An IT Infrastructure for Small- and Medium-sized Enterprises
Willing to Compete in the Global Market
Francesco Pilotti
, Gaetanino Paolone
, Daniele Di Valerio
, Martina Marinelli
, Roberto Cocca
and Paolino Di Felice
3 a
Gruppo SI S.c.a.r.l., 64100 Teramo, Italy
Noro 2 S.r.l., Via Roma 215, 67100 L’Aquila, Italy
Department of Industrial and Information Engineering and Economics, University of L’Aquila, 67100 L’Aquila, Italy
SME, Horizontal Alliance, Vertical Alliance, Physical Customer, Digital Customer, Digital Network, Digital
Platform, Digital Transformation.
Context: Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are the backbone of the economy of most countries.
There is large evidence in the literature that digitalisation improves the market performance of enterprises
and, as a consequence, it helps the growth of their businesses. Aims: The present position paper sketches
the authors’ vision about an IT infrastructure for SMEs willing to compete in the global market. Method:
A literature review is conducted on relevant topics concerning SMEs. In light of the published studies, two
factors are essential for the survival of SMEs in the global market: (a) ally themselves with SMEs operating
in the same market segment; (b) offer an amazing shopping experience to their customers. Results: The
pillar of the proposal is the notion of Digital Network (DN), i.e., a network of collaborating SMEs physically
distributed over a territory, which share the objective of selling goods and/or services to potential consumers
through a digital platform. We envision the availability of a “generator” of DNs as the main pillar for helping
SMEs. Each instance returned by the generator consists of two integrated portals: the SMEs Portal and the
Customer portal. The present study provides preliminary findings that give substance to the soundness of the
started project.
“Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are the
backbone of Europe’s economy. They represent 99%
of all businesses in the EU. They employ around 100
million people, account for more than half of Europe’s
GDP and play a key role in adding value in every sec-
tor of the economy.
In Italy, for example, there are
about 3.7 million SMEs that employ 11.7 million per-
. “SMEs are made up of enterprises which em-
ploy fewer than 250 persons and which have an an-
nual turnover not exceeding EUR 50 million, and/or
an annual balance sheet total not exceeding EUR 43
Definition based on Article 2 of the An-
nex to Commission Recommendation 2003/361/EC
In our world of emergent and continuous changes,
all companies today, and SMEs in particular, in or-
der to be competitive must equip themselves with IT
technologies and adopt new information processes ca-
pable of favoring the sharing of resources and the
engagement of all corporate stakeholders, including
their customers.
(Fletcher and Griffiths, 2020), in their opinion
paper about digital transformation during lockdown,
stated that: (a) organisations must improve their digi-
tal maturity, (b) less digitally mature organisations are
more fragile and finally (c) organisations with higher
levels of digital maturity are generally more flexible.
Unfortunately, implementing the digital transfor-
mation runs into multiple hostile factors, among
which the multiplicity and complexity of the software
solutions required for digitalization stand out. The
development of different types of software applica-
Pilotti, F., Paolone, G., Di Valerio, D., Marinelli, M., Cocca, R. and Di Felice, P.
An IT Infrastructure for Small- and Medium-sized Enterprises Willing to Compete in the Global Market.
DOI: 10.5220/0010476907680775
In Proceedings of the 23rd International Conference on Enterprise Information Systems (ICEIS 2021) - Volume 2, pages 768-775
ISBN: 978-989-758-509-8
2021 by SCITEPRESS Science and Technology Publications, Lda. All rights reserved
tions often requires a team of analysts of the “busi-
ness model” and a team of programmers who imple-
ment what the first modeled. The number of human
resources to be involved is, in general, conspicuous
and with a high professional profile, factors which
translate into high costs. Costs that SMEs are un-
able to afford. In response to the conflicting intent of
facilitating the Business-IT Alignment of companies
without increasing the costs associated with the pur-
chase, maintenance and management of the software,
efforts are being multiplied towards the identification
of innovative methods for the development of soft-
ware solutions for implementing the digital transfor-
mation. The work (Sanchis et al., 2020) emphasises
the role of the low-code paradigm as an enabler of
digital transformation in the Manufacturing Industry;
while (Paolone et al., 2020) is a contribution about the
low-code development of software solutions. “Low-
code application platforms are expected to remain the
largest component of the low-code development tech-
nology market through 2022, increasing nearly 30%
from 2020 to reach $5.8 billion in 2021.
