTs by SMEs

3.5

The use of ICT in management training may be able to overcome barriers such as cost, timing and location. However if usage of ICT is not at a sufficiently high level for managers, then there are further technology barriers which need to be overcome. The TELEMAN22 study investigated the use of ICT for training in SMEs surveyed 1000 firms with between 10 and 250 employees. TELEMAN found that most companies have only one terminal connected to the Internet and one email address. Overall 52% of firms had ISDN connection and 77% had a modem. A recent study of the use of IT in the G7 nations23 examined the connectivity24 of firms by size. Of firms employing up to 250 people, those in the size range of 1-9 employees showed the lowest degree of connectivity. German firms showed the highest levels of usage in this size range (28% of firms showing connectivity) and France and the UK the lowest (15% of firms in each country). The highest level of usage is seen in companies employing 100-250 people, with the UK performing best (70% of firms). Whilst 88% of large companies25 used email in 1999, this percentage dropped to 66% for SMEs and 40% for micro-firms. The use of Electronic Data Interchange followed a similar trend, running at 49% for large companies, 23% for SMEs and 10% for micro-firms. 25% of large companies used videoconferencing in 1999 compared to 5% of SMEs and 2% of micros. Whilst this information is a snapshot of ICT usage in European SMEs, it indicates many of them, particularly micro-firms, do not have the prerequisites to take full advantage of ICTBT.

Tele-Teaching and Training for Management of SMEs Studies, TeleMan Consortium, September 1998. The project was carried out from June 1997 to August 1998. 23 Moving into the Information Age An International Benchmarking Study 1999 The countries surveyed were: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK and USA. 24 Connectivity was measured as the use of at least one of three technologies (a) websites, (b) frequent use of external email and (c) frequent use of EDI (electronic data interchange) 25 These figures consider all countries in the study: France, Germany, Italy, Japan, USA, UK and Canada. Since ICT usage is more widespread in the USA and Canada than in Europe (Massey, Jane: How Digital Learning Differs in Europe, March 2000, www.learningcircuits.org) it can safely be assumed that figures given in this section are higher rather than lower.
22

14

Heads of SMEs 3.6

Section 3 : Expertise Needs of heads of SMEs.

Summary of current knowledge concerning heads of SMEs

Section 3 has given an overview of the current literature relevant to this study. The nature of training demanded by heads of SMEs involves: Client-orientated design involving SMEs Need for tailor-made training for SMEs which responds to their heterogeneity Need for a problem-solving approach Need for quality assurance However, heads of SMEs face constraints in the following: Cost and time ICT use and connectivity barriers Lack of understanding of ICTBT The need for further investigation There was a lack of information in crucial areas surrounding the needs of heads of SMEs in terms of training and access to expertise. These are summarised below. About Heads of SMEs Requirements for training of heads of SMEs Opinions of heads on available training Usage and expertise in ICT Experience of ICT supported training Attitudes to ICT supported training About Providers Nature of training for heads of SMEs Constraints on providers Attitudes of providers Use of ICT in training delivery for SMEs Constraints in ICT delivery Attitudes of providers to ICT delivery

15

Heads of SMEs

Section 4: Use of ICTBT

THE USE OF INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGIES IN TRAINING

The rapid development of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) presents a real opportunity for the design and delivery of training material.26 This has an impact on policy making on a national, European and worldwide level.27 In 1997, over one million pages were already registered on Internet search engines and 200 million people are expected to be online by the end of this year,28 demonstrating that web-based training plays a fundamental role in distance education.2930 4.1 What is ICT Based Training? To assess the relevance of Information and Communications Technology Based Training (ICTBT) for SME managers, it is necessary to define what we understand by ICTBT. The following sub-section describes some of the technologies and terminologies used in this report. It is important to differentiate between ICTBT and distance learning. ICTBT is a set of techniques based on ICT, sometimes used together, sometimes singly. It may facilitate learning at a distance, for example through an on-line course delivered using the Internet. It may also be used as a tool to enhance training taking place at a training providers location. Distance learning is not necessarily ICT-based. For example the Open University in the UK, uses mainly paper-based text-books, work-books and learning guides to offer training at a distance. The learner works mainly from home. In Mainstreaming Learning Technologies, Mark Van Buren gives a detailed breakdown of the technologies used in training presentation and delivery methods:31
Presentation Methods Electronic Text CBT Interactive Multimedia Interactive TV Teleconferencing GroupWare Virtual Reality Audio Video Electronic Performance Support System Delivery Methods Cable TV CD-ROM Electronic mail (email) Extranet Internet Intranet Local Area Network (LAN) Satellite TV Simulator Wide area networks (WAN) World Wide Web (WWW)

Using the categories proposed by Mark Van Buren a search for examples of how these technologies are currently being used was carried out. The examples are not all concerned with management training but relate to the technology that might be used in the future to train SME managers.
26

For an example see: Mudge, Stephen, Delivering Multimedia Teaching Modules via the Internet, in Innovation in Educational Technologies International 1999, Vol. 36.1, P11. 27 Examples are PROMETEUS Promoting Multimedia Access to Education and Training in the European Society, www.prometeus.org; and the IMS Global Learning Consortium, www.imsproject.org. 28 Eberl, Ulrich, Where the Web is Going, Siemens Research and Innovation, 2/97, pp.9-15 29 Khan, B.H. (ed.), Web-Based Instruction, Educational Technology Publications, 1997 (480 pp.). 30 Bethoney, Herb, Computer Based Training on the web, PCWeek, August 1998. 31 Mainstreaming Learning Technologies - Mark Van Buren available at:

http://www.astd.org/CMS/templates/index.html?template_id=1&articleid=11599

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Heads of SMEs

Section 4: Use of ICTBT

Presentation Methods
Electronic Text ISTUD, an Italian training provider, disseminates electronic text in management training programmes. The distance learning courses are aimed at SME managers and cover traditional management areas such as sales strategy and marketing. The course materials and exercises are sent to participants via email.32 CBT The TRANSMETE project,33 created under the Telematics for Education and Training Programme, developed and delivered courses on telematic applications for SMEs. A CD-ROM was developed, used as a stand-alone training aid for SMEs. In the evaluation report, the CD-ROM, which (as stand-alone) equates to CBT, was generally positively received. Interactive Multimedia The Telematics Centre at the School of Education, University of Exeter, has developed an Internet based multimedia training course for teachers Telematics in Teacher Training. This combines text, graphics, and video, and enables the user to control the sequence of the content.34 Teleconferencing - Initially developed and most commonly used for communication within a business setting, videoconferencing has been identified by a number of educators as having strong potential in educational settings. A recent project funded under SOCRATES is establishing videoconferencing as a mechanism for training of SME managers.35 GroupWare The Met Institute Silva36 uses a collaborative document sharing system to train employees during on-the-job apprenticeship periods. Senior co-ordinators set students written tasks. The student carries out the task and sends the answer back as an attachment for correction. After approval, the student saves the answer into an online learning diary. A workplace-based mentor also has access to the diary to check technical details in the answer. Audio The CLEAR project develops computer-supported environments, which facilitate co-operative and distributed learning in organisations. As part of this project, the VITAL learning environment prototype has been developed. This uses the metaphor of virtual rooms and integrates audio conferencing as well as email and chat tools to provide support for communication processes essential for co-operative learning.37 Video - the use of video as a training aid forms an integral part of established distance learning courses such as those delivered by the Open University in the United Kingdom.38 Electronic Performance Support System (EPSS) The Benchmarking Forum of the American Society for Training and Development has been seeking best practice since 1994. One of these examples is the California State Automobile Association. The company improved customer service by using an online guide holding information on products and services, made available to relevant staff.39 This EPSS dramatically reduced time staff needed to access necessary information and is constantly revised and updated. Virtual Reality A number of business simulations are beginning to emerge combining virtual reality settings with traditional case method teaching. One example is the Business Navigator Method developed by CALT.40 Business Navigator develops a virtual interactive business environment (VIBE) in a realistically simulated business context (e.g. a company) which the learner is invited to explore. It is also likely more advanced packages incorporating pedagogical agents will become available, although these are not currently part of mainstream provision.41 Such agents track progress through the simulation.

32 33

www.sviluppoimpresa.com www.eurocom.gr/EurPrj/transmete/transmete/uk/Index.html 34 http://www.ex.ac.uk/education/frames/telematics.htm 35 Carried out by TEMPO and partners: http://www.tempo-tc.com 36 Experiences in Using Internet Based Learning Environment in Paper Industry. ICEE 2000 Conference, August 14-16, 2000, Grand Hotel, Taipei, August 17-18, 2000, National Cheng Kung University, Tainan. 37 www.darmstadt.gmd.de/concert/activities/internal/clear.html 38 http://www.open.ac.uk 39 Lucadamo, Lisa and Cheney, Scott , Learning From the Best, www.astd.org 40 Described in Anghern, A, and Nabeth, T: Leveraging Emerging Technologies in Management Education: Research and Experiences in European Management Journal, 1997, Vol. 15, No 3, pp275 285. 41 Recent research at the Centre for Advanced Research in Technology for Education University of Southern Carolina, has developed two virtual instructors Steve and Adele for use in training: http://www.isi.edu/isd/carte

17

Heads of SMEs Delivery Methods

Section 4: Use of ICTBT

Cable/Satellite TV the EuroPACE project, which is developing a virtual university for Europe, Uses satellite transmission on both a pre-recorded and live/interactive basis, for its Open Fora series and Ph.D. programme.42 EuroPACE finds satellite TV a useful way of contacting people throughout Europe, but has progressed beyond using it as a sole means of communication, also employing Internet technologies, ISDN-videoconferencing, and CD-ROM. CD-ROM CD-ROM based training is common throughout Europe.43 The MASTRI ADAPT project, aimed at SMEs in the textile sector, produced a CD-ROM for management training.44 This focuses on topics such as Personal Development, Organisational Change and Culture and Strategic Management and Planning. It uses multimedia to convey its message, combining video, audio, animations and text. Email The YOUANDI Communication Network made use of email within its TIDE Learning Organisation ADAPT Project.45 This project developed, implemented and evaluated a training concept for SME staff. It found the best courses use a combination of delivery techniques. Email was used as an offlinetutoring tool together with other tools such as CD-ROM, videoconferencing, traditional media and faceto-face intensive workshops. E-mentoring Use is widespread in USA, with a good example being provided by the Mentornet, which pairs women studying engineering with mentors in large companies.46 LAN/WAN The Telematics Learning Project, conducted by Suffolk College, provides one example of a LAN used for training.47 Students in rural areas were given the opportunity to participate in a Local History course. Four learning centres were established in rural Suffolk with ISDN links to the main College server, enabling students to complete the course from a distance. They used the Internet, videoconferencing and email (including group email conferencing). However, the use of these latter two methods was limited due to technological problems. Simulator - The Conglomerate virtual business game offered by Mbagames.com48 simulates a commercial environment in which managers run a small multi-national company and make realistic team decisions. Teams compete against one another, over a period of up to two months and decisions made impact upon one another. They are set certain decisions online, discuss the best response, and key in their answer online. World Wide Web (WWW) including Internet Intranet/Extranet There are an increasing number of internet-based training programmes available for SME managers including the ICM Business School by Internet.49 The ICM MBA is based on Action Learning and students use email and web-forums to communicate with their tutor and one another. Intranet based training lends itself to academic provision. The Human-Computer Interaction module at the University of Teeside50 makes extensive use of Intranet and Internet technologies. Course materials (including augmented online lectures and selfmanaged study assignments) are made available on the Intranet for students to access at a time of their choice.

4.2 A Virtual Learning Environment A Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) aims to overcome many of the problems associated with ICTBT. VLEs take the form of web based GroupWare for

www.europace.be/info/ideas/telematics.html CD-ROM and Internet/Intranet based training are leading the Education and Training Multimedia Market Multimedia Educational Software Observatory (MESO) European Overview 1998. 44 CD-ROM entitled Management: TC 2001, Achieving Business Growth in the Textile and Clothing Industry through Training and Development. 45 YOUANDI Communication Network GmbH, The Tide Learning Organisation, January 2000. 46 http://mentornet.net National electronic industrial mentoring network for women in engineering and science (US). Pairing of students with industrial scientists. Mentoring relationships via e-mail. Non-profit sponsored by: AT&T and Intel Foundations, US Department of Education, IBM, Cisco Systems, Ford Motor Company, Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, IEEE Foundation, SPIE, Texaco, SAP LABS and Los Alamos National Laboratory 47 Funnell, Peter: Views From the Screen-Face: Issues Emerging From an Exploration of the Value of Telematics-Supported Learning, in Innovation in Educational Technologies International 1999, Vol 36.3, P177-184. 48 www.mbagames.com 49 http://www.internet-mba.com MBA offered by BSN International entirely via the internet. BSN International has been accredited by several Accrediting Commissions such as the Distance Education and Training Council and CEDEO. 50 Barker, Philip, University of Teeside, UK, Using Intranets to Support Teaching and Learning, in Innovation in Educational Technologies International 1999, Vol 36.1, P3-9.
43

42

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Heads of SMEs

Section 4: Use of ICTBT

collaborative learning.51 A VLE can provide a complete framework for online course delivery, including course management. One example is LearnLoop52 (currently still in development). For access to LearnLoop, the user requires an Internet browser and the comprehensive manual offers user-friendly instructions. Users of LearnLoop may participate in the following actions: Take part in and begin discussions, either sequential or threaded. Participate in and construct Quizzes or surveys Peer Review of documents List private or course resources Use personal and course calendars Read and send email

LearnLoop aims to encourage user participation through allowing users to edit and add to courses as well as course administrators. Whilst VLEs are currently largely used in the academic environment,53 their use in the business environment is growing. One example is the Business Navigator method,54 which combines the case study and business simulation methods. Business Navigator comprises a virtual interactive business environment (VIBE), in a simulated business context (e.g. a company) which the learner explores. Whilst VIBEs can be used on a stand-alone basis, the better option involves a multi-user dimension, allowing interaction with other learners and experts. For example the INSEAD Executive Education World55 allows virtual meetings and lectures to be conducted. 4.3 Current Position of ICTBT ICTBT is a set of techniques based on ICT, sometimes used together, sometimes used singly. Where the techniques are used together this may constitute a virtual learning environment. Virtual Learning Environment Use of GroupWare on-line interaction, management and administration student private resource area, document resource area assessments, group forums, document sharing, whiteboard, bulletin board, chat-room, Single Applications CD-ROM - multimedia resource combining video, audio, text e-mentoring on-line Internet and Intranet based courses email as a tutoring tool simulation/ virtual reality decision-making games

An description of a GroupWare solution (WebCT) as described by Marshall University (USA) is given in Appendix 2, together with a comparison of different GroupWare products by Arizona State University (USA). 52 www.learnloop.org 53 For examples see: www.hull.ac.uk/merlin; www.comentor.ac.uk 54 Angehrn, Albert and Nabeth Thierry: Leveraging Emerging Technologies in Management Education: Research and Experiences, in the European Management Journal, Vol 15, No 3, June 1997. 55 http://www.insead.fr/CALT/VirtualWorlds/
51

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Heads of SMEs

Section 4: Use of ICTBT

ICTBT offers many potential advantages in reaching heads of SMEs because of its ability to offer support at any time and place. However, there is currently a lack of literature, which gives a full picture of the views of SME heads on the issue of ICT Based Training (ICTBT). There is also evidence of a disparity in the views of representatives of SMEs and the agencies that serve them56 57. ICTBT is an area which is changing very fast. There is a need for further investigation concerning the requirements and experience of heads of SMEs and the current position of training providers. These areas are explored through this study by interviewing heads of SMEs and training providers.

Training for entrepreneurship and new businesses Klofsten, M. (1999) Industry & Higher Education, December 1999 57 Building Business Management Training for Small Firms Creagh, Barrow & Morrow, 1998, Cranfield University School of Management

56

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Heads of SMEs

Section 5: Research into Priorities of Heads of SMEs

RESEARCH INTO PRIORITIES OF HEADS OF SMES

Design of questionnaires - Interview questionnaire In order to collect data regarding Heads of SMEs two questionnaires were designed, for delivery face-to-face. The first of these, an interview questionnaire was designed to address the nature of SME heads, their business approach and their attitude to and experience of training and ICT use. The areas presented in Table 1 were included. The questionnaire was piloted in organisations in the UK. This resulted in some amendments to the wording of questions, inclusion of further questions to examine reasons for negative attitude towards use of ICT based techniques in management training. A copy of the final interview questionnaire for SME heads is shown in full in Appendix 1.

Main areas of inquiry with heads of SMEs


Degree of ICT penetration Which ICTs are being used by managers and by the company as a whole? Which ICTs are being used in different management areas? Which ICT techniques are used to gain expertise and management training? Managers level of existing expertise Managers ICT training needs ICT

Level of ICT proficiency

Attitudes to different management training techniques

How managers view current ICTbased training from their experiences (benefits and barriers) Preferences for use of ICT versus traditional training delivery Reasons for not wanting ICTBT
Relationship between small business problems and management training How barriers to training can be overcome Who should provide training, when is most suitable and where

Practical issues

Design of questionnaires - Learning styles questionnaire A second questionnaire, a learning styles questionnaire (see Appendix 1), was also delivered to SME managers to determine whether there is an indication of a preferred learning style among SME managers. While there is no evidence that SME managers, as a group, have particular learning preferences, there is some indication that some sub groups do so, e.g. those running New Technology Based Firms.

21

Heads of SMEs

Section 5: Research into Priorities of Heads of SMEs

Furthermore, many authorities do assert that the personality of the entrepreneur is paramount in determining the success of the SME. Four styles of learning have been proposed based on Honey & Mumford (198658) to analyse the preferences of people for learning in particular ways. These are: Activists, who learn by trying things out Reflectors, who learn by observing, collecting data and analysing it Theorists, who think logically, and follow logical rules. Pragmatists, who learn by experimentation. Although people combine the above approaches, they do show distinct preferences for one or two of the approaches. To achieve optimum results, a training programme for each of the above groups would be designed differently. An evaluation of the learning style preferences is relevant in determining, what techniques of training might be most appropriate to the target group of entrepreneurs. This is particularly appropriate given the opportunities offered by the new media in training, which allow for interaction and virtual experimentation, as well as on line evaluation. Sampling and Delivery A total of 175 firms across seven EU countries were sought for interview. Firms were targeted with regard to (i) size (ii) sector and (iii) Objective region. A sampling frame was drawn up as shown in Appendix 1. This was used to inform partners in the construction of a database of 1000 companies across the partner countries. The sample for interview mainly covered firms who had some previous contact with the partner organisations delivering the project. Thus the firms are more likely to show a positive attitude towards business support and management training than the general population of SMEs. It is also likely that they have a more positive approach to ICTs. They thus form a typical cross section of firms who are likely to be early adopters of new training offers. Analysis of Results In total, 168 completed interview questionnaires were received. Most were delivered face-to-face apart from 18 Italian questionnaires which were delivered over the telephone. Results were compiled and analysed using SPSS for Windows and Excel 97 to derive frequencies of responses and interrelationships. Responses to questions were coded and inputted into a program created for this analysis. The results of analysis of the interview questionnaires are presented as Section 4 of this report. Completed learning styles questionnaires were received from four countries (Finland, France, Greece and the United Kingdom). Learning style preferences were compiled for each manager based on their responses to the questionnaire using the framework presented in Appendix 1.

