The benefits of digitalisation for SMEs come from a combination of factors

The benefits of digitalisation for businesses have been widely discussed for a long time, but the much-needed benefits are not always achieved. Tuire Hautala-Kankaanpää's doctoral dissertation at the University of Vaasa shows that digitalisation alone does not directly improve the operational performance of small and medium-sized enterprises, but requires the combined effect of many different factors.

Digitalisation is seen as a solution to a wide range of challenges faced by SMEs. In addition, digitalisation is a means to improve efficiency, predictability, transparency and new business opportunities. Tuire Hautala-Kankaanpää's doctoral dissertation in management studies how and in which situations digitalisation can help SMEs.

– According to the results, digitalisation can, for example, strengthen an SME's supply chain capabilities, that is its ability to work with customers and suppliers. Digitalisation will, therefore, have a positive impact on the company's operational performance, says Hautala-Kankaanpää.

Digitalisation can also be beneficial if the SME's internal culture and external environment are supportive of digitalisation.

- Companies with a high level of digital culture, i.e. openness to digitalisation, will benefit more from digitalisation than those with a low level. It is more likely that the use of digital technologies will be lower and less efficient if there is a negative attitude towards their use within the company.

A digital strategy supports the benefits of digitalisation

According to Hautala-Kankaanpää, companies that have identified, planned and implemented digitalisation activities also perform better than those that have not.

– A planned digitalisation strategy supports improved performance through digitalisation.

The business environment also influences the benefits of digitalisation. A company's activities should fit into its business environment.

– The results show that digitalisation improves the performance of the companies surveyed, especially in highly competitive environments.

Hautala-Kankaanpää used two different surveys of Finnish SMEs in the manufacturing industry as data for her dissertation. The first survey was conducted in late 2019 and early 2020, and the second in spring and summer 2021. The surveys were conducted among the same companies, so together they form a longitudinal dataset.

– For SMEs, it is important to recognise that there is no single best solution that will guarantee that they will benefit from digitalisation. However, there are many ways to multiply the positive effects of digitalisation, says Hautala-Kankaanpää.


Hautala-Kankaanpää Tuire (2023) Essays on digitalization among small and medium-sized firms. Acta Wasaensia 513. Doctoral dissertation. University of Vaasa.

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Public defence

Tuire Hautala-Kankaanpää's doctoral dissertation "Essays on digitalization among small and medium-sized firms: Complementary and contingent approaches" will be examined on Friday 8 September 2023 at 2 pm at the University of Vaasa (Seinäjoki University Centre). The defence will be held in Finnish.

Professor Henri Hakala (LUT University) will act as an opponent and Professor (emeritus) Jukka Vesalainen as a custos.



Further information

Tuire Hautala-Kankaanpää

Tuire Hautala-Kankaanpää is originally from Alahärmä, Finland. She graduated from the University of Vaasa in 2011 with a master's degree in communication sciences and 2018 with a master's degree in economics and business administration. In her previous career, Hautala-Kankaanpää has worked as a communicator in various projects and companies. She currently lives in Seinäjoki. She works as a project researcher and grant researcher at the University of Vaasa.

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