This position paper summarises the authors’ opin-
ion about (a) an IT organizational model thought
to act as the engine of the digital transformation of
SMEs towards the outside world and (b) an IT infras-
tructure that implements the organizational model.
The latter implements the low-code paradigm.
The remaining part of the paper is structured as
follows. Section 2 discusses the kind of relationship
SMEs should establish with competing firms (i.e.,
with the SMEs operating in the same business area;
e.g., agri-food, pharmaceutical, ...) and with the cus-
tomers, in light of the relevant background studies.
Moreover, the section recalls a recent published study
about digital platforms, that is the interface between
producers and consumers. Section 3 is about our vi-
sion; it is consistent with the state of the art on the
background topics for the study. Conclusions and a
look at the future work are the subject of Section 4.
Compared with other enterprises, SMEs are con-
fronted with a unique set of issues when competing
in the globalized market where operate, in a man-
ner almost hegemonic, giants such as Amazon. Many
studies agree on the need for SMEs to perform within
a (collaborative) network to compensate their small
percent-in-2021 (accessed on February 2021).
dimension and, hence, to overcome the issue, (e.g.,
(Fariselli et al., 1999; Rehman, 2016; Naeem et al.,
2016; Zoia et al., 2018; O’Dwyer and Gilmore, 2018;
Antoldi and Cerrato, 2020; Dhaundiyal and Cough-
lan, 2020; Benhayoun et al., 2020)).
The present section provides a closer look at the
motivations behind the studies that have investigated
the needs for SMEs to perform within networks.
Moreover, the section recalls a recent published study
about digital platforms. There is large evidence in
the literature that digitalisation improves the market
performance of enterprises and, as a consequence, it
helps the growth of their businesses. The interface
between producers and consumers is the digital plat-
In (Varadarajan and Cunningham, 1995), two
types of alliances are described: “horizontal” and
“vertical”. Within the framework of this paper, we
keep the same names with the following meaning.
Horizontal alliances involve two or more SMEs oper-
ating in the same business area (e.g., agri-food, phar-
maceutical, ...) for achieving common goals (Figure
1); while vertical alliances concern the interactions
between the SMEs, part of the network, and their sup-
pliers and potential customers (Figure 2). The refer-
ences to the state of the art is divided into two sub-
sections. The first one concerns horizontal alliances
among SMEs, while the second concerns e-commerce
for the SMEs.
Figure 1: Sketch of the horizontal alliance among SMEs.
2.1 The Need for Horizontal Alliances
According to research findings, SMEs should enter
alliances for a variety of reasons including the shar-
ing of resources, skills and capabilities, access to
new markets, reduced lead time for deliver, achiev-
ing economies of scale through joint purchase and
reduced stocks, built joint information system, gain-
An IT Infrastructure for Small- and Medium-sized Enterprises Willing to Compete in the Global Market
Figure 2: Sketch of the vertical alliance between SMEs,
customers and suppliers.
ing legitimacy and mitigating risk. (Rehman, 2016),
for example, says that SMEs’ network alliances pos-
itively influence firms’ labour productivity, innova-
tion performance, and product/process innovation.
(Naeem et al., 2016) have shown that the collabora-
tion among enterprises improves the decision-making
capability of the members of the collaborative net-
work. The findings of (Majid et al., 2020) suggest
that the network capability: (a) enhances SMEs’ cre-
ativeness through synergetic actions with their part-
ners; (b) is a unique and powerful predictor of the
strategic flexibility of SMEs. The latter “refers to
quick reformulation of strategies, alignment of prod-
uct/services with market and introduction of advanced
promotional campaigns.
2.2 The Need for Vertical Alliances
It wasn’t too long ago when every business claimed
that the key to winning customers was in the qual-
ity of the product or service they deliver. But, things
have changed. Now, an even more important success
factor has appeared: providing the best customer ex-
perience. (Batat, 2019) rephrased this point as fol-
lows: “today consumers increasingly buy experiences
rather than goods or services”. Coherently, Batat re-
places the 7Ps of the old marketing (i.e., Product,
Price, Promotion, Place, People, Process, and Phys-
ical evidence) with 7Es (Experience, Exchange, Ex-
tension, Emphasis, Empathy, Emotional touchpoints,
Emic/Etic process), each one focused on thinking ex-
perientially. In other words, Batat suggests that the
marketers change their approach to generating de-
“Phygital” is the merging of the digital and the
physical world. Implementing the phygital metaphor
companies can design suitable, emotional, and prof-
itable customer experiences including both offline and
online digital experiences; hence meeting users’ ex-
pectations. Creating a highly personalized and engag-
ing experience is a precondition in order to generate
enduring customer loyalty.