58

The manual of learning styles, Honey, P., and Mumford, M., Maidenhead, 1986.

22

Heads of SMEs

Section 5: Research into Priorities of Heads of SMEs

Results of Research into Priorities of Heads of SMEs Sections 5.1-5.6 present the findings from a survey of 168 SME managers from seven different EU countries: Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Portugal and United Kingdom. A copy of the questionnaire is provided in Annex 1 to this report. The findings are presented as follows:

Composition of sample

- composition of several personal

the and

sample according to company attributes

General use of ICTs Experience of ICT-based training Training preferences

- overview of previous use of ICTs by managers - overview of which ICTs have been used previously in training and views of this form of training - how managers prefer training to be delivered and what they want to learn - relationship between size of company and other factors - relationship between sex and other factors

Effect of size

Analysis of effect of sex of respondent

Section 5.7 presents the results of a Learning Styles questionnaire in four of the Member States involved in this study: Finland, France, Greece and UK. This assesses the learning types of managers and as such can be useful in the design of appropriate training. Section 5.8 provides a summary of the requirements of Heads of SMEs.

23

Heads of SMEs

Section 5: Research into Priorities Composition of Sample

5.1

Composition of sample

Results Factors such as industry, size (by number of employees and turnover) and level of education of managers are important considerations when examining the data relating to this study. The type of industry of a company could have an impact on the level of ICT used, previous educational experiences of an SME head could inform their attitudes to training and size of company could dictate the freedom to dedicate resources to training and the ability to implement new technologies. As such, the sample group needs to be clearly defined to make results meaningful and to give them a context. Figure 1 Composition of Sample by Industry
other ser vices Missing

manufac turing distribution

technical / bus iness

In the figure above, slices define the industry group to which companies belong: (a) manufacturing - manufacturing, (b) technical/business - technical/business services, (c) distribution - distribution, (d) other services - other services and (e) missing - missing data. Within the sample, 2 managers failed to provide data, this is equivalent to 1.2% of the total sample.

SME heads were asked to classify their area of business as one of four categories: manufacturing, technical/business services, distribution and other services. The sample exhibits a split roughly into thirds comprising one third manufacturing (32% [54 companies]); one third technical/business services (39% [66 companies]) and the remaining third combining distribution and other services (15% and 13% [25 companies and 21 companies] respectively). There are certain differences within the sample between countries, for example manufacturing is highly represented in the UK (44%), whilst technical and business services are highly represented in Greece and Italy (48% and 52%).

24

Heads of SMEs

Section 5: Research into Priorities Composition of Sample

Figure 2

Composition of sample by size of company (number of employees)


Missing 51 to 249

10 and fewer

11 to 50

In the figure above slices represent the number of employees in the company of interviewees. "Missing" relates to missing data. Two of the sample failed to provide a response to this question. This is equivalent to 1.2% of the total sample .

The figure above illustrates the breakdown of sample according to size, as defined by number of employees. Managers were asked to classify size of company as one of three categories according to number of employees (a) 10 and fewer (micro-businesses); (b) 11-50 (small firms) and (c) 51-249 (medium sized firms). As can be seen from the figure, the sample comprises mainly companies employing up to 50 people (77%). Micro businesses comprise 42% of companies, small businesses 36% and medium sized businesses 21%. Distribution amongst countries is subject to some variation, with France having 40% of its companies in the 51-249 employees categories and Portugal having no companies in this size bracket. The composition of the sample has also been examined with regard to turnover. Company size shows a positive correlation which is significant at the 0.01 level. The majority of firms (69%) have turnover of 2,500,000 or less. Again, there are differences in distribution between countries, with 84% of the Portuguese SMEs interviewed having a turnover of 250,000 or less compared with the French and German samples which comprised 52% and 43% with turnovers exceeding 2,500,000.

25

Heads of SMEs

Section 5: Research into Priorities Composition of Sample

Figure 3

Composition of sample by management position


technical manager finance manager marketing manager

manager/director

In the figure above, slices represent specific management roles.

The majority of respondents identified themselves to be managers/directors (86% [144 people]) with a few identifying specialised areas of management (marketing 7% [11], finance 5% [8] and technical 3% [5]). There are no major differences in distribution between countries. A final factor used to define the sample is level of education of the manager. Interviewees were asked to describe their level of education as (a) school certificate, (b) university, (c) postgraduate education or (d) professional training. As can be seen in Figure 4, the majority of managers have either a university level or higher education (78% [131 managers]), with the most common level of education being a university first degree (42% [70 managers]). There are differences in levels of education, with Italy and UK exhibiting a high number of managers with school certificates (44% [11 managers] and 32% [8], respectively). Whilst, Germany and Greece exhibit a high number of managers with a postgraduate education (48% [11 managers] and 40% [10], respectively). The countries exhibiting the highest levels of professional training within the sample are UK and Finland (16% [4 managers] and 19% [4], respectively).

26

Heads of SMEs

Section 5: Research into Priorities Composition of Sample

Figure 4

Composition of sample by level of educational qualification

Missing professional trainin school certificate

pos tgraduate educati

univ ersity

In the figure above, slices represent different levels of education as follows: (a) school certificate manager holds a school certificate, (b) university - manager is educated to first degree level, (c) postgraduate educati - manager holds a masters or doctoral degree, (d) professional education manager holds a relevant professional qualification e.g. MBA and (e) Missing - manager has failed to provide a response. Seven managers have failed to provide a response, this corresponds to 4% of the total sample.

Conclusions The following conclusions can be drawn from the data regarding the nature of the sample group of SMEs: Firms are drawn mainly from the manufacturing and technical/business services sectors. A high proportion of the sample (approximately two thirds) have 50 or fewer employees The majority of managers do not associate their role with a specific management type (for example, financial manager). Differentiation between management types is greater in larger companies within the sample.59 The sample is also educated to a high level, with more than three-quarters possessing a minimum of a university education.

59 Cross-tabulation of management position against size of company show that 7.1% of managers in micro-firms and 8.3% of managers in small firms classify themselves as a "type" of manager, compared with 38.9% of managers in medium sized firms (data not shown).

27

Heads of SMEs

Section 5: Research into Priorities General Use of ICT

5.2

General Use of ICTs

Results This subsection gives a baseline for managers' previous experience of using ICT. It provides an indication of what ICTs they have used, their levels of ICT competence, and in which areas of management their companies use ICT. This provides a background regarding the ICT skills level of managers, allowing a judgement of what ICTs managers are familiar with. Figure 5
140

ICTs used by managers in the workplace

120

No. of Managers

100

80

60

40

20

CD ROM

Email

Statistics

Firewall

CAD

Excel/Word/Access

Statistical Process Control

Presentations

Ecommerce

Website

Extranet

Internet

Intranet

Type of ICTs

The figure above illustrates the number of managers using a variety of ICTs in the workplace. Of the questionnaires gathered, there were 151 valid cases, with 17 managers not responding to this question.

As might be expected, the ICTs used by managers most frequently are those which are considered to be most established. The most commonly used ICTs are email (133 managers [88%]), Internet (130 [86%]), CD-ROM (118 [78%]) and basic software packages (116 [77%]). Similarly, more specialised packages with distinct applications are less well used, for example CAD (26 managers [17%]), CAE (15 [10%]), and CIM (10 [7%]). Managers were also asked to identify the use of ICTs by different managers within their company. They were asked to identify whether ICTs were used routinely in: (a) Financial management, (b) Strategic and production management, (c) Marketing and international management and (d) Human resources management. Figure 6 shows the number of companies in which ICT is routinely used by each role. Financial Management is the area in which ICT is most frequently used, with 131 of the companies using ICT in financial management (92%)59. Just under half the companies involved in the survey use ICT for strategic and production management and marketing and international management (69 [49%] and 64 [45%] respectively).

Percentage has been calculated as number of companies as a proportion of valid cases 1.e. as a percentage of 151 companies. 28

59

Video conferencing

Inventory

CAE

CIM

Heads of SMEs

Section 5: Research into Priorities General Use of ICT

Figure 6

Use of ICTs within different management roles

140

120

Number of Companies

100

80

60

40

20

Financial Management

Strategic and Production Management

Marketing and International Management

Human Resources Management

Management Role
The figure above shows the number of companies, which make use of ICTs in four different areas of management (a) financial management, (b) strategic and production management, (c) marketing and international management and (d) human resources management. The data presented is based on 142 valid cases, in 26 of the questionnaires, responses had not been given to this question.

ICT uptake appears to be lowest in the area of human resources management, with only 52 companies (37%) using ICT routinely in this role. Finally, managers were asked to identify what they felt to be their own level of ICT expertise, from a pre-set list of levels. Levels used were: (a) none, (b) occasional use, (c) regular use of basic software packages (d) regular use of email, (e) regular use of the Internet, (f) specialist use or (g) expert. Figure 7 shows the distribution of expertise. The most common responses were "Regular use of email" (108 managers), "Regular use of basic packages" (107) and "Regular use of the Internet" (103). Only 7 managers responded that they had no ICT experience, whilst 23 managers considered themselves to be experts. Within the sample, almost one quarter of managers are involved in specialist use of ICT (41 managers).

29

Heads of SMEs

Section 5: Research into Priorities General Use of ICT

Figure 7

Level of ICT expertise of managers

120

100

No of Managers

80

60

40

20

None

Occasional

Regular use of basic packages

E-mail

Internet

Specialist Packages

Expert

Frequency/Type of Usage
The figure above illustrates the level of ICT expertise of managers questioned in the survey. The frequency/type of usage are as follows: (a) none - no ICT expertise, (b) occasional - occasional use of ICTs, (c) Regular use of basic packages - regular use of basic packages, for example MS Office applications, (d) Email - regular use of email, (e) Internet - regular use of the Internet, (f) Specialist packages - specialist packages such as CAD, CIM, CAE and (g) expert - expert in use of ICT.

Conclusions The following conclusions can be drawn from the data presented in this section: There is a high usage of established ICTs, with a small number of managers using specialist packages. The majority of managers use basic packages, email and Internet regularly. Use of eCommerce by managers is low. Differences between use of ICT in different management roles are apparent. Highest use of ICT occurs in financial management and the lowest in human resources management.

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Section 5: Research into Priorities Experience of ICT-based training

5.3

Experience of ICT-based training

In discussing best practice in delivery of training to managers using ICT, it is essential to find out level of awareness of ICT, what previous experience managers have had of this type of training and what they thought of it. In order to do this, the questionnaire incorporated questions regarding (a) what ICTs have been used previously by managers for training, (b) the good and bad experiences of managers in using these ICTs, (c) reasons for managers not having used ICTs for training and (d) what factors would influence managers to use ICT based training in the future. Figure 8
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The figure above shows the level of use of different ICTs by managers. Columns represent types of ICTs, with shading representing the frequency of use, from the following list: (a) never heard about the respondent has never heard about the technology / its use for training, (b) never used respondent has never used the technology for training, (c) tried a little - respondent has tried using the technology a few times, (d) used occasionally - the respondent uses ICTs for training on an occasional basis, and (e) use a lot - respondent uses ICTs on a regular basis for training.

From the figure above, awareness of existence of ICT-based training is high. In three of the ICT technologies, CD ROM, Internet Searches and email, the combined figure for all those using ICT - "tried a little", "used occasionally", "use a lot" - outweighs the number of respondents who have not heard of or used technologies. The distribution is as follows: CD ROM - 54% of managers have used, Internet Search - 56% of managers have used, email 51% of managers have used. The use of each of the three technologies shows a positive correlation with managers' use of the same technologies in the workplace.61

61

Correlation shows significance to the 0.01 level using a bivariate Pearson product-moment correlation. 31

Heads of SMEs

Section 5: Research into Priorities Experience of ICT-based training

Managers were then asked about their experiences of using ICTs for training: both good and bad. The findings are presented in Figures 9, 10a and 10b. Figure 9 Good and bad aspects of using ICTs in training - Overview

Good Aspects
5% 11% 23%

Up to date info Immediate Own Pace User interaction Relevant Better retention 12%

18%

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Bad Aspects

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Out of date info Lack of Human Support Unreliable (tech.) Irrelevant Time consuming Poor Presentation 11%

7%

39%

13%

The figure above shows a breakdown of the good and bad aspects of ICT-based training defined by managers. The top chart shows good aspects of ICT-based training as a percentage of total responses received. The categories were presented within the questionnaire: (a) up to date info - the ICT used enables more up to date information to be used, (b) immediate - use of ICTs makes training more immediate (c) Own pace - use of ICTs allows learning at own pace, (d) relevant - training was relevant and (e) better retention - the manager felt that training resulted in better retention of information. The bottom chart shows bad aspects as a percentage of total responses received, again categories were presented in the questionnaire: (a) out of date information - information presented was out of date, (b) Lack of human support - lack of human support (c) Unreliable (tech.) - unreliability of the technology, (d) irrelevant - training was irrelevant, (e) time consuming - training is time consuming and (f) poor presentation - training material was poorly presented.

From Figure 9, it can be seen that the most common aspects regarded as attributes of ICTbased training are: the immediacy it offers, the flexibility for the learner to work at their own pace, and that material is up to date. In terms of negative aspects, the lack of human support appears to be a major problem, along with poor presentation of information and

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Section 5: Research into Priorities Experience of ICT-based training

concerns over reliability of technology. Out of date information was cited as problem. It is possible, that this complaint draws on ICT-specific issues such as lack of updating of websites and CD-ROMs.

Figure 10a
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The figure above gives a breakdown of the good aspects of a number of different methods used for ICT training. Respondents were asked to pick responses to describe the good aspects of ICT based training that they had used. Each bar represents a single technology and the divisions within these, the good aspects. The categories were presented within the questionnaire: (a) up to date info - the ICT used enables more up to date information to be used, (b) immediate - use of ICTs makes training more immediate (c) Own pace - use of ICTs allows learning at own pace, (d) relevant - training was relevant and (e) better retention - the manager felt that training resulted in better retention of information.

From Figure 10a, it can be seen that the largest number of responses coincide with the most commonly used ICTs of email, Internet and CD-ROM. Although the distribution of good aspects is fairly even within each type of technology, certain technologies appear to have particular advantages. Internet searches, email contact and e-mentoring are felt to have the greatest potential for providing up to date information, with this good aspect accounting for 33%, 33% and 32% of responses associated with the respective technologies. With respect to immediacy Internet searches, email contact and e-mentoring are strong performers (35%, 38% and 36% respectively). Use of virtual reality and video-conferencing are felt to give good user-interactivity (30% and 50% respectively) and to lead to good retention of knowledge (23% and 19% respectively).

internet searches

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email contacts

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Own Pace User interaction Relevant Better retention

use of internetbased training

use of video for training

virtual reality/game scenario training

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use of videoconferencing for training

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Section 5: Research into Priorities Experience of ICT-based training

Figure 10b

Bad aspects of using ICTs in training

70.00

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Out of date info

The figure above gives a breakdown of the bad aspects of a number of different methods used for ICT training. Respondents were asked to pick responses to describe the bad aspects of ICT based training that they had used. Each bar represents a single technology and the divisions within these, the bad aspects. The categories were presented within the questionnaire: (a) out of date information information presented was out of date, (b) Lack of human support - lack of human support (c) Unreliable (tech.) - unreliability of the technology, (d) irrelevant - training was irrelevant, (e) time consuming - training is time consuming and (f) poor presentation - training material was poorly presented.

As with the good aspects, the frequently used technologies of CD-ROM and Internet searches feature heavily in the responses. However, the number of responses regarding email is reduced and the use of video for training features more heavily. Again responses tend to show a similar distribution between categories, but there are some distinctions. Concerns over reliability of technology account for 57% of responses relating to video-conferencing, much higher (in terms of number and proportion) than for more established technologies such as CD-ROM and Internet searches (5% and 7% respectively). It was also felt important, given the fact that some had no experience, to examine managers' reasons for not making use of ICT based training. Managers were asked to identify reasons from the following list: (a) lack of knowledge, (b) lack of quality assurance, (c) cost of technology, (d) not available in my language, (e) no suitable computer, (f) poor telecommunications infrastructure. The responses to this question are presented in Figure 11.

internet searches

CD-Rom based training/reference

Lack of Human Support

email contacts

Method of training
Unreliable (tech.) Irrelevant Time consuming Poor Presentation

34

use of internetbased training

use of video for training

virtual reality/game scenario training

e-mentoring

use of videoconferencing for training

Heads of SMEs

Section 5: Research into Priorities Experience of ICT-based training

It can be seen that the most common barrier to use of ICT appears to be a lack of knowledge. This to some extent contrasts with the results presented in Figure 9, which appear to suggest that people are aware of the use of ICTs in training.62 On further reflection, it appears that this question may have been interpreted in a number of ways. Lack of knowledge covers a range of areas including provision and personal knowledge in the use of ICT for training. Figure 11 Reasons for not using ICTs in training

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Lack of Knowledge

Lack of Quality Assurance

Cost of Technology

Not available in my language

No Suitable Computer

Poor Telecommunications Infrastructure

Reasons
The figure above shows reasons chosen by managers to explain why they had not previously used ICT based training. Managers were asked to select as many responses from the following as were appropriate: (a) lack of knowledge - lack of knowledge about ICT based training, (b) lack of quality assurance - lack of quality assurance of ICT based training, (c) cost of technology - the cost of the technology required to use ICT based training, (d) not available in my language - a lack of ICT based training material on offer in managers' first language, (e) no suitable computer - a lack of the equipment needed to take part in ICT based training, (f) poor telecommunications infrastructure company/individual does not have a sufficiently developed telecommunications infrastructure.