2.2.1 Loyalty Programs
Loyalty reward programs are a proven way to attract
new consumers and retain the existing ones. More-
over, there is evidence that loyalty programs allow to
build longer, stronger and deeper relationships with
customers, e.g., (Bolton et al., 2000). Another ad-
vantage of having loyal customers is that they play an
active role in word-of-mouth communication, (Lacey
and Morgan, 2008), a type of communication largely
trusted by people, that very often take decisions based
on the opinion of others who have already bought the
same product. Through loyalty programs companies
can create the database of their consumers and their
purchasing behavior. Such a database is a precious
intangible assets for them. In fact, querying it al-
lows understanding the customer’s needs and behav-
ior. Such information helps drive sales by tailoring
offerings and promotions to their expectations.
As pointed out by (G
orajski and Machowska,
2019), “there is evidence that retaining current cus-
tomers is much cheaper for a company than acquiring
new ones”. On the point, (Gallo, 2014) says that it is
from 5 to 25 times cheaper to retain a customer than
to acquire a new one, depending on the industry.
2.3 An IT-platform Conceptual Model
Digital platforms are a pervasive technology.
Through digital platforms companies connect with
people, improve awareness of their brands, influence
consumer’s attitudes, collect feedback from them,
improve products and services on sale and, at last,
increase their incomes. Last but not least, digital
platforms are transforming the ways in which prod-
ucts and services are produced and consumed. As
a consequence a large body of research has been
devoted to this topic. (Tiwana, 2014; Sun et al., 2015;
Parker et al., 2016; de Reuver et al., 2017; Asadullah
et al., 2018; Hein et al., 2019; Hein et al., 2020) is an
incomplete list of recent papers the reader may refer
to. Scholars from various disciplines have adopted
different perspectives about digital platforms. The
consequence is the lack of a common understanding
(both in research and industry) about the meaning
of the term platform, even when it is related to a
specific domain. This is the case, for instance, of the
IT domain, as pointed out by (Sun et al., 2015).
Very recently, (DiValerio et al., 2020) investi-
gated the current status of research related to dig-
ICEIS 2021 - 23rd International Conference on Enterprise Information Systems
ital platforms in order to identify their distinguish-
ing “dimensions” and then, come up with a sound
definition for the IT-platform concept. That study
brought them to the selection of the IT-platform con-
ceptual model given by (Sun et al., 2015) (Fig-
ure 3) together with the linked definition they pro-
posed: An IT-platform is defined as comprised of
a technological base on which complementary add-
ons can interoperate, following standards and allow-
ing for transactions amongst stakeholders, within the
platform-centric ecosystem.” The six concepts (called
dimensions in (Sun et al., 2015)), part of the previous
definition, are briefly recalled below.
Figure 3: An IT-platform conceptual model (Sun et al.,
The technological base is the foundation that allows
the development of add-ons. A standard is a set of
rules enabling developers to interact with the techno-
logical base. An add on is a software module that
connects to the technological base to add functional-
ity. Interoperability allows the interaction between a
technological base and the add-ons. Transactions de-
note the interactions within an IT-platform “ecosys-
tem”. Governance concerns policies, structures, pro-
cesses, and mechanisms involved in managing an IT-
“Ecosystem” is a further concept developed
around digital platforms (Tiwana, 2014). A digital
platform ecosystem consists of two major elements:
the platform and the complementary add-ons. The
ecosystem comprises platform owners, developers,
and consumers.
In light of the studies mentioned in the previous sec-
tion, two factors are essential for the survival of SMEs
in the global market: (a) ally themselves with SMEs
operating in the same market segment, (b) offer an
amazing shopping experience to their customers.
This section describes an IT infrastructure for
SMEs based on the notion of “Digital Network” de-
fined as follows. We call Digital Network (DN) a
network of collaborating SMEs physically distributed
over a territory (for instance, a region, a province or
a state), which share the objective of selling goods
(e.g., agri-food products, artefacts, etc.) and/or ser-
vices to potential consumers through a digital plat-
form. We claim that by implementing a DN, SMEs
wishing to operate in the digital economy will be able
to make their products/services known to a large num-
ber of customers and retaining them over time. Ac-
quiring users (some of whom will become customers)
has a cost, both in the digital and in the real economy,
which can be very high. This aspect is particularly
critical for SMEs, notoriously plagued by limited in-
vestment capacity.