Managers suggested improvements that would increase their use of ICT for training in the future (Figure 12). Quality assurance was the most important factor (81 managers [48%]), followed by cheaper access (61 managers [36%]). However, these suggestions do not directly address the barriers of lack of knowledge, which suggests some uncertainty about what is wanted, but may also suggest that lack of knowledge has been interpreted as a lack of personal knowledge about ICT. Similarly, cost of technology was only identified by 10 managers as a barrier to using ICT based training, yet 61 managers have identified the need for a cheaper access. This may also refer to the cost of courses themselves.
62

Responses indicate a very small number of people (total of 10 distributed across all technologies) had not heard of the ICT technologies presented. In some cases, for example email, no respondents stated chose the "never heard of " response.

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Section 5: Research into Priorities Experience of ICT-based training

Some managers identified additional factors, which have not been included in Figure 12. It is not possible to predict accurately what level of response these factors would have attracted if they had been included, but it is likely that they would have been identified by more managers. Two managers identified greater flexibility and one manager identified the use of discussion groups. Figure 12 Factors that would encourage managers to use ICT based training in the future.

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Quality Assurance

Cheaper Access

Recommendation from other SMEs

Accreditation

Quality Websites

Provision in Language

Factors
The figure above shows factors that would encourage managers to use ICT based learning in the future.Managers were asked to select factors from the following: (a) Quality assurance quality assurance (b) Cheaper access - reduction in the cost of access, (c) Recommendation from other SMEs recommendation from other SMEs, (d) Accreditation - better accreditation of courses, (e) Quality websites - higher quality websites, and (f) Provision in language - provision in first language of the manager. Some managers identified additional factors, which are discussed in the text.

Conclusions From the results presented in this section, the following conclusions can be drawn regarding perception and experience of ICT-based training: There appears to be a good awareness of the technologies associated with ICT-based learning but a relatively low take-up. Perceived advantages of ICT based learning are providing up-to-date information, flexibility and immediate training. ICT also has a number of perceived disadvantages, in particular lack of human support and poor presentation. There is a concept of different ICTs having different advantages: CD-ROM based training is good for learning at mangers' own pace Internet searches are immediate and provide up-to-date information Specific ICTs are also associated with particular disadvantages: Internet based training is seen as lacking human support Use of video-conferencing is seen as being technically unreliable

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Section 5: Research into Priorities Experience of ICT-based training

The major barrier to take-up of ICT based learning is lack of knowledge. It is likely that this factor combines a lack of personal ICT skills, particularly in areas such as Internet-based training and virtual reality which have low usage and a lack of knowledge regarding available training. The biggest factor that would influence managers to use ICT based training is greater quality assurance, with cheaper access and recommendations from other SMEs also being considerations.

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Section 5: Research into Priorities Training preferences of SME Managers

5.4

Training preferences of SME managers

Results In order to define best practice and determine the most effective way to deliver training to SME managers, it is necessary to examine how managers prefer training to be delivered, for example timing, location and by whom, and also what they wish to learn. Responses to these questions provide an indication of where resources and assistance should be focussed to serve SME managers' needs. Firstly managers were asked a series of questions regarding whom they preferred to receive training from, where they prefer to receive training and at what time they prefer to receive training. The responses are presented in Figures 13 - 18 respectively. Figure 13 Who managers prefer to receive training from

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No of Citations

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Private Training Providers

Universities

Local Public

Trade Associations

Networks

Training Providers
The figure above shows the training providers preferred by SME managers. Managers were asked to select their preferred training providers from the following: (a) private training providers - private training providers, (b) universities - universities, (c) local public - local public training providers, (d) trade associations - trade associations and (e) networks - shared experience networks. In some cases, managers have indicated more than one training provider. Some managers identified other training providers; these are discussed in the text below.

It can be seen that the sample of managers interviewed showed a strong preference for private training provision (80 managers [48%]). This was followed by university-based training provision (52 managers [31%]) and local public training providers (50 managers [30%]). In addition to the training providers shown above, managers identified other training providers, but the low responses given may not reflect their actual importance and as such these responses are not shown in the figure above. Eight managers highlighted the need for training to be provided by people with SME Expertise, that is practical experience of running a small business. Four managers indicated that a range of providers was preferable, and two managers indicated a preference for training organised by professional bodies. One manager highlighted other managers as a preferred training source.

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Section 5: Research into Priorities Training preferences of SME Managers

There appear to be differences in preferences between countries, as shown in Figure 14. The overall preference for private training providers does not reflect the preferences of a number of the countries. In the cases of Germany, Greece, and Italy, there is a preference for this type of training provider (17 managers, 19 managers and 12 managers respectively). However both France and the UK show a preference for local public providers (12 managers and 8 managers respectively). SME managers in Finland appear to favour university provision (12 managers) whilst Portugal shows an even split between private training providers and university training (13 managers apiece). Figure 14 Preference for providers by country

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Country
Private Training Providers Universities Local Public Trade Associations Networks

The figure above illustrates the preferences of managers for different training providers by country. Bars represent 100% responses from countries, with the divisions showing the % contribution that each type of training provider makes to the whole response. Managers have selected preferences from the following: (a) private training providers - private training providers, (b) universities - universities, (c) local public - local public training providers, (d) trade associations - trade associations and (e) networks - shared experience networks. In some cases, managers have indicated more than one training provider.

Figure 15 shows responses gathered from managers regarding their preferred location in which to receive training. It can be seen from the figure that the preferred location for training of the sample is in the company (79 managers [47%]), followed by a special location (74 managers [44%]). Under a quarter of managers expressed a preference for receiving training by computer (39 managers [24%]). Again, there are differences in preferences when responses are compared between countries. Training in a special location is preferred by SME managers in France, Germany, Greece and the United Kingdom (18 managers, 10 managers, 17 managers and 12 managers respectively). SME managers in Finland, Italy and Portugal show a preference for training delivered in the company (9 managers, 14 managers and 17 managers respectively).

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Section 5: Research into Priorities Training preferences of SME Managers

Figure 15
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Where managers want training

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In the Company

Special Location

On the Computer

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Social Location

Location
The figure above shows the preferred location for receiving training. Managers were asked to chose their preferred location from the following: (a) in the company - training delivered on / to company premises, (b) special location - training delivered at a special location, (c) on the computer - training delivered using computers, (d) home - training delivered to the home, and (e) social location - training which is combined with a social event. Managers did not provider any other responses.

Figure 16
100%

Preferences for location of training broken down by country

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0%

Finland

France

Germany

Greece

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United kingdom

Country
In the Company Home Special Location Social Location On the Computer

The figure above shows a breakdown of preferences regarding location of training by country. Bars represent 100% responses from countries, with the divisions showing the % contribution that each location makes to the whole response. Managers were asked to chose their preferred location from the following: (a) in the company - training delivered on / to company premises, (b) special location training delivered at a special location, (c) on the computer - training delivered using computers, (d)

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Section 5: Research into Priorities Training preferences of SME Managers

home - training delivered to the home, and (e) social location - training which is combined with a social event.

In addition to identifying preferred providers and locations, managers were asked to identify their preferred timing for training. Preferences are presented as an overview of the sample and on a country-by-country basis in figures 17 and 18 respectively. Figure 17 When managers prefer to be trained

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0 At My Request Evening Sessions Instant Access Weekend Sessions Day Sessions

Timing of Training

The figure above shows the preferred timing for receiving training. Managers were asked to chose their preferred location from the following: (a) at my request - training delivered on request, (b) evening sessions - training delivered through evening training sessions, (c) instant access - training which can be accessed instantaneously, (d) weekend sessions - training delivered through sessions held at the weekend, and (e) day sessions - delivered during the day. Managers did not provide any other responses, some managers provided more than one response.

It can be seen from the figure above that the most popular timing for training is at the manager's request (92 managers [55%]). This suggests that flexibility in timing of training is important to managers. There is a low preference for day sessions (8 managers [5%]). As with location and choice of training provider, there is a difference in preferences between countries, illustrated in Figure 18. In all countries except Portugal, the preference is for training delivered at the manager's request. SME managers in Portugal show a slight preference for training to be carried out during evening sessions (10 managers [40%]).

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Section 5: Research into Priorities Training preferences of SME Managers

Figure 18
100%

Managers' preference for timing of training by country

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Evening Sessions Weekend Sessions Instant Access At My Request Day Sessions

The figure above illustrates the preferences of managers for timing of training by country. Bars represent 100% responses from countries, with the divisions showing the % contribution that each timing makes to the whole response. Managers were asked to chose their preferred location from the following: (a) at my request - training delivered on request, (b) evening sessions - training delivered through evening training sessions, (c) instant access - training which can be accessed instantaneously, (d) weekend sessions - training delivered through sessions held at the weekend, and (e) day sessions delivered during the day. Managers did not provide any other responses, some managers provided more than one response.

In addition to identifying preferences for provider, location and timing, managers were asked to identify how they felt barriers to training could be overcome, the results are presented in Figure 19. The most popular method for overcoming barriers to training is improved access (100 managers [60%]), followed by the provision of grants for training (70 managers [42%]). Interestingly, despite identifying lack of knowledge as the main barrier to use of ICT based training, lack of information does not appear to be such a large factor in training as a whole.60 When responses are considered on a country-by-country basis, some differences appear: SME managers from Finland, France Germany and Italy state that improved access to and flexibility of training is the best way of overcoming barriers to training (17 managers, 10 managers, 17 managers and 11 managers respectively). Managers from the United Kingdom identified provision of grants for training as the best way of overcoming barriers (16 managers), whilst managers from Greece gave both access and grants equal importance (13 managers apiece). Managers from Portugal also identified better access as an important factor, with provision of good information ranking as equally important (17 managers apiece).

60

see Figure 11 for comparison

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Section 5: Research into Priorities Training preferences of SME Managers

Figure 19
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Suggested methods for overcoming barriers to training

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Access

Grants

Information

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Trade Associations

Suggested methods
The figure above shows the responses of managers concerning methods of overcoming barriers to training. Managers were asked to identify responses from the following: (a) access - better access and flexibility, (b) grants - grants to undertake training, (c) information - an information guide on what training is available and where, (d) variety - better variety of relevant training, and (e) trade associations - provision from trade associations. Some managers identified additional factors, these are discussed in the text.

Figure 20
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Methods of overcoming barriers to training by country

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Country
variety trade associations grants information access

The figure above shows the responses of managers concerning methods of overcoming barriers to training, by country. Managers were asked to identify responses from the following: (a) access - better access and flexibility, (b) grants - grants to undertake training, (c) information - an information guide on what training is available and where, (d) variety - better variety of relevant training, and (e) trade associations - provision from trade associations.

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Section 5: Research into Priorities Training preferences of SME Managers

Figure 21

Rationale for making training choices

90.0% 80.0% 70.0% Percentage of managers 60.0% 50.0% 40.0% 30.0% 20.0% 10.0% 0.0%
g or ki ng ie nc e is or s Bo ok to rin yi ng Ex pe ri m en ta tio lta n ou r op O th er cy s se n

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on su

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et w

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ai n

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Type of training Problem Solving Immediate Use Proceed at Own Pace Tried and Tested other

The figure above shows the rationale between different training choices made by managers. Divisions within bars show the composition according to the benefits offered by the type of training: (a) problem solving - the approach is good for problem solving, (b) immediate use - the method allows immediate access, (c) proceed at own pace - the approach allows the learner to proceed at their own pace, (d) tried and tested - the approach is tried and tested and (e) other. Value axis shows percentage of respondents.

Managers were asked their rationale for making training choices. Problem solving was the predominant reason for most areas of training, from the choice of short course to in company experimentation. Also important was immediate use, followed by proceed at own pace. A preference for the tried and tested was also shown by some managers. Responses on problems with previous training were much fewer, theoretical and not relevant being the two most common responses. Managers were also asked to identify preferred methods of delivery in four major areas of management: financial management, strategic and production management, marketing and international management and human resources management. The questionnaire provided a mixture of 'traditional' and ICT-based training methods and managers were asked to record their first five choices for each kind of management. Figures 22-25 present the first and second choices for each type of management.

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Section 5: Research into Priorities Training preferences of SME Managers

Figure 22

Preferred methods of delivery of management training in financial management

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Number of Managers

50 40 30 20 10 0

longer training at college/university

interactive web-site

CD-ROM

use of game scenario/virtual reality

on-line advice via email

short training course

one-to-one sessions

Method of Delivery
First Choice Second Choice

The figure above shows the first and second preferences of managers for method of delivery of training in financial management. Each bar represents a single delivery method, with the divisions representing number of people identifying delivery method as their first or second choice. It should be noted that response rate was low: 46 managers failed to provide first choices and 58 did not provide second choices.61

As can be seen from the figure above, the most preferred method of delivery is a short training course, with 45 managers choosing this delivery as their first choice and 10 managers choosing it as their second choice. There seems to be general preference for traditional methods of delivery. The ICT-based methodology showing the highest combined ranking was on-line advice via email (first choice of five managers and second choice of six managers). This was only the ninth most popular choice of managers. As with the case of training in financial management, short training courses are the preferred method of delivery for the sample for training in strategic and production management, with 29 managers identifying it as their first choice of delivery and 10 managers identifying it as their second choice. Again there is a preference for traditional methods of delivery, but with group workshops and consultancy featuring more highly (22 managers and 21 managers respectively). Games scenarios / virtual reality is the eighth most popular delivery method (seven managers' first choice, three managers' second choice).

Lack of response was of three kinds: (i) individuals failing to provide any choices, (ii) managers providing a first choice but no second choice and (iii) responses which could not be counted due to errors in recording (a number of choices were highlighted with no ranking or "tied choices" - for example two first choices - were indicated)
61

45

business exchange networks

text books and manuals

video-conferencing

telephone help-line

consultancy

mentoring

one day seminar

group workshops

video-cassette

Heads of SMEs

Section 5: Research into Priorities Training preferences of SME Managers

Figure 23

Preferred methods of delivery of management training in strategic and production management

45 40 35

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longer training at college/university

use of game scenario/virtual reality

short training course

interactive web-site

CD-ROM

on-line advice via email

text books and manuals

one-to-one sessions

Method of delivery
First Choice Second Choice

The figure above shows the first and second preferences of managers for method of delivery of training in strategic and production management. Each bar represents a single delivery method, with the divisions representing number of people identifying delivery method as their first or second choice. Response rate was low - 61 managers failed to provide a first choice and 70 managers failed to provide a second choice.

Figure 24

Preferred methods of delivery of management training in marketing and international management

50 45

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business exchange networks

business exchange networks

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longer training at college/university

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one day seminar

video-cassette

video-conferencing

one-to-one sessions

Method of Delivery
First Choice Second Choice

The figure above shows the first and second preferences of managers for method delivery of training in marketing and international management. Each bar represents a single delivery method, with the divisions representing number of people identifying delivery method as their first or second choice.

46

use of game scenario/virtual reality

short training course

telephone help-line

mentoring

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telephone help-line

consultancy

mentoring

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video-cassette

Heads of SMEs

Section 5: Research into Priorities Training preferences of SME Managers

Response rate was low - 56 managers failed to provide a first choice and 67 managers failed to provide a second choice.

Once again, short training courses are favoured in delivery of human resources management training (32 managers' first choice and nine managers' second choice). There is also a strong preference for one-to-one sessions (19 managers' first choice and nine managers' second choice). The most popular form of ICT based delivery is CD-ROM delivery (seven managers). Figure 25 Preferred methods of delivery of management training in human resources management

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longer training at college/university

on-line advice via email

interactive web-site

short training course

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Type of Delivery
First Choice Second Choice

The figure above shows the first and second preferences of managers for method of delivery of training in human resources management. Each bar represents a single delivery method, with the divisions representing number of people identifying delivery method as their first or second choice. Response rate was low - 69 managers failed to provide a first choice and 77 managers failed to provide a second choice.

In summary, there is a preference for traditional methods of training delivery, regardless of management area. In all cases, short courses are the preferred method of delivery and the top eight choices comprise: [short courses], one-day seminars, one-to-one sessions, group workshops, mentoring, consultancy and longer training. There are some differences between preferences for each of these traditional delivery methods between management areas. For example, one-to-one sessions rank second in preference for human resources training, whilst they only rank sixth for production management; group workshops and consultancy are felt to be more relevant to production management than the other types of management. With regard to ICT-based delivery, there appears to be low demand. Again, there are differences between preferences for training in each of the management areas. Although the numbers involved are low, it is interesting to note both the contribution of ICT-based training to preferences for each management area and the differences in preference for ICT delivery types between management training areas. These differences are illustrated in Figure 26.

47

use of game scenario/virtual reality

one-to-one sessions

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text books and manuals

telephone help-line

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Heads of SMEs

Section 5: Research into Priorities Training preferences of SME Managers

Figure 26

Breakdown of preferences for ICT based delivery by area of management training

18%

16%

14%

Relative Contribution

12%

10%

8%

6%

4%

2%

0%

CD-ROM

on-line advice via email

interactive web-site

use of game scenario/virtual reality

video-conference

video-cassette

Type of ICT Delivery


Financial Strategic and production Marketining and international Human Resources

The figure above shows the preference for different types of ICT based training delivery by area of management training. Divisions within bars show the composition according to area of management training: (a) financial management, (b) strategic and production management, (c) marketing and international management and (d) human resources management. Value axis shows relative contribution, which is an adjusted figure that takes into account the different response rates between different areas of management.62

Across the board, there is a low preference for the use of ICT based training in human resource management. It can be seen that the more established delivery methods of CD-ROM and on-line advice via email are the most preferred categories overall. However, with the exception of human resources management, the most preferred technology of different management types do not align with these overall preferences. The use of game scenario/ virtual reality is felt to be particularly appropriate to strategic and production management. Use of video-conferencing and interactive websites are felt to be particularly appropriate to training in marketing and international management. In financial management the first preference is for on-line advice, but the second is for use of an interactive website.

Relative contribution = (number of managers/total number of responses within management type) expressed as a %. For example 11 managers stated a preference for on-line advice, out of a total response rate of 232, giving a relative contribution of 3%.
62

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Section 5: Research into Priorities Training preferences of SME Managers

Figure 27

Priority areas for management training

120

100

Number of managers

80

60

40

20

Fi g na nc ia lm an ag em en t

re ne ur sh ip

en t

m an ag em en t

re so ur ce s

H um an

The figure above shows the areas of training which managers identified as a priority for training. Managers were asked to select priorities for training from a list. Managers were able to select more than one training priority. The priorities from the list were grouped into categories as follows to ease comparison of data: (a) human resources management - recruitment and development, time management and delegation, employment legislation, (b) marketing - exporting and internationalisation, networks and collaborative working, customer relations, languages, (c) financial management - value analysis, financial planning, turnover ratio, (d) entrepreneurship - fostering intrapreneurship and greater entrepreneurship, (e) organisational management - total quality management, (f) ICT - ICT based decision support (g) eCommerce - electronic data interchange , and (h) Production - production management . Managers identified additional areas of training; these are discussed in the text.

Figure 26 shows that managers of SMEs in this sample consider human resources management as their major priority for training (114 managers [68%]). The second priority of managers as shown above is marketing (94 managers [56%]), followed by financial management (68 managers[41%]). Very few managers identified eCommerce as a priority area for training. Our results can be compared with the results of the TELEMAN63 study. This study surveyed 1000 SMEs across Europe. In terms of delivery of training 76% preferred the modality of part attendance . This indicates the desire for some face-to-face interaction with the tutor or other participants. 64% of companies preferred tailor-made courses rather than standardised. Teleman comments on the need for specific courses for their special problems which are directly applicable to their practical cases. Content of a distance course has to be more detailed as there is not the possibility of classroom explanations. In terms of delivery of training the following results were obtained: 65% of the companies prefer group training. 93% of companies want trainer assistance. 82% have a preference for an official certificate at the end of the course. 65% want flexibility 70% want training on demand rather than scheduled training
63

op.cit.

49

rg an is at

Area of training

io na lm an ag em

En tre p

eC om m er ce

Pr od uc tio n

M ar ke tin

IC

Heads of SMEs

Section 5: Research into Priorities Training preferences of SME Managers

91% want direct contact with experts to support the course

Conclusions From the results presented above we draw the following conclusions: Private training providers are the preferred deliverers of training. This is subject to differences between countries. The preferred location for training is either in the company or at a special location Managers prefer to receive training at their request. Most popular methods for overcoming barriers to training are improvements in access and grants for training. There are some differences in preferences for method of training delivery between management positions, but traditional methods of delivery are preferred over ICT based methods. Within the ICT based delivery methods investigated, the overall preference is for more established technologies such as CD-ROM and on-line advice services by email. There is also some evidence for the usefulness of less established technologies in specific management roles. For example: Virtual reality may have a potential application in strategic and production management Video-conferencing may have potential in marketing and international management Priority areas for training are human resources management, marketing and financial management. Entrepreneurship is also seen as a priority, whereas ICT and eCommerce do not rate highly. The lack of emphasis on ICT training may be due to the fairly high current usage of ICTs by the sample group.

50

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Section 5: Research into Priorities The effect of size

5.5

The Effect of Size

Much of the literature regarding SME development and management points to a specific difference in the nature of firms employing 1-10 people (micro-firms) compared with those within the small (11-50) and medium sized (51-249) categories. In order to examine the effect of size on responses, a series of cross-tabulations have been performed. This subsection examines the relationship between size of company64 and:

Use of ICT in training Suggested methods for overcoming barriers to management training Training preferences

It has been suggested that investment in ICTs and levels of connectivity show a positive relationship with size of company65. Three cross-tabulations have been performed to examine this relationship within our sample. These are presented in Tables 1-3. Table 1 Use of ICT in different areas of management
Size of Company 1-10 FM SPM MIM HRM 52 26 27 19 124 74% 37% 39% 27% 50 28 23 21 122 11-50 83% 47% 38% 35% 28 15 14 12 69 51-249 78% 42% 39% 33% 130 69 64 52 315 Total

The table above shows the results of a cross-tabulation of use of ICT in different areas of management with size of company: (a) FM - financial management, (b) SPM - strategic and production management, (c) MIM - marketing and international management and (d) HRM - human resources management. In each case, the number of companies appears in the first column and the percentage that this represents of the whole sample (number of companies/total number of companies in size range) is presented in the second column. It should be noted that the data includes two missing values for size, thus the percentages quoted may include an error of up to 1%.

From Table 1 it can be seen that all sizes of company show highest adoption of ICT by financial managers. In general, use of ICT is lowest in the micro firm bracket, as might be expected. However, marketing and international management is an exception, where microfirms share highest usage with large firms. Difference in use in this area between size brackets is not large, but micro-firms showing a comparable usage to other categories, suggests that micro-firms appreciate the potential of ICT as a marketing tool. Small firms show the highest level of adoption in the other categories of management. The higher proportion of small firms operating in the technical and business services sector (40%) within our sample compared with medium firms (31%) may account for this.

In the text references to micro, small and medium sized firms, should be taken to refer to "managers in" 65 For example "Moving into the Information Age - An International Benchmarking Study" 1999. 51

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Section 5: Research into Priorities The effect of size

Table 2

Managers' level of expertise in the use of ICT


Size of Company 1-10 NONE OCC REG EMAIL INT SPE EXP 3 10 41 46 41 15 13 169 4% 14% 59% 66% 59% 21% 19% 2 6 42 37 35 17 7 146 11-50 3% 10% 70% 62% 58% 28% 12% 2 6 24 24 26 9 3 94 51-249 6% 17% 67% 67% 72% 25% 8% 7 22 107 107 102 41 23 406 Total

The table above shows the results of a cross-tabulation of level of ICT expertise of managers with size of company: (a) NONE - no experience of use of ICT, (b) OCC - occasional use of basic packages, (c) REG - regular use of basic packages, (d) EMAIL - regular use of email, (e) INT - regular use of the Internet, (f) SPE - use of specialist packages and (g) EXP - expert in use of ICT. In each case, the number of companies appears in the first column and the percentage that this represents of the whole sample (number of companies/total number of companies in size range) is presented in the second column. It should be noted that the data includes two missing values for size, thus the percentages quoted may include an error of up to 1%.

From the table above, it can be seen that most managers use ICT regularly in all sizes of firm. It can also be seen that use of the Internet is much higher in the larger companies in the sample group, with medium sized companies having much higher use (72% of managers) compared with micro and small firms (59% and 58% respectively). This may reflect a lack of technology within these firms or a limitation of access. Interestingly, managers in micro-firms appear more likely to classify themselves as "ICT experts" than those in small and medium firms. Within micro-firms it is possible that the manager's role is more "hands-on" and this necessitates a greater technical expertise. Table 3 ICTs used by managers in previous training
Size of Company 1-10 INTS CD-ROM EMAIL VID INTT VIRT VC EMENT 29 28 21 16 12 8 8 6 128 41% 40% 30% 23% 17% 11% 11% 9% 24 20 24 12 13 9 10 8 120 11-50 40% 33% 40% 20% 22% 15% 17% 13% 16 16 11 10 8 8 6 6 81 51-249 44% 44% 31% 28% 22% 22% 17% 17% 69 64 56 38 33 25 24 20 329 Total

The table above shows the results of a cross-tabulation of use of ICTs in previous training with size of company: (a) INTS - Internet searches, (b) CD-ROM - CD-ROM, (c) EMAIL - email, (d) VID - use of video, (e) INTT - Internet based training, (f) VIRT - virtual reality, (g) VC - video-conferencing and (h) EMENT - ementoring. In each case, the number of companies appears in the first column and the percentage that this represents of the whole sample (number of companies/total number of companies in size range) is presented in the second column. It should be noted that the data includes two missing values for size, thus the percentages quoted may include an error of up to 1%.

Table 3 illustrates the previous use of ICTs by managers in training. As expected from previous studies, the use of ICTs for training is generally most frequent in medium sized firms. This is particularly striking in the case of newer and potentially more expensive or resource intensive approaches such as virtual reality and ementoring.

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Section 5: Research into Priorities The effect of size

Table 4

Methods for overcoming barriers to management training


Size of Company 1-10 ACC GRANTS INFO VAR TRADE 44 29 28 19 8 128 63% 41% 40% 27% 11% 32 25 24 25 14 120 11-50 53% 42% 40% 42% 23% 23 16 11 13 5 68 51-249 64% 44% 31% 36% 14% 99 70 63 57 27 316 Total

The table above shows the results of a cross-tabulation of methods for overcoming barriers to management training with size of company: (a) ACC - improved access, (b) GRANTS - grants to SMEs for training, (c) - INFO - information, (d) VAR - variety of methods, and (e) TRADE - greater involvement of trade associations. In each case, the number of companies appears in the first column and the percentage that this represents of the whole sample (number of companies/total number of companies in size range) is presented in the second column. It should be noted that the data includes two missing values for size, thus the percentages quoted may include an error of up to 1%.

The table above shows the differences in suggestions for overcoming barriers to training. Information appears to be more of a problem for small and micro firms than medium firms. It is also interesting to note that small firms wish to see an increased presence of trade associations and greater variety in training providers. Table 5 When managers prefer to receive training
Size of Company 1-10 REQ EVE INS WEND DAY 32 23 8 15 2 80 46% 33% 11% 21% 3% 35 19 12 4 2 72 11-50 58% 32% 20% 7% 3% 23 7 6 2 4 42 51-249 64% 19% 17% 6% 11% 90 49 26 21 8 194 Total

The table above shows the results of a cross-tabulation of preferred timing of training with size of company: a) REQ - at my request, (b) EVE - evening sessions, (c) INS - instant access, (d) WEND weekend sessions, and (e) DAY - day sessions. In each case, the number of companies appears in the first column and the percentage that this represents of the whole sample (number of companies/total number of companies in size range) is presented in the second column. It should be noted that the data includes two missing values for size, thus the percentages quoted may include an error of up to 1%.

From Table 5, it can be seen that there is a strong preference for training provision at managers' request in all sizes of SME. It is interesting to note that micro and small firms show a higher preference for out of hours training in evenings (33% and 32% respectively), than medium sized firms (19%) and that micro-firms also show a willingness to participate in training at weekends (21%, compared with 7% and 6% for small and medium firms respectively). This may be in part due to the documented difficulties in providing cover for staff attending training during working hours.

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Section 5: Research into Priorities The effect of size

Table 6

Where managers prefer to receive training


Size of Company 1-10 COMP SPEC COMPU HOME SOC 30 30 12 14 3 89 43% 43% 17% 20% 4% 31 24 17 7 3 82 11-50 52% 40% 28% 12% 5% 17 19 10 2 2 50 51-249 47% 53% 28% 6% 6% 78 73 39 23 8 221 Total

The table above shows the results of a cross-tabulation of preferred location of training with size of company: (a) COMP - in the company, (b) SPEC - special location, (c) COMPU - on the computer, (d) HOME -training delivered to the home, and (e) SOC - social location. In each case, the number of companies appears in the first column and the percentage that this represents of the whole sample (number of companies/total number of companies in size range) is presented in the second column. It should be noted that the data includes two missing values for size, thus the percentages quoted may include an error of up to 1%.

From the table above, it can be seen that demand for training using a computer is not as popular with micro-firms (17%) than small and medium sized firms (28% each). This may be related to the lower level of use of ICT seen in management areas or in lower levels of regular use of ICTs by micro-firm managers. Table 7 Who managers prefer to receive training from
Size of Company 1-10 PRIV UNI LOCPUB TRADE NET 31 24 25 17 21 118 44% 34% 36% 24% 30% 30 17 16 17 14 94 11-50 50% 28% 27% 28% 23% 18 11 9 12 9 59 51-249 50% 31% 25% 33% 25% 79 52 50 46 44 271 Total

The table above shows the results of a cross-tabulation of preferred training providers with size of company: (a) PRIV - private training providers, (b) UNI - universities, (c) LOCPUB - local public training providers, (d) TRADE - trade associations, and (e) NET - networks. In each case, the number of companies appears in the first column and the percentage that this represents of the whole sample (number of companies/total number of companies in size range) is presented in the second column. It should be noted that the data includes two missing values for size, thus the percentages quoted may include an error of up to 1%.

There also appear to be differences between size categories regarding preferred training providers. There is a stronger preference for private training providers in small and medium firms (50% in each case) than micro firms (44%), although this is the top choice for all size categories. Micro firms appear to have a greater preference for university or local public providers than shown by small or medium firms. They also have a higher preference for network-based training. With regard to encouraging managers to use ICT based training, the most prominent factor is quality assurance, regardless of size. However, there seem to be specific problems, which affect micro firms and small firms, which are less significant for medium sized firms. Micro

54

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Section 5: Research into Priorities The effect of size

and small firms see reduction in cost of ICT based training and recommendation from other SMEs as more significant factors than medium sized companies do. Table 8 Factors which would encourage managers to use ICT based training in the future.
Size of Company 1-10 QUALASS COST REC ACC QUAL LANG 33 28 27 18 13 9 127 47% 40% 39% 26% 19% 13% 30 24 21 13 8 9 105 11-50 50% 40% 35% 22% 13% 15% 16 8 8 7 3 5 47 51-249 44% 22% 22% 19% 8% 14% 79 60 56 38 24 23 283 Total

The table above shows the results of a cross-tabulation of factors encouraging use of ICTs with size of company: (a) QUALASS - quality assurance (b) COST - cheaper access, (c) REC -Recommendation from other SMEs, (d) ACC - Accreditation, (e) QUAL - Quality websites (f) LANG -provision in my language. In each case, the number of companies appears in the first column and the percentage that this represents of the whole sample (number of companies/total number of companies in size range) is presented in the second column. It should be noted that the data includes two missing values for size, thus the percentages quoted may include an error of up to 1%.

Table 9 illustrate the priorities for management training identified by managers. Although priorities are broadly similar between different management types, there appears to be a distinction between micro firms and the remainder of the sample. Entrepreneurship appears to be of greater importance to managers in small or medium sized firms. This may reflect a number of factors regarding the position of these size categories relative to firms' growth cycles and managers' stage in their employment. In the case of small firms, it is likely that they will be reaching a stage where new product development is becoming increasingly necessary to maintain growth, thus entrepreneurship training may be seen as a way of increasing innovation and stimulating new product development. Table 9 Priorities for management training
Size of Company 1-10 HR MAR FIN ENT OM ICT ECOM PROD 36 34 29 17 11 8 5 6 146 51% 49% 41% 24% 16% 11% 7% 9% 42 38 19 33 17 12 9 8 178 11-50 70% 63% 32% 55% 28% 20% 15% 13% 51-249 36 20 19 15 5 10 9 4 118 100% 56% 53% 42% 14% 28% 25% 11% 114 92 67 65 33 30 23 18 442 Total

The table above shows the results of a cross-tabulation of priorities for management training with size of company: (a) HR - human resources management, (b) MAR - marketing, (c) FIN - financial management, (d) ENT - entrepreneurship, (e) OM - organisational management, (f) ICT - ICT (g) ECOM - eCommerce, and (h) PROD - production management. In each case, the number of companies appears in the first column and the percentage that this represents of the whole sample (number of companies/total number of companies in size range) is presented in the second column. It should be noted that the data includes two missing values for size, thus the percentages quoted may include an

55

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Section 5: Research into Priorities The effect of size

error of up to 1%, such errors are evident for categories of MAR, FIN, ENT, ICT, ECOM, PROD when figures in Table 9 are compared with figures discussed in Section 5.4.

Conclusions The following conclusions can be drawn about the effect of size, as revealed in the completed questionnaires:

In general micro firms show lower adoption of ICT in daily work of managers than

small or medium sized firms, but the difference is not large. Use of the Internet is higher in medium sized firms than other categories of firm. The proportion of managers classifying themselves as experts is highest in micro firms. Managers in medium sized firms are more likely to have used ICT-based training than those in micro or small firms. More resource intensive approaches such as virtual reality and ementoring have been used more frequently in medium sized firms than micro or small firms. Lack of information is a greater barrier to training for micro and small firms than medium sized firms. Managers prefer training to be on demand regardless of size although: There appears to be a greater willingness to participate in out of hours training in small and micro firms. Demand for computer based training is currently low in micro firms. Private training provision is preferred by managers regardless of size of firm. Micro firms show the greatest preference for receipt of training from universities, public training providers and through networks. Micro and small firms view reduction in cost and recommendations from other SMEs as important factors in influencing use of ICT based training. The need for entrepreneurship training is greatest in small and medium sized firms.

56

Heads of SMEs

Section 5: Research into Priorities The effect of Managers sex

5.6

Analysis of effect of sex of respondent

In order to search for any preferences or results that could be affected by sex of the respondent, a series of cross-tabulations of responses against sex have been performed. These are presented in the tables below. In each case, the ratio of male to female responses has been used as an indicator of differences in preference. The overall ratio of male to female responses is roughly equivalent to 4:1 (20% female) and as such deviation from this ratio is considered below. Table 1 Managers' level of expertise in the use of ICT
Sex Male NONE OCC REG EMAIL INT SPEC EXP 7 17 78 78 76 35 21 Female 0 4 24 23 22 3 2 7 21 102 101 98 38 23 390 Total Male: Female ratio

4:1 3:1 3:1 3:1 11:1 11:1

The table above shows the results of a cross-tabulation of level of ICT expertise of managers with sex: (a) NONE - no experience of use of ICT, (b) OCC - occasional use of basic packages, (c) REG - regular use of basic packages, (d) EMAIL - regular use of email, (e) INT - regular use of the Internet, (f) SPEC use of specialist packages and (g) EXP - expert in use of ICT. An additional column presents the male: female ratio. Overall, male to female ratio for respondents was 4:1. It should be noted that the data includes seven missing values for sex.

Table 1 illustrates managers' level of ICT expertise. It can be seen that level of use is distributed in a similar way between the sexes. More female managers appear to use email, Internet and basic packages than male managers. However, this may be linked to the fact that less female managers place themselves in the expert and specialist categories. Table 2 ICTs used by managers in previous training
Sex Male INTS CD-ROM INTT VIRT EMAIL EMENT VC VIDEO 54 50 25 18 43 16 20 30 Female 11 10 5 2 10 2 2 4 65 60 30 20 53 18 22 34 302 5:1 5:1 5:1 9:1 4:1 8:1 10:1 8:1 Total Male: Female ratio

The table above shows the results of a cross-tabulation of use of ICTs in previous training with sex: (a) INTS - Internet searches, (b) CD-ROM - CD-ROM, (c) EMAIL - email, (d) VIDEO - use of video, (e) INTT - Internet based training, (f) VIRT - virtual reality, (g) VC - video-conferencing and (h) EMENT ementoring. An additional column presents the male: female ratio. Overall male to female ratio for respondents was 4:1.