Figure 4 shows our instantiation of the platform
conceptual model of Figure 3. The Add-ons of the
DN Technological Base are a Mobile App (Android
and iOs) (below called DgNet), the e-Commerce sub-
system, and the Customer Satisfaction component.
Figure 5 shows the components of the Technological
Base. Each component is a portal.
The SMEs portal offers support to SMEs for the
activities related to the horizontal alliance, while the
other portal offers support to the activities related
to the vertical alliance. The SMEs portal is de-
voted to the internal communication among the SMEs
and, hence, it supports the horizontal collaboration
among them; while the Customers portal allows to
establish a link with the external stakeholders, no-
tably, the potential consumers. The latter portal ex-
hibits the goods and/or services; moreover, it includes
an e-Commerce engine integrated with the Amazon
store. The database, shared by both portals, stores
data about customers, the log of their transactions,
and their reviews/comments over time.
Figure 4: The conceptual model of the DN Technological
In the following we assume the availability of a gen-
erator of DNs (let call it DNetGenerator) that imple-
ments the low-code paradigm. DNetGenerator con-
stitutes a tangible help for the SMEs because it re-
An IT Infrastructure for Small- and Medium-sized Enterprises Willing to Compete in the Global Market
Figure 5: The DN Technological Base.
duces the level of IT skills that SMEs must have to
establish horizontal and vertical alliances.
Each DN instance returned by DNetGenerator
consists of the two integrated portals of Figure 5.
3.1 About the SMEs Portal
Let us refer to an arbitrary number of SMEs, ho-
mogeneous with each other (i.e., firms operating in
the same business area and, hence, direct competi-
tors) which, by hypothesis, are interested in estab-
lishing a horizontal alliance to pursue common ob-
jectives. Each of those SMEs insists on a specific
territory defined as the union of the geographical ar-
eas served by their (physical) Point of Sales (PSs), the
latter meant as (physical) stores or professional stud-
ies. Each allied SME, using the instance returned by
DNetGenerator, will be able to create its own Vir-
tual Showcase through which it will describe itself,
its PSs (a web page for each PS) and exhibit the prod-
ucts/services it wants to sell (one web page for each
product/service). An integral part of the DN is the
DgNet mobile app through which all the SMEs of the
network and the virtual showcases of their PSs can be
Each of the allied SMEs will have to undertake
to inform the customers who visit one of their PSs
(for this reason hereafter called physical customers),
of the existence of the DN and, hence, of the pos-
sibility offered to them to buy products/services also
online using DgNet. In the following, we call digi-
tal customers the latter category of consumers. This
active role of the SMEs towards their physical cus-
tomers is decisive in the promotion, without costs, of
the DN, that is in expanding the audience of poten-
tial customers of their products/services to an audi-
ence equal to the sum of the physical customers of
the various SMEs part of the alliance.
3.1.1 A Reward Policy
To overcome the distrust of SMEs to share their phys-
ical customers with the other SMEs of the DN, our
idea is the following. Each PS (let say Q) of a generic
SME (let say W ) adhering to the DN is associated
with a QR code. Each physical customer (let say C) of
PS Q of SME W introduced to the DN by W remains
associated with Q, and hence with W (briefly, W is the
owner of C), by linking he/she to the QR code of Q by
means of a functionality of DgNet. In this way, cus-
tomer C remains permanently linked to his/her owner
regardless of what product/service he/she will buy
online in future and where among the many virtual
showcases exhibited by the SMEs of the DN. The
delivery of what has been purchased online can take
place at home or at any PS of one of the SMEs be-
longing to the DN, at any time.
A possible method on which to base the distribu-
tion of profits between the SMEs adhering to the DN
for each product/service sold is illustrated below.
Legend of notations:
m margin
sP selling Price
c (total) cost
cN cost of DN
cS cost of the Seller member (a SME)
mPR margin of the Participating Retailer (a SME)
mOPC margin of the Owner of the Physical
pSP percentage of the sP withheld by the DN.
The cost of the DN (cN) comprises the cost of sus-
taining the network and the cost for campaigns of con-
sumer loyalty.
The following equations hold:
sP×(1-pSP)-cS= mPR+mOPC
From equations above, it follows that mPR<m, i.e., it
is a margin lower than that provided by a direct sale.