It appears that there is some differentiation in the use of ICTs for training between the sexes. In general, ICT appears to be less well used by female members of the sample. In particular,

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Section 5: Research into Priorities The effect of Managers sex

use of virtual reality, e-mentoring, video-conferencing and video by male managers, is much higher than use by female managers. Table 3 Methods for overcoming barriers to management training
Sex Male ACC GRANTS INFO VAR TRADE 75 53 45 44 20 Female 20 14 15 11 7 95 67 60 55 27 304 4:1 4:1 3:1 4:1 3:1 Total Male : Female Ratio

The table above shows the results of a cross-tabulation of methods for overcoming barriers to management training with sex: (a) ACC - improved access, (b) GRANTS - grants to SMEs for training, (c) - INFO - information, (d) VAR - variety of methods, and (e) TRADE - greater involvement of trade associations. An additional column presents the male: female ratio. Overall male to female ratio for respondents was 4:1.

It can be seen from the table above that differences occur between male and female managers regarding opinions on methods for overcoming barriers to management training. Whilst the broad picture is the same, female managers appear to rate better information as a more important method than provision of grants. The situation is reversed in the case of male managers. Table 4 When managers prefer to receive training
Sex Male REQ EVE INS WEND DAY 73 37 21 17 6 Female 16 10 3 4 2 89 47 24 21 8 189 5:1 4:1 7:1 4:1 3:1 Total Male: Female ratio

The table above shows the results of a cross-tabulation of preferred timing of training with sex: a) REQ - at my request, (b) EVE - evening sessions, (c) INS - instant access, (d) WEND - weekend sessions, and (e) DAY - day sessions. An additional column presents the male: female ratio. Overall male to female ratio for respondents was 4:1.

Again, the picture is broadly similar between male and female respondents. There are slight differences in the preferences, with female managers placing less importance on instant access than male managers. Also, the preference for training during the day is higher for female managers. This may be related to the social situation of female managers. Table 5 shows what may be an important difference between the training preferences of male and female managers. Female managers show a lower preference for receiving training by computer than male managers (as shown by the ratio of 11:1 compared with the overall male:female ratio of approximately 4:1). Table 5 Where managers prefer to receive training

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Section 5: Research into Priorities The effect of Managers sex


Sex Male Female 18 13 3 4 1 77 73 36 22 8 216 3:1 5:1 10:1 5:1 7:1 Total Male: Female ratio

COMP SPEC COMPU HOME SOC

59 60 33 18 7

The table above shows the results of a cross-tabulation of preferred location of training with sex: (a) COMP - in the company, (b) SPEC - special location, (c) COMPU - on the computer, (d) HOME -training delivered to the home, and (e) SOC - social location. An additional column presents the male: female ratio. Overall male to female ratio for respondents was 4:1.

Table 6

Who managers prefer to receive training from


Sex Male PRIV LOCPUB UNI TRADE NET 63 38 37 40 33 Female 17 12 10 7 11 80 50 47 47 44 268 4:1 3:1 4:1 4:1 3:1 Total Male : Female ratio

The table above shows the results of a cross-tabulation of preferred training providers with sex: (a) PRIV - private training providers, (b) LOCPUB - local public training providers, (c) UNI - universities, (d) TRADE - trade associations, and (e) NET - networks. An additional column presents the male: female ratio. Overall male to female ratio for respondents was 4:1.

The table above illustrates that there are no large differences between male and female managers. However, there is a slight preference for networking (as shown by the ratio of 3:1) among female managers. Local public training providers also appear to be preferred. Table 7 Factors which would encourage managers to use ICT based training in the future.
Sex Male QUALASS COST REC ACC QUAL LANG 64 47 45 27 19 21 Female 12 11 11 10 6 2 76 58 56 37 25 23 275 5:1 4:1 4:1 3:1 3:1 10:1 Total Male : Female Ratio

The table above shows the results of a cross-tabulation of factors encouraging use of ICTs with sex: (a) QUALASS - quality assurance (b) COST - cheaper access, (c) REC -Recommendation from other SMEs, (d) ACC - Accreditation, (e) QUAL - Quality websites (f) LANG -provision in my language. An additional column presents the male: female ratio. Overall male to female ratio for respondents was 4:1.

Table 7 illustrates the different suggestions made by male and female managers regarding improvements which would influence them to use ICT based training. Although the ranking of preferences is the same between the sexes, female managers appear to place more importance on accreditation and quality of websites than their male counterparts. Provision in

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Section 5: Research into Priorities The effect of Managers sex

the manager's native language also seems to be a greater factor for male managers than female managers. Table 8 Priorities for management training
Sex Male HR MAR FIN ENT OM ICT ECOM PROD 87 80 58 57 29 27 21 18 Female 23 12 7 7 2 4 3 1 110 92 65 64 31 31 24 19 436 4:1 4:1 8:1 8:1 10:1 7:1 7:1 18:1 Total Male : Female Ratio

The table above shows the results of a cross-tabulation of priorities for management training with size of company: (a) HR - human resources management, (b) MAR - marketing, (c) FIN - financial management, (d) ENT - entrepreneurship, (e) OM - organisational management, (f) ICT - ICT (g) ECOM - eCommerce, and (h) PROD - production management. An additional column presents the male: female ratio. Overall male to female ratio for respondents was 4:1.

From the table above, it appears that there are differences in priorities for management training. This may in part be due to some differences in the management roles of the sexes (for example, there is only a single female technical manager included). However, it appears that certain areas of training for example organisational management, production management, entrepreneurship and financial management are lower priorities for female managers than male managers. Conclusions The following conclusions can be drawn about the effect of sex, as revealed in the completed questionnaires.66:

In general, responses appear to be unaffected by sex of the respondent, but there are some small differences Female managers currently appear to be less likely than male managers to want training delivered by computer Female managers also appear less likely to take part in specialist use of ICTs Male managers are more likely to have used ICTs such as virtual reality and videoconferencing in training Networks appear to be more preferred by female managers than male managers, although private training providers are seen as the preferrec training provider by both sexes Female managers also appear to place more importance on accreditation and quality websites than male managers. Male managers place more importance on provision in their own language. There appears to be less demand for training in the areas of production management, organisational management, entrepreneurship and financial management amongst female managers

It should be noted that sample size of female managers is low, which may have an effect on these results
66

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Heads of SMEs

Section 5: Research into Priorities Learning Styles

5.7

Learning Styles of SME Managers

In addition to the main questionnaire a learning styles questionnaire was also delivered during the interviews with SME managers in four countries, Finland, France, Greece and the UK (see Appendix 1 and Appendix 3). The questionnaires investigated four different types of learners67: Activists Reflectors Theorists Pragmatists people who people who analysing it people who people who learn by trying things out learn by observing, collecting data and think logically, and follow logical rules. learn by experimentation.

The dominant preferred learning style for the managers was Activist (30 managers), followed by Pragmatist (17 managers). This was the case for Finland, France and Greece. However, managers in the UK showed a stronger preference for Pragmatist.
The strong preference for activist and pragmatist behaviour within the sample, would influence the type of learning which is likely to be most effective. According to Honey and Mumford68, Activists are most likely to learn from the following type of activity: New experiences/problems/opportunities from which to learn Here and now activities, for example business games, competitive teamwork tasks and role-playing activities Exciting tasks with a range of activities to tackle Activities in which they are thrown in at the deep end Problem solving as a team Tasks involving practical participation

Pragmatists learn best from the following: Situations where clear links between subject matter and a "real" problem can be made Activities with obvious practice advantages, for example which save time Tasks involving practising techniques with feedback from an expert Models which can be emulated, for example a demonstration from someone with a proven track record Techniques which are directly applicable to their own job Learning which incorporates immediate opportunities to implement what they have learnt Tasks where they can concentrate on practical issues

These findings link with the findings of the trainers survey and SME survey in this report which highlight preferences for human interaction, practical problem-solving approaches, feedback, coaching and mentoring, and group work. The results of the learning styles survey strengthen the idea that best practice in training for SME managers will require a variety of techniques and that ICTBT would need to be supported by other face-to-face activities.

67 68

Based on the work of Honey, P. and Mumford, M. "The Manual of Learning Styles" (1986) ibid.

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Section 5: Research into Priorities Requirements

5.8

Requirements of Heads of SMEs

The survey of heads of SMEs has identified the following requirements:

Demand from Heads of SMEs Heads of SMEs are different from employees. They exhibit activist and pragmatist learning styles, prefer learning by doing and favour problem-centred approaches that offer flexibility. Preferences of Heads of SMEs Managers prefer short courses, with an even split between delivery in and out of company. Private sector providers are favoured, with approximately a quarter of heads would like training delivered by computer. Size of company is a factor in preferences.

Use of ICBT by Heads of SMEs About a quarter of managers have used ICTBT, with most common forms being CDROM, email and Internet search. They like the potential for immediacy, up-to-date material and learning at own pace offered by ICTBT. Managers find problems with ICTBT regarding lack of human support, poor presentation and unreliability of technology. Heads of SMEs see a need to develop quality assurance and reduce the cost of access. Recommendation from other SMEs is a factor in use of ICTBT. Take up of Management Training Constraints to take up of training include: time and place, cost and quality. Suggested mechanisms for overcoming constraints include: better access and flexibility, grants and information on the nature and quality of training.

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6.

ANALYSIS OF BEST PRACTICE IN THE EUROPEAN UNION

6.1 Interviews with Training Providers 16 training providers were interviewed face-to-face in their native language. Of these, 7 were universities, 5 were private sector companies and 4 were public or non-profit organisations. The training providers are listed below: Universidade Catolica, Portugal
Universidade Nova de Lisboa, N0VA-FORUM Institute for Executive Training, Portugal

University of Durham Foundation for SME Development, UK Bolton Business School Centre for Enterprise and Management, UK Business Focus & Associates, UK FinnVera and Ministry of Trade and Industry, Finland Pella, Finland Tampere Technology Centre, Finland Hellenic Management Association, Greece University of Macedonia, Greece ISTUD (Istituto Studi Direzionali), Italy Poliedra Progetti Integrati, Italy Emedi@, France CNAM, France WHU Koblenz, Germany Schickler Personalentwicklung und Training GmbH, Germany Summaries of the interviews are presented in Appendix 2.

6.2 Evidence of Size Differentiation Only 4 of the 16 providers did not have provision designed specifically for SMEs. These were all universities. However the provision selected from these organisations for good practice was well attended by heads of SMEs. 6 training providers were providing training specifically for micro firms. 3 of these providers were in Finland, 1 was in France, 1 in Germany and 1 in the UK. Most of these providers were private sector companies offering a combination of consultancy and training. In two cases this was receiving public support. In Finland this was from the Ministry of Trade and Industry with a nationwide programme called Training for Growth-orientated SMEs. In the UK the support was being subsidised by Business Link, which is a national network providing training and business services to SMEs. Tampere Technology Centre was the only University offering training specifically for Micro firms. Only one provider had a definite division between provision for small firms and provision for medium firms, with different programme for each. This was the University of Durham Foundation for SME Development. 6.3 What training programmes are being offered?

The training programmes fall into three main categories: Short courses

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The main themes covered by these programmes are: General management Information management Change management E-commerce Finance Marketing Business strategy ICT based decision support TQM Entrepreneurship
10 of the providers said that their training included entrepreneurship. The programme at Finn Vera specifically covered entrepreneurship. The University of Durham has an MA in Entrepreneurship but this is not specifically for SMEs.

The MBA and Executive MBA seem to be more popular with Greek SMEs than SMEs in the other countries. Bolton Business School was the only provider, which had designed an MBA specifically for small business. 10 of the providers were providing self-diagnosis skills for SME managers. Generally the provision was not targeting women specifically, with the exception of one provider, ISTUD, which has a web-site for women, www.mentoreimpresa.it 6.4 Evidence of Quality and Involvement of SMEs On-going research Specific market surveys Evaluation of programmes Piloting of programmes Database on profiles of participants including company size Generation of SME case study portfolio Sectoral differentiation of materials Pre-course assessment of training needs Meetings with SME focus groups to discuss design and needs Trainers with experience in SMEs Use of data from participant companies in training Involvement of training provider in a large network Building close relationships with SMEs Having a known reputation for quality Involvement in entrepreneur networks or clubs Being an organisation with a large number of members Provision of tailor-made training where SMEs assist in the design of their own training
There were a number of areas where quality was demonstrated. These can be summarised as follows:

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Evaluation of training provision is being carried out in a number of ways. This includes: annual evaluation of programmes; on-going discussions with managers; post course questionnaires; follow up appraisals with firms.
6.5 What networks do the training providers belong to?

Most training providers belonged to networks or had a range of contacts. The university providers had the most extensive networks and had connections with a number of other business schools and organisations some of which were international. Included among these are: European Foundation for Management Development The European Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development Committee International Association of Science Parks Finnish Science Park Association Association of Business Schools, MBA Networks Partnerships with various other business schools Some universities had contacts with business networks, for example, Association of Industries in Northern Greece, trade associations such as Federlombardia, Confindustria Marche, Confidustria Sardegna (Italy), Business Links (UK). Some universities had partnership with large industry for development and financing of management programmes (Bolton Business School, Universade Catolica Portuguesa). Non-university training providers tended to have networks that were more related to SMEs. These were often not formalised. Networks included: Local networks for ICT training
Bund Deutscher Verkaufsfrderer und Trainer (German Association of Sales Promoters and Trainers)

Network of CNAM training centres Chartered Institute Marketing European Marketing Confederation Chambers of Commerce Northern Association of Management Consultants

Only one of the providers mentioned a womens network, MOSAIC (Womens institute of managers). Generally there seemed to be a weakness in links to organisations promoting opportunities for women. There would also seem to be a lack of training specifically for women entrepreneurs. There is provision for start-up training but very little for women's businesses in the growth phase. An analysis of projects funded by the NOW programme reveals a high proportion of projects supporting women entrepreneurs in the start-up phase. A good example of such provision is Frauen Am Markt. This consists of four networked projects providing information, counselling, training and on-going support to women entrepreneurs, with particular emphasis on the creation or adaptation of business incubators tailored to the needs of female entrepreneurs. Other projects such as Step Up NOW69 cater for women in management positions, but without emphasis on

69

A German project aiming to help highly qualified women step up into higher management positions. Participating firms include Volkswagen.

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SMEs. However, the NOW programme has not catered sufficiently for the growth phase of SMEs run by women. Whilst there is still a concentration on the start-up phase, such as evidenced by the Womens Enterprise Development project,70 which is setting up a mentoring network to encourage women to start businesses, other projects focus on the growth phase. One example is the Cross-border training: Euroadvisers and women entrepreneurs, project.71 This is establishing a network of Euroadvisers to provide women running small businesses with training and information on all aspects of business management. Whilst these pilot projects are moving in the right direction, their influence is still very limited. This lack of provision for female SME managers is supported by the Fourth Annual Report of the European Observatory for SMEs, which finds women make less use of information and advisory services. This is partly due to their lack of knowledge about relevant services, and partly because of inadequate or non-existing provision.72 There is a need for provision catering for the growth phase of SMEs run by women, as well as for awareness raising of training opportunities amongst them. 6.6 Evidence of Best Practice in Delivery Traditional Techniques

It would appear that training for heads of SMEs needs to include a lot of interactive activities, which means a variety of mechanisms are used for delivery. The following are examples of what the providers are using.

Group work on cases to solve problems and presentation of solutions to other participants. Use of special guest lecturers from industry Use of 22 known problems of survival Coaching Action learning sets Group games and workshops Mentoring On-site consultancy Self-help discussions Use of SME case studies as examples to solve problems Lectures

Timing is flexible and includes 1 day per month, 1 week per month, weekends, short 3-day courses and evenings. There are cultural differences in this area. Portuguese training providers felt that weekend work was not as effective because managers are tired and have family commitments. It was generally considered useful for managers to be out of the work place for part of the training so that they can focus completely on the training. In the workplace the manager has little time to reflect. Mentoring is a process, which helps the manager to reflect and stand back from the immediate short-term problems of the firm.

70 71 72

http://www.europa.eu.int/comm/dg23/craft/craft-women/craft-women.html Ibid. http://www.europa.eu.int/comm/dg23/craft/craft-women/craft-obswomen.html

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All providers are offering a variety of techniques. Group work and problem solving are important. It would seem that some one-to-one individual attention is also important. 6.7 Evidence of Best Practice in Delivery ICT Techniques How ICT is being used What advantages ICT offers for training SME managers What problems have been faced in using ICT for training What would make it easier to use ICT for training
All providers, except one, were making use of ICT for delivery of training. The providers were asked a number of questions about their use of ICT. This included:

6.7.1 How is ICT being used? Provider


NOVA-FORUM

Use of ICT for Training


Currently developing an electronic framework for teaching management, including a number of software products. Have a management simulation game to assist decision making which simulates market circumstances. Plans for distance operation, where each lecturer has his or her own website through which training will be delivered. ICT is used to support training. Distance delivery is not used. Course participants make use of multimedia training rooms. They are given the option of creating a personal web-site. The Internet and mobile phones are used during e-business training sessions. SME case study data is also presented on the computer and participants learn how IT can be a support tool for decision-making. On-line advice is given via email. ICT is used as a support tool for management training. There are plans for future delivery of a virtual MBA for SMEs. ICT is used for distance learning via CD-ROMs developed with ADAPT funding. A CDROM called Your future Business with E-commerce is available on-line at www.pegasus.org.uk A virtual centre is currently being set up (www.virtual-centre.org.uk) to provide Internet access to a wide range management training material. (See Appendix 2.2) ICT is mainly being used as a support tool, rather than for direct delivery. Biz-Kit is delivered completely on-line but the focus of this is ICT training rather than management training. CD-ROMs are used during workshops. The MA in Entrepreneurship is supported by a virtual learning centre. This includes information, on-line support and chat rooms but is not dedicated only to SMEs. On-line advice via email is given. CD-ROMs are used to support traditional training. ICT is not used as part of training delivery. CD-ROMs are used for information to support the training. A wide variety of ICT is used to support management training. This includes CDROM, virtual reality simulations and on-line advice via email. On-line advice is given via email. Internet is used for gaining information. CD-ROMs are also used to support training. On-line advice is given via email. Internet is used for information. Videoconferencing is used to carry out seminars at a distance.

Universidade Catolica

Bolton School

Business

University of Durham, Foundations for SME Development Business Focus & Associates Finn Vera Pella Tampere Technology Centre Hellenic Management Centre University of Macedonia

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ISTUD

Section 6 : Best Practice in the EU Use of ICT for Training


On-line advice via e-mail is given. The web site has interactive aspects where managers are able to talk and share information with other managers. (www.sviluppoimpresa.com) There is also a site dedicated to women (www.mentoreimpresa.it) ISTUD are currently carrying out research on the use of simulation and virtual reality. A CDROM is being used to assist self-diagnosis for SME managers. Online advice is given by email. There are some interactive aspects on the web-site www.poliedra.it ICT is not used as part of training delivery to SMEs. However the university is making use of e-learning for students through LearnLoop which is a Groupware facility. (www.whu-Koblenz.de/eindex.htm) Emedias activities are tailor-made to the needs of the firm. An intranet can be set up in the firm to be used as a tool for decision-making. Online interactive training is used. Video-conferencing and web-cams are used for interaction between group members. A virtual reality firm is used for training in quality management. Training is mainly delivered by ICT. This includes use of on-line advice via email, an interactive web-site and discussion forum. The chat room is used for on-line and real-time discussion by the virtual group. The discussion forum is managed by the trainer who provides a subject or a question the group members should answer. Training is delivered at the participants computer or at a local learning centre.

POLIEDRA WHU Koblenz Emedi@

CNAM

6.7.2 What advantages does ICT offer for training SME managers?
The bullet points below show the open responses from the trainers in our study:

Time saving Easier to give individual advice Easier access to course material Learning at a distance The participant is able to organise him/her self to suit his/her needs ICT offers a good way of getting information On-line advice means day-to-day support can be given Trainees become more familiar with the technologies that are now important for e-commerce Managers are able to select specific modules Personalising of training Increase learning through the possibility of learning at any time The ability to repeat a session, thus enabling easier assimilation of knowledge Breaks down barriers to learning

We can compare this information with the responses of SME managers from the Phase 1 survey (see Section 5.3 Fig.10a). The main advantages expressed by the managers are immediacy and up-to-date information. Immediacy generally implies the flexibility to access learning when and where they want it, and to find what they want quickly. The SME managers felt that Internet searches, email contact and ementoring offered the greatest potential for providing up-to-date information. Use of virtual reality and video-conferencing were felt to give good user-interactivity and to lead to good retention of knowledge. However these had been used by less than 20% of the sample, a small number of managers. The best feature of CD-ROMs was though to be the ability to proceed at ones own pace.

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There are many potential advantages associated with ICTBT, which are mainly pedagogical in nature. A number of other studies have been consulted to compare these advantages. Pedagogical Advantages of ICTBT Access: Learning materials and resources can be accessed at all times and from remote locations, for example through the Internet or CD-ROM based training. There is no tie to a geographical location or a specific time as is inherent in traditional face-to-face courses. Research on online courses in education supports this statement; students identified convenience of access as one of the learning benefits provided by ICTBT.73 This is potentially of great benefit to SME managers. Data collected under Phase 1 of this study reveals SME managers rate training in the workplace and at a time of their own choosing highly. Furthermore, the TeleMan Report categorises flexibility in time and place, (as provided by ICTBT), as an element of optimal course combination.74 Individual Tempo: Whilst learning within a traditional face-to-face environment, students are required to fit in with the teachers schedule and class progress. ICTBT adds flexibility. Students may choose to review learning materials on several occasions; ICTBT makes repeat usage possible75 and thus facilitates self-paced learning.76 For example, if students fail to keep pace with a particular face-to-face class, it is difficult for them to reattend; if they are viewing an online lecture they may re-run it as necessary. This individual tempo allows multi-level entry onto a programme, such as that taking place on the Telematics Learning Project undertaken by Suffolk College.77 Variety: Multimedia can be used with modern software (video, animations, pictures, diagrams, text, sound) to ensure variety in presentation of learning materials. Traditional face-to-face teaching usually uses the chalk and talk method, which can become repetitive. ICTBT, however, offers the possibility of augmenting learning material. For example, at the University of Teeside, lectures are recorded and added to by digital audio narratives, pop-up notes and lecture transcripts.78 Interactivity: ICTBT can be interactive and maximise learner control.79 For example, CD-ROM based training may include exercises and allow the learner to jump to relevant options through menus.80 This encourages retention of student interest; they feel they are participating in the learning process rather

S.English and M.Yazdani, Computer Supported Co-operative Learning in a Virtual University, in the Journal of Computer Assisted Learning (1999) 15, 2-13, P5. 74 Tele-Teaching and Training for Management of SMEs Studies, TeleMan Consortium, September 1998, P56. 75 Mudge, Stephen M, Delivering Multimedia Teaching Modules via the Internet, in Innovation and Educational Technologies International 1999 Vol 36.1 pp11-16 76 Engineering College of the University of Idaho: Distance Education at a Glance, October 1995. 77 Funnell, Peter: Views From the Screen-Face: Issues Emerging From an Exploration of the Value of TelematicsSupported Learning, in Innovation in Educational Technologies International 1999, Vol 36.3, P177-184. On this project, students with differing educational backgrounds entered the telematics-supported Introduction to Local History course. 78 Barker, Philip, Using Intranets to Support Teaching and Learning, in Innovation and Educational Technologies International 1999, Vol 36.1 pp3-9. 79 Engineering College of the University of Idaho: Distance Education at a Glance, October 1995. 80 For example see: CD-ROM entitled Management: TC 2001, Achieving Business Growth in the Textile and Clothing Industry through Training and Development.
73

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than passively receiving information.81 This is supported by the fact that students have cited increased interaction, quantity and intensity as an advantage of online education.82 The TRANSMETE Project Evaluation Report emphasises the importance of learning by doing and recommends including more exercises.83
Teacher Contact: ICT provides excellent facilities for student-teacher contact. Students and tutors can stay in constant contact via telephone, email, fax, chat rooms, video and audio conferencing. For example, the Internet based learning environment developed by the Met Institute Silva allows students (at the workplace) and senior co-ordinators (at the training institution) to communicate through online learning diaries and email.84

Instant Response: ICTBT makes instant response and/or feedback possible. This can take place through synchronous technology (for example videoconferencing).85 Synchronous study is used at the University of Teeside; an academic helpline is available at a fixed time, when students can email staff and participate in electronic discussions with them, gaining instant responses.86 Instant response also occurs through exercises, which students attempt and submit interactively via courseware, generating an automatic instant response.87 Relevance: It is easy to update and correct ICTBT material. Material is simply edited electronically and then made available on the Internet. This is more difficult with traditional printed learning materials, which are less flexible and imply expensive reprinting costs. Updating of training materials is important, as highlighted in the TRANSMETE Evaluation Report88 and by the American Society for Training and Development.89 Using techniques such as LearnLoop (described in section 4) trainees may also add their own examples to course materials.

6.7.3 What are the Problems in using ICT for Training? The bullet points below are taken from the interviews with training providers in our study. Confidentiality Equipment too slow, network connections too slow The telecommunications infrastructure is not suitable (France, Greece) No time to learn how to use the ICT, therefore it must be simple Equipment failure Preparation of material is time consuming and expensive The trainer has to have a high level of IT skills Managers lack the skills to fully utilise an ICT based training system Need training for trainers
81 Mudge, Stephen M, Delivering Multimedia Teaching Modules via the Internet, in Innovation and Educational Technologies International 1999, Vol 36.1 PP11-16. 82 S.English and M.Yazdani, Computer Supported Co-operative Learning in a Virtual University, in the Journal of Computer Assisted Learning (1999) 15, 2-13, P5. 83 www.eurocom.gr/EurPrj/transmete/docs/public/d83.htm 84 Experiences in Using Internet Based Learning Environment in Paper Industry. ICEE 2000 Conference, August 1416, 2000, Grand Hotel, Taipei, August 17-18, 2000, National Cheng Kung University, Tainan. 85 Tele-Teaching and Training for Management of SMEs Studies, TeleMan Consortium, September 1998. 86 Barker, Philip, Using Intranets to Support Teaching and Learning, in Innovation and Educational Technologies International 1999 Vol 36.1 pp3-9. 87 Marshall, David, Developing Interactive Courseware on the World Wide Web, in Innovation and Educational Technologies International 1999 Vol 36.1 pp34-43. 88 www.eurocom.gr/EurPrj/transmete/docs/public/d83.htm 89 Cornelia C. Weggen, American Society for Training and Development. www.learningcircuits.org/sep2000/weggen.html.

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It is important that the ICT component does not become more important than the management content Lack of human interaction Often SMEs do not trust computerised learning because programmes are too standardised and therefore too far from their problems SMEs prefer oral explanations rather than written on-line communication SME managers need to be out of the company to get the time and peace to learn Participants have a wide range of requirements Universities do not have adequate resources to develop appropriate services and internal take-up of new technology is slow (UK response only) There is a lack of motivation in SMEs to use ICT Lack of motivation from the participant due to less obligation

The interviews with SME managers in our study (see Section 5.3 Figs. 9 and 10b) show that the bad aspects of ICTBT are considered to be the lack of human support, poor presentation of information and problems with reliability of technology. Technology concerns are particularly the case with video-conferencing. A number of studies have been consulted to compare the results of our study with other identified disadvantages. Whilst some of these fall into the pedagogical category, technical and commercial difficulties must also be taken into consideration. Pedagogical Disadvantages Rigidity/Navigation: Most CAL modules require students to access information in a structured manner, which may not be the best route for them,90 who need to cover topics in more or less depth as appropriate. Equally, web-based courses may be too open; Laurillard points out that there may be too many distractions and too little guidance,91 which may result in time wasting. Lack of human interaction: Traditional face-to-face teaching involves a high degree of contact with tutors and other students. ICTBT implies less of such contact. Research conducted by YOUANDI Communication Network GmbH supports this, finding Computer Based Training using self-study modules is unsuccessful and students prefer interaction with other students and tutors.92

Technical Disadvantages Prior Knowledge/Infrastructure: ICTBT courses often assume a prior knowledge of ICT tools (for example email and Internet usage)93 as well as assuming necessary infrastructure is in place. However, as already seen, SME managers often have little ICT knowledge outside of what they require to perform their daily tasks and European SMEs do not possess the most up-to-date hardware. Funnell provides one example of lack of ICT knowledge hindering

90 Mudge, Stephen M, Delivering Multimedia Teaching Modules via the Internet, in Innovation and Educational Technologies International 1999 Vol 36.1 pp11-16. 91 Laurillard, D (1993) Rethinking University Teaching, Routledge, London. 92 YOUANDI Communication Network GmbH: Trends in the development of competence in the field of IT in SMEs Territorial Approach, January 2000. 93 Mudge, Stephen M, Delivering Multimedia Teaching Modules via the Internet, in Innovation and Educational Technologies International 1999 Vol 36.1 pp11-16.

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training.94 His study highlights the difficulty of those with little ICT experience engaging in telematics-supported learning, even after an ICT induction session.
Delivery Speed: Philip Barker95 highlights the restrictions placed on the use of sound and motion video. He points out that both mediums imply large file sizes and hence significant bandwidth to transmit them. The difference between intranets and the Internet is important here; Barker states sound files can be moved over a fast intranet link fairly easily, whereas transmitting them over the Internet can involve an unacceptable wait.

Security: Internet usage involves a security risk to published materials as well as raising the possibility of viral attack.96 This may cause significant problems for users by hindering access. SMEs may also have concerns about using software which makes use of their own data, due to confidentiality.

Commercial Disadvantages

Cost: Creating and updating teaching materials entails a significant workload. Creating and presenting information involves the investment of time and a combination of skills (authoring via computer and graphic design),97 which are not yet freely available. A recent study98 reveals preparation and production costs of multimedia are significantly higher than for face-to-face teaching. Multimedia implies 50-100 units compared with 1 unit for an hour of face-to-face teaching, and the more hypermedia used, the higher the cost of the learning materials.99 This high cost means while it may be cost-effective to develop ECD materials for courses likely to have a large uptake, it may not be economical for those with only a minority interest. 100 This has a direct implication for SMEs, as their training needs are often very specific.

6.7.4 What would make it easier to deliver ICT based training? The graph overleaf shows what the training providers think would make it easier to deliver ICT based training. It would appear that training providers are concerned about the lack of information about ICT based training. There are also concerns about firms possessing appropriate equipment and fast enough computers. This corresponds with the results of the SME survey (Section 5.3 Figure 11). This shows that the main reasons for SME managers not using ICT for training are lack of knowledge (56 managers) and lack of quality assurance (14 managers). When managers were asked what would encourage them to use ICTBT in the future (Figure 12), the biggest factors were quality assurance, cheaper access and recommendations from other SMEs.

94 Funnell, Peter: Views From the Screen-Face: Issues Emerging From an Exploration of the Value of TelematicsSupported Learning, in Innovation in Educational Technologies International 1999, Vol 36.3, P177-184. 95 Barker, Philip: Using Intranets to Support Teaching and Learning, in Innovation in Educational Technologies International 1999, Vol 36.1 pp3-9. 96 Mudge, Stephen M, Delivering Multimedia Teaching Modules via the Internet, in Innovation and Educational Technologies International 1999, Vol 36.1 pp11-16. 97 Ibid. 98 European Commission, IRDAC report: Quality and Relevance, March 1994. 99 Barker, Philip: Using Intranets to Support Teaching and Learning, in Innovation in Educational Technologies International 1999, Vol 36.1 pp3-9. 100 Ibid.

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What would make it easier to deliver ICT based training?


14

12

10

Providers

In fo rm a tio n o n a v a ila b ility

IC T a t firm s ' p re m is e s

Q u a lity s ta n d a rd s

O w n IC T in fra s tru c tu re

F in a n c ia l s u p p o rt

IC T in th e C o m m u n ity

How might the disadvantages associated with ICTBT be overcome? In addition to the training providers interviewed in our study, a search has been undertaken specifically for providers using ICTBT to give examples of how some of the difficulties might be overcome. In addition to the 82 providers identified from databases, bodies were identified through regional networks. Information was gathered from publications and reports of providers, their websites, and in telephone and face to face interviews. 101
Overcoming Pedagogical Disadvantages Rigidity/Navigation: To overcome the problem of rigidity, students must be given control over the way they learn. One way of doing this is to provide suitable menus and loops (hypermedia or hypertext links) so they can jump to the item they want,102 such as provided by the Management training CD-ROM produced under the MASTRI ADAPT project. To minimise navigational problems, easy to use web pages should be provided. 103 The learning materials developed by Cardiff University guide the learner by providing a consistent set of navigation tools providing hints on where to go next.104 From experience in evaluating distance learning materials105 it would seem that an index and navigational map are needed to assist learners to use the material. From a trainers perspective, the ability of Intranet and Internet servers to accept data entered by students and post this to relevant online databases is important. Such facilities can be used to create monitoring programmes to analyse student progress. 106

The sources for such information were identified through background research (Appendix 5.1 Phase 1a) and through consultation of databases of training providers (Appendix 5.2). The search was for best practice, and followed leads to such providers. 102 Mudge, Stephen M, Delivering Multimedia Teaching Modules via the Internet, in Innovation and Educational Technologies International 1999 Vol 36.1 pp11-16. 103 Marshall, David, Cardiff University, Developing Interactive Courseware on the World Wide Web, in Innovation and Educational Technologies International 1999 Vol 36.1 pp 34-43. 104 This courseware allows for different paths, for example finding additional reading material, or looking for further assistance. Marshall, AD and Hurley, S, (1997) Courseware development for parallel computing and C programming, in Proceedings of ED-MEDIA 97 World Conference on Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, Calgary, Canada, AACE, Virginia, USA 689-97. 105 Business Support Micromodules for High Technology SMEs, ADAPT I and II, 1995-2000, NJM Ltd. 106 Barker, Philip: Using Intranets to Support Teaching and Learning, in Innovation in Educational Technologies International 1999, Vol 36.1 pp3-9.

101

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Lack of human interaction: Several methods may be used to overcome this. One is to provide feedback through the courseware itself. For example, courseware developed by the University of Cardiff provides feedback including automated assessment of exercises.107 Furthermore, it is possible to incorporate email and even voice links from WWW pages to facilitate two-way exchanges between students and tutors.108 As outlined above, the HCI Course at the University of Teeside uses a combination of synchronous and asynchronous study to ease this problem.109 Combining distance learning with traditional face-to-face teaching is also a good option.

Overcoming Technical Disadvantages


Prior Knowledge/Infrastructure: Course participants should have an induction session to help them develop the necessary ICT capability, such as provided at Suffolk College.110 The HCI course at the University of Teeside also provides technical help in both synchronous and asynchronous modes, alleviating technical problems.111 However, providing technical help on a university campus is a different matter to catering for dispersed SMEs, emphasising the need for local technical support. Regarding infrastructure, awareness raising should encourage SMEs to invest in ICT.

Delivery Speed: Whilst delivery speed over the Internet is a problem, technological developments such as ADSL and cable modems are expected to permit faster data transmission rates.112 Other developments include fractal encoding which allows compression of video data,113 speeding up transmission. Whilst the use of Intranets for training SMEs is limited, networks covering wider geographical areas (such as WAN/LAN) may be a possibility and would allow faster data exchange than via Internet. Furthermore CD-ROM based training reduces time spent waiting for data. Security: Technology is available to reduce security risks. Web sites can be protected by the use of firewalls. 114 Reducing access to the website through unique logon scripts and passwords will help to minimise security risks. 115

Overcoming Commercial Disadvantages Cost:116 Good online training materials are expensive to develop and are likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. However, there are some potential savings. Evidence shows once ICTBT has been developed and the initial outlay has been recouped, costs for the training provider fall, which will benefit the trainees. For SMEs, ICTBT is particularly relevant if they have the necessary infrastructure. It will dispense with the need to release staff for training, always an issue for small

Marshall, David, Developing Interactive Courseware on the World Wide Web, in Innovation and Educational Technologies International 1999 Vol 36.1 pp34-43. Mudge, Stephen M, Delivering Multimedia Teaching Modules via the Internet, in Innovation and Educational Technologies International 1999 Vol 36.1 pp11-16. 109 Barker, Philip Using Intranets to Support Teaching and Learning, in Innovation in Educational Technologies International 1999, Vol 36.1 pp3-9. 110 Funnell, Peter: Views from the Screen-Face: Issues Emerging From an Exploration of the Value of Telematicssupported Learning, in Innovation in Educational Technologies International 1999, Vol 36.3, pp176-184. However, one student (with little prior ICT experience) criticised the session as too short. 111 Barker, Philip: Using Intranets to Support Teaching and Learning, in Innovation in Educational Technologies International 1999, Vol 36.1 pp3-9. 112 Ferreira, Martins, MacKinnon, Lachlan, Desmulliez, Marc and Foulk, Patrick. A multimedia telematics network for on-the-job training, tutoring and assessment. 113 Mudge, Stephen M, Delivering Multimedia Teaching Modules via the Internet, in Innovation and Educational Technologies International 1999 Vol 36.1 pp11-16 114 Ibid. 115 Ibid. 116 Hunt, Malcolm and Clarke, Alan, A Guide to the Cost Effectiveness of Technology Based Training, January 1997.
108

107

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firms. ICTBT would also reduce travel costs for the company. Internet access is becoming cheaper, which will ease SME access to ICTBT. ICTBT has varying cost effectiveness, and the financial aspect must be carefully considered before firms invest in training. 6.8 Identifying Best Practice: Focus Group Results

A set of recommendations was produced after considering SME preferences, the interviews with training providers, information from background research and European policy (see Appendix 1.6). These were tested on focus groups, which combined trainers, business support services and SMEs. Listed below are the recommendations that were highly rated in at least four out of the seven countries taking part in this study. To make training more specific to the business needs of SMEs 1. Specific training for firms employing less than 10 employees 2. Training needs to respond to the life-cycle position of the firm 3. Training needs to be sector specific 4. Practical examples using case studies from other SMEs 5. Initial visit by training provider to SME to assess needs and problems 6. Training should be delivered by trainers who have some experience in SMEs To respond to the managers learning priorities 7. Coaching, mentoring and one-to-one support to deal with individual problems 8. Training that is open to requests for seminars from course participants 9. Training should include the generation of business clubs for participants to encourage networking 10. The need for flexibility in timing To ensure provision of information on content and quality 11. Training providers to provide more information about content of training for SMEs 12. Training providers should show rating of training by previous SME participants. 13. Training should include evaluation feedback from SMEs themselves. To enable SMEs to afford training 14. Subsidies or grants to undertake training To promote ICT 15. ICT should be used as a support tool for training 16. Set up an e-Learning Centre to raise awareness of use of ICT training techniques and assess quality 17. Training that is delivered in bite-sized pieces to facilitate a building block effect with clear outcomes 18. Concerning training content: Information Management, E-commerce, ICT for Management Decision Making and Entrepreneurship were rated highly 19. Interest in the UK, Greece and Finland for a Virtual MBA for Small Business 20. ICT should include on-line advice from tutors and virtual learning centres.