However, this margin comes from a digital customer
that the allied SME would not have reached without
the DN. Also mOPC<m, but in any case it is greater than
zero for a transaction that did not involve it directly
and for which the SME had no cost. In summary, we
can notice that each SME adhering to the DN has two
earning opportunities, mutually non-exclusive: one
direct and the other indirect. This double potential
advantage is the best guarantee that the collaboration
between the SMEs adhering to the DN might be last-
3.2 About the Customers Portal
The virtual showcases of each PS of the SMEs part
of the DN are consistent each other. From the cus-
tomer point of view this is important because it pro-
ICEIS 2021 - 23rd International Conference on Enterprise Information Systems
vides them the same experience at each PS of the DN.
IKEA is a relevant example. Visitors of any IKEA
store around the world get the same experience. And
the pay-off is huge. Not only IKEA is one of the
most beloved companies in the world, but in the fiscal
year 2019, the company generated a global revenue
exceeding 41 billion Euros worldwide
A peculiarity of the customers portal is that of im-
plementing the emerging phygital paradigm. Imple-
menting the phygital paradigm allows SMEs to offer
to their consumers the experience they are looking for.
No company is so perfect in the delivery of their
products/services that dissatisfaction (the source of
complaints) does not exist. In this context the well-
known saying: “No news, good news” is not always
true. So, the correct approach from SMEs that aim
playing online lengthily is to implement a robust Cus-
tomer service. Handling complaints includes the fol-
lowing three steps: (a) collecting them; (b) analyz-
ing them, and (c) responding appropriately (i.e., over-
coming the underlying issue).
In (Farnsworth et al., 2019), authors report that
“for every complaint expressed, there are over 25 un-
registered complaints. Many dissatisfied customers
just quietly take their business elsewhere. [...] Fur-
thermore, a customer with a complaint is likely to tell
others about his complaint. Organizations that are
truly committed to delivering an effective customer
service have to providing them opportunities to com-
plain. The DgNet mobile app and the websites of
the associated SMEs are the two channels that must
be implemented within the DN to encourage (digital)
customers to write their comments that, from these
collecting point, can then automatically be redirected
into the DN’s database (Figure 5).
Such a database is a precious intangible assets for
the SMEs, since, by querying it, it is possible to ex-
tract customers complaints and take appropriate ac-
tions to reply to them. In addition, the availability of
such kind of data allows the implementation of quan-
titative methods as an alternative to qualitive ones. In
fact, by querying the database over long periods of
time it is possible to build statistics useful to get a
correct vision of what is going wrong with the offered
(DiFelice et al., 2021) proposes the structure of a
NoSQL database about customer reviews and a set of
ten useful query patterns. To implement an effective
customer service it is highly recommendable that the
underlying database is able to host unstructured data.
3.2.1 About the Loyalty Program
The loyalty scheme works as follows. The customers
of the DN are rewarded with points or cash back, ac-
cording to their preferences, as a percentage of their
purchases. The number of transactions per month
might also be taken into account. As a general rule,
the loyalty program to be implemented must be sim-
ple, relevant and evolve over time.
Simplicity. It is essential that SMEs’ users easily
understand how the loyalty rewards are earned and
redeemed, otherwise the program might fail.
Relevance. If the rewards being offered are not
genuinely appealing to customers, again the pro-
gram might fail.
Evolution. The program must evolve over time
to keep up with evolving user needs and trends.
3.3 Discussion
Major Obstacles to the Success of Our Approach.
Resistance to the innovation is the first obstacle. Most
of the SMEs that have been in business for years
have consolidated business processes which guaran-
tee them the economic sustainability. This category
of companies are often reluctant to the digital trans-
formation, since the introduction of IT in the firm
leads to big changes to the existing business pro-
cesses. Getting SMEs to understand the benefits of
allying with competing firms is a fundamental pre-
liminary step. Achieving this goal is facilitated by
the level of the adoption of e-commerce by SMEs.
Many studies have proved that the higher the level of
e-commerce adoption by a SME the easier is to con-
vince them to enhance their technology infrastructure
and adapt their internal processes. Promoting initia-
tives to encourage the level of e-commerce adoption
by SMEs might be very helpful. The perception by
SMEs that resource sharing is a threat to them is the
second obstacle to the success of our approach. Es-
tablishing alliances between SMEs through a DN pre-
supposes horizontal and vertical cooperation. In this
perspective, SMEs could consider that the sharing of
resources represents a threat to their business, affect-
ing their position in the reference market and, conse-
quently, their economic performance. Such a conclu-
sion by an SME would exclude a priori the adoption
of the proposed approach.