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Although on-line tutor support was favoured, generally the concept of a virtual learning centre was only popular in Italy, Greece and the UK. Management simulation games were generally not popular. Again, with respect to ICT, the response favours the more known and accepted methods such as on-line tutor support. What is the Role of an On-line Tutor? There is evidence117 that authors of ICTBT are lacking specific skills because issues such as how people learn and how to train on-line have not been fully addressed. There is too much focus on the technology and not on the quality of the learning experience.
The role of an on-line tutor is identified as follows118:

Administrator - registration - student groups - group events - recording progress Subject expert - FAQs, on-line support, on-line group sessions - Referring people to resources Coach - falling behind - encouraging learners and recognising success - counselling learners - initiating activities Assessor - Is the person doing the training who they say they are? - judging assignments - observing actions of learner

The skills needed for on-line tutoring are different from the skills of a classroom tutor. The support needed is more intensive and the cost for training institutions to get quality on-line tutors may be high.

Although many of the providers are using on-line tutor support the actual times when this support was available was not investigated. If provision is only available during working day hours, then it is not meeting the needs of SMEs for flexible support. One provider had addressed this issue but said that the problem of on-line tutor support out of normal working hours had not been solved. A problem for training providers is the difficulty in monitoring working hours for on-line tutors.

117

see, for example, Adults Learning, November 1999, report on research led by Dr Jan Seabrook for DfEE, UK 118 IT Training Conference, July 2000, Birmingham 76

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Conclusions Best Practice from the European Union

Design There is evidence in quality and relevance to SMEs in design of training. Many of the programmes selected are designed specifically for SMEs. Particular examples of best practice include: regular meetings with SME focus groups to discuss needs and training programmes; building close relationships with SMEs such as Tampere Technology Centre; providing tailormade training for groups of firms; provision of sector specific material; differentiation in provision between small and medium firms. There may also be a need for more provision for micro firms and for provision, which takes into account the life-cycle position of the firm. Programmes should include an initial visit by the training provider to assess needs and problems. There is evidence of effective evaluation procedures among providers, leading to annual course revision. In one case this included follow-up appraisals with SMEs. Content

In addition to traditional management areas, a number of new themes are emerging in management training for SMEs. These include ICT-based decision support, ecommerce, change management, entrepreneurship and self-diagnosis skills.
Delivery

There is a focus on flexible delivery in timing and a variety of delivery mechanisms, which include groupwork, coaching/ mentoring and problem solving, often with the use of SME case studies as examples. The focus groups suggest that delivery should facilitate networking and that trainers need to have experience in SMEs. The training providers show a preference for short courses delivered by traditional techniques. The focus groups show that training is favoured in bite-sized pieces to facilitate a building block effect. ICT is mainly being used as a support tool. The main technique for this is the provision of on-line advice via email and use of CD-ROMs. Internet searches are also used during the process of training. This corresponds with the techniques, which have been used most frequently by managers in our survey (see section 5.3, figure 8). Some providers were making more extensive use of ICTBT. Nova Forum, Tampere Technology Centre and Emedia are using management simulation games. Bolton Business School and ISTUD are investigating the use of virtual reality.
Publicity Publicity may need to provide more information on how the content is relevant to SMEs and show recommendations from SMEs. Advantages of ICTBT Better access and flexibility is recommended in our SMEs survey as a way of overcoming the barriers to training (see section 5.4 figure 19). ICTBT can offer the advantage of flexible access at a distance at a time to suit the learner. Another advantage is that the learner can proceed at their own pace and repeat sessions where necessary, thus enabling better assimilation of knowledge. ICTBT can enhance the learning experience by offering variety. ICTBT can be interactive which maximises learner control and encourages active learning. Where a trainee is able to select what they want, interactivity also allows for personalisation of

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training. ICTBT can provide enhanced tutor contact with more individual support and instant response techniques. Finally, materials are easier to update than textbooks, offering more up-to-date relevant information.
Problems Associated with ICTBT

There are a number of problems with ICTBT which need to be overcome if it is to become a useful tool for training SME managers. There is an overall problem of lack of awareness of ICTBT. Presentation can be a difficulty, making navigation of materials awkward and obscuring learner objectives. There is often a lack of human interaction. This may result in a lack of motivation. There are some difficulties with telecommunications infrastructures and the slow speed of using the Internet. Managers may also lack the necessary equipment and ICT skills to fully utilise the materials. Tutors may need training to use ICTBT techniques. A major disadvantage for training providers is the high cost of developing materials and SMEs are seen as a minority market who may not produce a good return on investment. The on-going cost of providing on-line tutors may also be high and administratively difficult. There is also evidence that the role of on-line tutors is not clear and that specific training may be needed in on-line tutoring. Authors of ICTBT may also be lacking specific skills and may require training.

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7.

IDENTIFYING BEST PRACTICE IN THE UNITED STATES

The Office of Advocacy within the U.S. Small Business Administration was established in 1976 to represent and advance small business interests before Congress and federal agencies.119 The Offices mission is to "counsel, assist, and protect small business, " and to fulfil this aim, the Office works with small businesses and small business organisations, Congress, Administration, and trade associations.120 The White House Conference on Small Business121 involves shaping policy through the active participation of small business owners who assist in the drawing up of recommendations. The US leads the world in terms of ICT usage and ownership. The country has high ICT infrastructure penetration rates in homes and businesses, high usage levels and welldeveloped telecommunications, IT and content industries.122 ICT penetration in the US is far higher than in Europe. For example, US micro-businesses are almost three times as likely to have a website as their UK counterparts.123 There is greater ICTBT development in the USA.

7.1

E-learning

The e-learning environment is more developed in the USA than in the EU. However application of best practice is focussed on large corporations and universities. The elearning concept has been developed to encompass the pedagogical changes resulting from opportunities using ICT. It encompasses a variety of learning events. Training is divided into modules, which have a flexible structure and use diverse media. A typical module can contain between two and seven Learning Events. An event can be an instructional segment, a seminar, a simulation or a collaborative event such as a workshop. SmartSeminars are live interactive on-line presentations. A learning event can be broken down into Learning Objects. For example, the learning event, Accessing Business Resources on the Web contains four objects: Advanced Searching; Market Intelligence; Financial Resources; Research Resources.

E-learning has a number of features:


Access to new events and materials, which are updated each week. Different learning events designed to serve different kinds of requirements with navigation to assist the user to get what they want when they want it. A self-diagnosis tool which matches the interest and characteristics of the individual user, to the material that is the most relevant in any one given moment. Orientation towards problem solving. Aid to establishment of a culture of learning within a company, including specific company learning events and resources.

Companies have developed specialising in e-learning. SmartForce124 is a pioneer, which has developed an e-business programme to allow companies to address their specific training needs through e-learning. Companies get access to services through a flexible rental system. SmartForce is delivering a number of e-learning workshops, which are described in more detail in Appendix 2.

119 120

http://www.sba.gov/advo/aboutus.html#THE OFFICE Ibid. 121 http://www.whcsb.org/ 122 Moving into the Information Age, An International Benchmarking Study, 1999. http://www.isi.gov.uk/isi/isi/bench/1999/International99.html. 123 Ibid.
124

www.smartforce.com

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E-learning seems to operate within large companies. The best practice has been included here to demonstrate the concept of e-learning, which might work with groups of SMEs, for example of the same size or sector. 7.2 US Small Business Administration (www.sba.gov/classroom)

The US Small Business Administration (SBA) is the main public service for small businesses in the US. It provides service programmes and information to small businesses across the US. Many of SBA's resources around the US, specifically Business Information Centres, One-Stop Capital Shops and others, offer access to computers, the Internet and other emerging technologies. SBA is also partnering with other federal agencies and organisations to help provide greater technology access. In partnership with universities and private companies, the SBA now provides courses and information on the Internet, free of charge. The Small Business Classroom is an on-line resource for training and informing entrepreneurs and other students of enterprise. At the Classroom site, articles can be read, courses can be studied, or areas of small business development can be researched. Through a SCORE125 Cyber-Chapter, access to confidential business advice on an issue via E-mail is available. There is also a facility to send comments about additional information and further links that could be added to the site.126 Linked to the SBA is SCORE127. SCORE offers email counselling. Dedicated to aiding the formation, growth and success of small businesses in the US, the organisation has 13,000 members with experts in virtually every area of business management. Retired professionals with small business experience counsel current owner managers via email. The counsellor is carefully chosen according to the clients needs, which ensures a well-matched service and indicates best practice. Alternatively, the client is able to input a business problem and this will be answered by the most appropriate counsellor. The SCORE website also offers email newsletters and magazines, interactive quizzes and business resources and hotlinks. SCORE also advertises workshops on the website, conducted at local level, covering topics such as Developing Your Business Plan and Marketing. SCORE is innovative in combining a national website with local help, providing busy owner managers with a dedicated support system. 7.3 The Virtual University Concept

The academic take up of ICTBT in the US illustrates the widespread use of new technologies in education and training. At the US college and university level, Internet connection is virtually universal and many institutions offer Internet based distance learning courses.128 Some of these courses are limited either due to their content concentration on technical information, or through dressing up existing
Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) The on-line classroom is described in more detail in Appendix 2. 127 www.score.org. 128 Molenda, Michela, Russell, James and Smaldino, Sharon: Trends in Media and Technology in Education and Training, in Educational Media and Technology Yearbook, 1998, Volume 23.
126 125

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courses by simply adding online resources to the existing programmes.129 Others merely function as portal sites for distance learning providers.130 The majority of management programmes offered by American virtual universities are MBAs. However, they are being delivered to an audience, which is more familiar with ICT systems than in Europe. A good example is provided by Ohio University, which has an award winning virtual MBA.131 Many virtual MBAs make use of GroupWare learning platforms to facilitate student interaction. Further information is provided in Appendix 2.3. 7.4 Best Practice from EU-US Collaboration

The Co-operation Programme in Higher Education and Vocational Education and Training between the European Community and the United States132 has fostered projects using ICTBT. The programme aims to add a new EC/US dimension to student-centred co-operation and to benefit the EC and the US. These aims are achieved by promoting an innovative range of student-centred, higher education and training co-operative activities. The first phase of the programme covered 1995-2000. Projects from 1998 and 1999 were analysed with regard to their use of ICT and relevance for SME management training. Nothing could be found specifically for training SMEs. Most projects focused on higher education for under-graduates. Projects applied ICT in different ways, but there was a high incidence of Internet based projects, which included discussion forums, the development of joint EU-US papers, business team games and technical project development.133 The NEURUS partnership134 uses Internet-based distance learning modules including asynchronous discussion groups among students and between students and faculty.135 The Transatlantic Business School Alliance (TABSA), which aims to develop a common international curriculum for business schools, uses a combination of video conferences, taped lectures, and classes over the Internet.136 However, the emphasis is on the training of students not SMEs. The goal of the Earth Imaging Project is to develop an international curriculum in Earth Imaging.137 This course uses a combination of face-to-face teaching and Internet based distance learning. Each course is preceded by a four week preparation period when students are encouraged to interact via the Internet to create a sense of community. The Internet-based multilingual curriculum includes class texts and laboratory exercises, implying student interaction, and there is a consolidation period at the end of the course. The course also uses Internet based assessment, as students deliver their final report over the Internet. Email was by far the most common ICT element employed. This is clearly illustrated by the following table:

Examples include the University of British Columbia and UWired at the University of Washington. One example is the California Virtual University. 131 www.mbawb.ohiou.edu/intranet 132 http://europa.eu.int/comm/education/ec-usa/sele99.html 133 Circa Group Europe Ltd, (August 1999), The Evaluation of the Co-Operation Programme in Higher Education and Vocational and Educational Training between the European Community and the United States. 134 Network of European and US regional and urban studies, aiming to help students develop a global perspective on regional development. URL: http://www.seweb.uci.edu/neurus.html 135 http://www.europa.eu.int/comm/education/ec-usa/sele98.html 136 Ibid. 137 Ibid.
130

129

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Table: Usage of New Technology Transfer138

Technology Email Video-conferencing Joint Net-based Projects Internet phone/Internet video

Usage Level 100 24 21 4

Projects developed under the EU-US collaboration programme, therefore, still have a long way to go to fully exploit new technology.139 The evaluation report makes certain recommendations, which might have implications for future ICTBT projects for SMEs. These include: The financing of a service project in new technology/virtual mobility to monitor and support transatlantic projects should be considered. Whilst projects financed under the first phase of the programme concentrated largely on HE, the evaluation report recommends that the vocational training element must be fostered in the next phase. Most projects were HE collaborations for the development of undergraduate programmes. ICTBT is being used, but mainly involves email and not the more advanced technologies. No evidence of management training for SMEs for projects carried out in 1998 and 1999 could be found.

7.5

Best Practice in traditional techniques

The leading institutions delivering entrepreneurial training employ traditional delivery techniques, which they attest maintain advantages over what ICTBT has proven it can deliver. Traditional techniques in the USA are demonstrated by Harvard Business School and Babson College (see Appendix 2). These programmes are targeted at smaller firms but not micro firms. The average turnover of firms on the Owner Manager Program at Harvard is $15m. FastTrac (see Appendix 2) is an award winning example of innovation in traditional delivery. FastTrac is a non-profit organisation which is sponsored by the Kauffman Centre for Entrepreneurial Leadership in Kansas. FastTrac operates programmes in 36 States. It is designed and delivered by entrepreneurs locally in the community and focuses on planning for growing small enterprises. There is a strong practical orientation and participants use their own company for case study. A variety of training techniques are used but there is an emphasis on interaction with other entrepreneurs, case study, analysis of problems and groupwork. ICT is not used as distance learning but there is a web-site for resources and use of tools such as computer simulations. Generally participants stay in residence at the college for a number of days or weeks per year. Content is highly practical, exploring the tools and techniques needed to identify opportunities and successfully manage an enterprise.

Circa Group Europe Ltd, (August 1999), The Evaluation of the Co-Operation Programme in Higher Education and Vocational and Educational Training between the European Community and the United States. 139 Ibid.

138

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Conclusions - Best Practice from the United States

The concept of E-learning is more advanced in the US. However, it is orientated towards large firms. Similarly, the Virtual University concept is more advanced in the United States than the EU. Although providing a distance learning framework, training provision tends to be MBAs rather than shorter courses. The US Small Business Administration is the main public service for SMEs in the USA. Currently they are operating a series of on-line classrooms providing a range of short courses on-line for small businesses. This is linked to a mentoring service called SCORE, which consists of retired professionals with small business experience. There is no strong evidence that managers of SMEs are benefiting from ICTBT training in the USA. However, there are a number of good practices in traditional techniques in developing entrepreneurship and small firm management, which are widespread. These use SME case studies, problem solving and group work. For example FastTrac is offered in 36 States. The lessons from the USA involve good practices in stimulating entrepreneurship using traditional techniques, and the potential to apply ICTBT techniques used by other audiences for the benefit of the heads of SMEs. However the practicability of using ICTBT with heads of SMEs needs to be considered. A search of key web-sites and providers was carried out (See Appendix 5.1, Phase 4). This identified very little in the area of management training for SMEs using ICTBT. Harvard Business School and Babson College were asked why they are not delivering training to small firms using ICTBT. Harvard responded that they are developing e-learning but only as an additional support tool to their mainly traditional delivery techniques. Babson College had no plans to become involved with ICTBT for small firms but thought that there might be a market for it as a time-saving device. Babsons content often revolves around case studies, and group interaction is a vital element of their technique. The North American experience offers a number of lessons for European practice. By being first, North Americans can make most of the initial mistakes and the rest of the world can learn from them. The hurdles to be overcome are those of content, interaction and cost, which are themselves interrelated. E-learning and virtual universities are developing fairly rapidly in North America. Virtual universities mainly offer MBA type courses which have a tried and tested market. Delivery usually makes use of GroupWare learning platforms. E-learning is more broad in content but tends to be targeted at large corporations. E-learning portals provide access to learning from multiple sources by aggregating, hosting and distributing content. Corporate customers can pick and choose courses from a multitude of vendors to create customised programmes for their employees. Planning and executing a successful e-learning strategy in this way requires time and investment. The American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) has expressed concerns about the quality of contents of e-learning portals. The private sector is developing e learning as an industry. There are three main segments: - The content providers, for whom the demand is very high, because of the variety of content needed

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Learning services firms, who provide programme building components, content design, development and programming - Delivery solutions companies, which sell the technologies associated with e-learning. The structure of the market is predicted to change from high demand in the last segment to high demand in the first, as technical solutions become standard and costs are driven down in this area140. A number of firms integrate all three segments.