Potential Risks for the SMEs. The first risk con-
cerns the sharing of their physical customers. For an
SME, pooling its physical customers with other SMEs
An IT Infrastructure for Small- and Medium-sized Enterprises Willing to Compete in the Global Market
on the digital channel could have the effect of favor-
ing the conditions under which the latter can choose
another supplier. The reward policy of Section 3.1.1
has been thought to overcome the distrust of SMEs to
share their physical customers with the other SMEs
of the DN. However, SMEs must resign themselves
to the idea that this risk is inevitable, in light of the
unstoppable diffusion of the digital technology in ev-
ery area (business, social and economic). The second
risk has connection with the economic investment.
This risk materializes just in case an SME adheres to
a DN but at a later stage it evaluates that choice as
not advantageous, thus deciding to abandon the DN
and sever the alliances in place: in such cases the in-
vestment made turn into an economic loss. Smaller
is the license cost of the generator of DNs bigger is
the probability that SMEs are encouraged to try such
a digital transformation.
The assumption underlying the present paper is that
the SMEs today willing to compete in the global mar-
ket must perform within a collaborative network to
compensate their small dimension. To collaborate in
a coordinated fashion, they must align their business
processes and the IT infrastructure. The present po-
sition paper sketched the authors’ vision about a way
to implement a shared IT infrastructure aiming at fa-
cilitating the achievement of a coordinated coopera-
tion among SMEs. The pillar of the proposal is the
DN. Through it, SMEs can reach the following fur-
ther goals:
establish a lasting cooperation with other SMEs
by virtue of the Reward policy;
expand the audience of potential digital customers
for their products/services. In fact, for each SMEs
part of the DN, the number of digital consumers is
equal to the sum of the physical customers of all
SMEs adhering to the network;
offer (via DgNet) a consistent interaction to the
(digital) customers at any PS;
implement a robust Customer service, an indis-
pensable prerequisite for retaining the digital cus-
tomers as long as possible.
Methods for the assessment of the degree of the
achievement of the shared goals will be part of the
future research.
To the listed benefits, must be added all those
mentioned in Section 2, they too induced by the de-
cision of the SMEs to perform with other “sisters”
within a horizontal alliance.
This study is part of an ongoing industrial re-
search project that aims at developing a generator of
DNs. Recently, the proponents of the project have
released a tool (xGenerator) (Paolone et al., 2020)
that performs the transformations across the levels of
the Model Driven Architecture up to the Java code of
business Web applications. Both projects implement
the emerging low-code paradigm. In the case of the
generator of DNs, by making recourse to the gener-
ator, interested SMEs are facilitated in the instantia-
tion by themselves of the DN that best fits the needs
of their businesses.
Once the IT infrastructure will be set up, the
next steps will concern the definition of suitable in-
formation processes capable of favoring the sharing
of resources among the SMEs and the engagement
of all corporate stakeholders, including their cus-
tomers. The new processes must facilitate the inno-
vation of the technological, cultural, organizational,
creative and managerial nature for the SMEs perform-
ing within the DN, thus extending the entire ecosys-
tem that orbits around the DN and, hence contributing
to the promotion of the development of the territory
where those firms operate.
Many studies have pointed out that the use of IT
is transformative and leads to big changes to the ex-
isting business processes. This general rule holds
also in the case that a certain number of SMEs join
a DN. Business-IT alignment refers to a condition in
which the relationship between business and IT is op-
timized to maximize the business value of IT and to
increase efficiency and effectiveness of organizational
processes. Unfortunately, a long list of factors influ-
ence the alignment, as pointed out, for example, in
(El-Mekawy et al., 2015; Wang and Rusu, 2018). In
light of the findings in these papers, two relevant best
practices to be adopted by the SMEs adhering to a
DN are mentioned below. First of all a careful def-
inition of responsibilities and roles between business
and IT personnel is necessary. Then, a lot of atten-
tion has to be paid on the communication between
business and IT managers in order to eliminate mis-
understandings. The latter is a primary factor hinder-
ing business-IT alignment, as it has been proven in
(Wang and Rusu, 2018). To tackle this barrier, in (El-
Mekawy et al., 2015) authors report that: “a sugges-
tion raised by several interviewees is to implement a
set of rules to make it appealing to conduct commu-
nication more formally.
ICEIS 2021 - 23rd International Conference on Enterprise Information Systems
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An IT Infrastructure for Small- and Medium-sized Enterprises Willing to Compete in the Global Market