SmartForce is an example of an e-learning company. It produces its own courses delivered via the Internet with mentoring support and has a large content repository. It recommends the setting up of a supportive framework and technical assistance within companies seeking to operate e-learning. The set up charge is $20,000 and the cost per year per employee would be about 900. Currently it would appear that e-learning structures are more appropriate for large companies.
The North Americans have not yet overcome the three hurdles for SMEs, but it may be possible to learn from their longer development experience in the latter two segments. In technology, costs are being driven and learning service firms are identifying techniques, such as mentoring, which do work. Setting up a GroupWare learning platform is relatively easy and is currently being used by various projects supporting SMEs in Europe. However, quality and variety of media in ICTBT varies enormously and it is therefore difficult to estimate the cost in its production. The ratio of production time to one hour of instruction time has varied from 30 to as much as 1,000 hours.141 The instruction time with ICTBT has been shown to reduce by around one-third. This might seem less of a reduction than expected. The trend is downward, but will reach a minimum for optimum human support. The principle of e-learning based on a content repository which SMEs could access via the Internet has potential. In particular the ability to search the content to find solutions to specific problems would appeal to SMEs. Also the use of the content in a personalised way could facilitate individualised learning which is favoured by SMEs.
The main issue again would be the design of the content such that it is relevant to SMEs. There are problems in transferring the widescale ICTBT practices from the USA. The market for ICTBT specifically for SMEs is untested and there are no standards. Training providers in the USA do not appear to have considered this a desirable area for development. The main best practice to emerge from the USA for SMEs has been delivered by mainly traditional techniques. To bring ICTBT techniques such as virtual universities and e-learning into widespread use with European SMEs can build on a good base of knowledge in technology and learning techniques. It could also use some North American content (which would have to be paid for), but would require the identification of a sufficient level of quality content for the European market. This would require the establishment of quality standards and the benchmarking of provision against such quality standards in each Member State. These areas are discussed in Section 9.

140
141

E learning strategies for executive education and corporate training, 27/11/2000, http://www.fortune.com/fortune/sections/onlinelearn/onlinelearn.htm

J.A. Athanasou Industrial and Commercial Training Vol 30 No 3 1998 pp. 96-103

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8. 8.1

CONCLUSIONS Demand from Heads of SMEs

While there is a very large variation in the nature of SMEs and their managers, it is possible to determine certain common characteristics, which impinge on the roles of the heads of firms. As the chief decision maker, the head has to be able to respond quickly to changes in all areas of business. To survive, it is essential to focus on the immediate and short term situations. Although many small firms do have long term strategies, the head finds it difficult to plan his or her time beyond the short term (see Section 3.2). Small size in a large market place, and the crucial role of one (or a very few) managers in the firm entail a focus on problem solving across all business areas and managing time in the short term. The demand for training from heads of SMEs reflects these considerations. A major priority area for training is Time Management and Delegation (Section 5 Fig. 27). Heads of SMEs are different from employees. An examination of the learning styles of heads of SMEs shows them to be mainly either activists or pragmatists (Section 5.7). In the former category, preferences for learning include problem solving, dealing with immediate tasks and group work. For the latter, links between the subject matter and real problems, feedback from experts, and immediate implementation of learnt material are important. Both styles favour learning by doing. The activist and pragmatist approach was reflected in the managers desire for flexibility. Most wanted training at their request (Section 5 Fig. 17).
8.2 Preferences of Heads of SMEs

Managers of SMEs differentiate themselves from employees. On-site training in technical areas is a very strong preference for employee training. However, the preference from heads of SMEs is evenly divided between in and out of company (Section 5 Fig.15). This may involve time for reflection or networking. Due to time constraints, managers want training which is short (Section 5 Figs.2225). The top five preferences indicated are: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Short courses One day seminars One to one sessions Group workshops Mentoring.

There is little difference in the areas of management for preferences in these techniques. 23% expressed an interest in receiving training on the computer (Section 5 Fig.15).

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There is a preference for private sector delivery (48%), followed by universities (31%). (Section 5 Fig.13) There is some size differentiation in preferences. Managers in micro and small firms show a higher preference for out of working hours training (33%) than medium firms (19%). Micro firms show a much greater willingness to participate in training at weekends than small or medium firms (Section 5.5 Table 5). Training using the computer is less popular with micro firms (Section 5.5 Table 6). The desire for entrepreneurship training varies with size (Section 5.5 Table 8). Entrepreneurship appears to be of more importance to managers of small and medium firms (55% and 42% respectively) than micro firms (24%). Other studies have shown that in micro firms, survival and autonomy is often more important than growth and innovation (Section 3.3). Women managers have similar preferences to men, except in four areas (Section 5.6). They have a lower demand for computer- based training, and a higher demand for day time training, qualifications and e-mentoring than men. 8.3 Use of ICTBT by Heads of SMEs

General use of ICTs is high in this sample with nearly 90% of managers using email and Internet (Section 5.2). 92% are using ICT for financial management and 4050% are using it for other types of management. 25% have used e-commerce. The sample are therefore likely to be early adopters of ICT solutions. Around 25% of managers have used ICTBT. This is fairly high. In the TeleMan142 study only 11% of managers had used any type of distance learning. Internet search, CDROM and email are the most common forms used. Managers identified a number of good and bad aspects concerning ICTBT (Section 5.3 Fig. 9). Good Aspects Immediacy Up-to-date material Own pace
Bad Aspects

Lack of human support Poor presentation Unreliable technology

8.4

Provision of Management Training

All Member States have systems for providing support to SMEs which are state funded. Partners in the project were consulted about such provision. Features of these systems include the following: Information and advice Training Financing schemes Specialist services such as technology, product design, exporting, promoting forms of co-operation among SMEs, are also available.
142

Tele-Teaching and Training for Management of SMEs Studies, TeleMan Consortium, September 1998.

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Managers of SMEs see current training provision in management as not meeting their needs. The interviews confirmed the problem identified by other studies and policy documents (Section 3.3 and 3.4). Provision suffers from defects of content, access, flexibility and cost (Section 5.4 Fig. 19). There are also major concerns over information about training and quality. This is particularly the case for ICTBT (Section 5.3 Figs.11 &12). SMEs in the survey were asked an open question about whether they would like to see any changes to existing support services. Earlier questions had asked for assessments of experiences of advice, consultancy, networks and information. There was interest for more on-line services and better help-lines and centralisation of services to provide better information about training. The review of training provision in the regions found little provision directed at heads of SMEs beyond the start up phase. The research teams looked for examples of good practice in their regions, and they were difficult to find. There is provision of management training, which may encompass SMEs. However, it was difficult to find training designed specifically for them. The publicity of training providers, via Web Sites or other literature showed little evidence of targeting this market143. The credibility of provision to SME managers is important, as a common complaint is that they are being fed material for larger firms in a manner, which is inappropriate. Recent Swedish and Irish studies emphasise this point144 and point out significant differences in attitudes between providers and managers. Difficulties in accessing management training is confirmed by the SME managers surveyed themselves (Section 5.4 Fig. 19), by the training providers interviewed in this study (Section 6.7.4) and in the results of the focus groups (Section 6.8). Training providers in this survey confirmed the findings of studies reviewed; that the SME market is insufficiently rewarding to warrant the investment of large resources, or target marketing. All of these sources provide evidence that SMEs require better information about relevant training. 8.5 Bridging training and consultancy

Heads of SMEs priorities for gaining expertise can be divided into three main areas: Individualised support SME Focus Interaction This division was arrived at by drawing together data from background research, from the interviews with SMEs, from interviews with training providers and evidence from providers in the USA. The fourfold classification indicated in Section 3.6 on the expertise needs of SMEs has been revised in the light of the surveys and more recent literature145, which emphasises the informal nature of training demanded by heads of SMEs. It is also chosen as it is relevant to both traditional and ICTBT delivered
143

This study aimed at identifying best practice, not conducting an evaluation of provision. Hence, these statements are based on the difficulty of search, responses from managers, providers and other literature. 144 Klofsten, M. Training for entrepreneurship and new business: attitudes among the organisers, Industry and Higher Education, Volume 13, 1999, pp 397-404 and Walsh, J., & Hynes, B., Herding cats; implications for the development of management development courses for SME owner-managers, pp1273-1289, 23rd ISBA National Small Firms Policy & Research Conference, November 2000. 145 For example Walsh et al (op.cit.) and Johnson, S., Lifelong learning for SMEs: issues for research and policy, pp577-593, 23rd ISBA National Small Firms Policy & Research Conference, November 2000.

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training. Problem solving for immediate use was a major incentive to undertake training, and this is reflected in the priorities above. The relation of the categories to the literature review and the survey results is indicated below. Category Individualised support
SME Focus

Literature Client orientation


Tailor made training Quality assurance Problem solving

Survey results Survey results on general on ICTBT use training Preferences for Need for mentoring, & human support consultancy
Short courses Relevance of material Learning styles Immediacy Quality assurance Up to date material Immediacy

Interaction

The need for individualised support arises from the heterogeneous nature of SMEs (Section 3.2). Mentoring, consultancy and tailor-made training are means of providing individualised support, which are recognised in the BEST Report and other EU policy documents (Section 3.4). SMEs rate mentoring and one-to-one sessions among the top five methods for delivery of training (Section 5 Figs. 22-25). Training providers also use individualised support and forms of self-diagnosis (Section 6.6 and 6.7). Training for SMEs needs to have an SME focus. This is identified by current EU document policy (Section 3.4), particularly the need for client-orientated training and relevant content. Open responses from the survey favoured providers with SME expertise and experience of running small firms, which confirms findings in other literature146 The interviews with training providers indicate that the SME focus is greater in the private sector providers (Appendix 2) who are more likely to provide consultancy, tailor-made training and to use client data and case studies to help solve problems. The need to involve SMEs in design and use SME case studies was recognised as good practice by most of the training providers interviewed (Section 6.4). Training with an SME focus also needs to be flexible to access as most managers want training at their request (Section 5.4 Fig.17). SMEs favour methods, which involve interaction. This is demonstrated by the preferred methods of delivery in our SME sample which includes one day seminars, group-work and mentoring (Section 5.4 Figs 22-25). Activist and pragmatist learning styles show a preference for learning, which involves interaction and direct results (Section 5.7). Lack of human support is seen as the worst aspect of ICTBT (Section 5.3 Fig.9). Methods favoured by training providers for both traditional and ICT techniques involve interaction (Section 6.6, 6.7.1). US providers: Harvard, Babson and FastTrac encourage interaction between entrepreneurs as an important way of learning (Appendix 2.3). Good practice elements can be identified in these areas for both traditional and ICT techniques.

146

See Klofsten (op.cit) and Walsh et al (op.cit.)

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Heads of SMEs Individualised support Self-diagnosis /business check-up On-site consultancy or counselling Mentoring SME Focus Content including case studies from SMEs Problem solving approach relevant to the businesses Provision at appropriate time and place Interaction Group-work to solve problems
Guest speakers from industry and debates Course conferencing on-line for group sessions

Section 8: Conclusions

Chat tool for real-time communication These areas bridge the division between consultancy and training. Provision, which involves both aspects would seem to suit the requirements of many heads of SMEs. There is often a division among providers and funding mechanisms between the two, which may be hampering adequate delivery. 8.6 Priorities of heads of SMEs For more formal courses, heads of SMEs expressed six priorities: Relevance to real business situation Problem solving Short duration Flexible delivery Networking Quality assurance These priorities are demonstrated by interviews with heads of SMEs (Figs. 12, 15, 17, 21, Figs. 22-25) and interviews with training providers (Section 6.6, 7.5). Most of the elements can be delivered by either traditional techniques or ICT. However, emerging good practice involves a combination of human and ICT delivered material (Section 6.7.1). This can involve either the provision of ICT supported material, in a traditional setting, or the provision of some human interaction events to a mainly ICT delivered course. However, some such as networking are typically thought of as easier in a traditional setting, and others, such as flexible delivery may bestow advantages on ICTBT. 8.7 Good Practice in Course Development

The survey of training providers (Section 6.4) identified a number of basic features which may be considered good practice in the process of development and delivery of management training for heads of SMEs. These basic features can be summarised as follows: Research or market analysis Involvement of SMEs in design, to enable a client-centred approach involves building relationships with SMEs or groups of SMEs On-site initial assessment of the needs of the SME manager Expertise and experience of trainers in SMEs Generation of entrepreneur networks for participants Evaluation and feedback

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Heads of SMEs 8.8 The ICTBT Opportunity

Section 8: Conclusions

ICT represents an opportunity for managers and providers to overcome a number of barriers to the delivery of training. Both groups recognise this. The advantages of access at any time and place, proceeding at ones own tempo, access to a variety of sources, interactivity, good teacher contact and individual support through email, instant responses and the ability to update and customise the material are recognised (Section 6.7.2). Developing material is expensive, but once developed, costs of adaptation should be much less. Groupware products are designed to make it easier to develop and deliver on-line training (Section 4.2). To ensure that ICT can play a full role in developing new training provision, a number of hurdles have to be overcome, which are pedagogical, technical and financial (Section 6.7.3). Within pedagogy, the need for human interaction has been recognised, and guidelines for its development are being recognised. However, there is no similar consensus on the degree of structure needed in navigating webbased courses. Technical problems to be overcome include security, delivery speed on the internet and appropriate infrastructure. The latter is still lacking in parts of Europe, and at a firm level, the machines may either be too old, too few or in the wrong place (Section 3.5). The development of the infrastructure, the learning environment, and the material are all costly activities. After their establishment, costs should diminish.

8.9

Problems and Constraints in providing Management Training to Heads of SMEs

However, there are constraints in realising these goals.

Little existing provision meets them There is a lack of specific training for heads of SMEs (see Section 8.4). Executive Training at business schools is often targeted at larger companies.
There is a lack of provision with the required level of flexibility for SMEs. There is a lack of best practice/expertise for training SME managers. There are no guides or standards as to how training providers should deliver quality training to SME managers.

The SME training that is provided tends to serve either start-ups or medium sized firms There is a lack of provision for micro firms. Micro firms have specific need for survival programmes (Section 3.2 & 6.2).
There is a lack of entrepreneurial training for small and growing firms (Section 3.4 & 6.3).

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Heads of SMEs

Section 8: Conclusions

ICTBT is under-provided Much ICTBT is of low quality, being simply the presentation of printed material on a web-site147. There are concerns expressed by training providers concerning the cost of development of ICTBT, particularly for SMEs which is a new and uncertain market (Section 6.7.3 & Section 7.5).
There are skills shortages in ICTBT development and delivery. On-line trainers need good ICT skills and their role is different from a traditional tutor. There is too little training available for designers of ICTBT management material. Skills are needed in being able to communicate the content using different ICT-based mediums (Section 6.7.3 & 6.8). There are barriers for SMEs in using ICTBT. These are: lack of knowledge, lack of quality assurance and cost of technology (Section 5.3 Fig.11).

There is difficulty in finding information This concerns, both locating courses and gaining sufficient information about the content of courses and their relevance to SMEs (Section 5.4 Fig.19, Section 6.7.4)
There is no system of quality assurance.

147

Tele-Teaching and Training for Management of SMEs Studies, TeleMan Consortium, September 1998.

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Section 9: Recommendations

RECOMMENDATIONS

Recommendations need to address the problems and constraints that have been identified in providing management training to heads of SMEs. Recommendations have been divided into two areas: 1. Those concerning Member States 2. Those concerning the Commission Member States 9.1 Recommendation One: More training specifically for Heads of SMEs

There is a need for more training specifically for heads of SMEs in all Member States. There is a need for separate programmes for small firms and micro firms. These programmes should be benchmarked against a set of quality standards for the provision of training to heads of SMEs. A first stage involves ensuring awareness of the needs of SMEs among training providers (i.e. that SMEs are not smaller large enterprises) and ensuring that the obstacles facing SMEs are recognised by policy makers and responsible bodies. 9.2 Recommendation Two: Promotion of ICTBT

ICTBT can be used to overcome some of the barriers SME managers face concerning cost and time. It may be used as a support tool for management training or as the main mechanism for delivery of training. Provision of ICTBT to a specific SME audience is recommended through provision of material and awareness raising. Actions which may contribute to increased use of ICTBT could include stimulation of ICT skills amongst heads of SMEs or the use of ICT in combination with a training style favoured by heads of SMEs. An example of this could be the use of ementoring. Pilot projects under Leonardo da Vinci for the 2000-2006 period will look at developing and transferring innovation and quality in vocational training which will include use of ICTs. The best practice indicators outlined in these recommendations might be taken into account as selection criteria for projects developing the use of ICTs in vocational training. In particular the development of material for heads of SMEs needs to be promoted. This may be done under specific measures in EQUAL. These are detailed in Appendix 6. 9.3 Recommendation Three: Training of Trainers

There are a lack of trainers with experience and expertise in SMEs. There is a lack of understanding of best practice for training SME managers. The training of trainers should be promoted and benchmarked against a set of quality standards. There is also a lack of skills and training for development and delivery of ICTBT to SME managers. Training needs to be developed to address these skills shortages.

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Section 9: Recommendations

Particular actions might include exchanges of expert providers across the Community in the areas of management training and design of ICT-based training material. To support this activity, Training for Trainers under Leonardo should include guidelines for developing training for the design and delivery of ICTBT. The Commission 9.4 Recommendation Four: Concerted Action for Quality Assurance

Concerted action for quality assurance in management training for heads of SMEs is recommended. This has two main areas: 1. Establishment of quality standards among Member States 2. Benchmarking of provision in each Member State Establishment of Quality Standards A set of best practice indicators have been proposed for the delivery of management training to heads of SMEs. These need to be developed into standards through meetings of exchange groups across the EU. They should be charged with: Promoting best practice in training provision in terms of content, mode of delivery, and marketing Stimulating the growth of expertise for trainers and in multi media design for training Promotion of a manual of best practices in training for SME managers, covering: design, delivery techniques, involvement of SMEs, use of ICT-based training, evaluation and publicity. This could result from a benchmarking exercise and be supported by examples drawn from several Member States Policy conferences and workshops for heads of SMEs, regional policy makers and implementers on best practice in management training and ICT development tailored to training needs of SMEs Benchmarking of Provision in each Member State A set of indicators should be drawn up to benchmark provision across Member States. The following are an indicative list:

Provision of Training/Support specifically directed at heads of SMEs by: Number of providers Number of beneficiaries Numbers reaching benchmarked quality standards Expenditure Each of the above directed at either micro or small firms ICTBT provision directed at heads of SMEs by: Number of providers Number of beneficiaries Numbers reaching benchmarked quality standards Expenditure Each of the above directed at either micro or small firms Involvement of SMES Representative Groups (sectoral, local or general) in training support delivery as a proportion of the activities described above.

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