Purpose – The paper aims to report on an exploratory study into how small businesses use Web 2.0 information and communication technologies (ICT) to work collaboratively with other small businesses. The study had two aims: to investigate the benefits available from the use of Web 2.0 in small business collaborations, and to characterize the different types of such online collaborations.
Design/methodology/approach – The research uses a qualitative case study methodology based on semi-structured interviews with the owner-managers of 12 UK-based small companies in the business services sector who are early adopters of Web 2.0 technologies.
Findings – Benefits from the use of Web 2.0 are categorized as lifestyle benefits, internal operational efficiency, enhanced capability, external communications and enhanced service offerings. A 2×2 framework is developed to categorize small business collaborations using the dimensions of the basis for inter-organizational collaboration (control vs cooperation) and the level of Web 2.0 ICT use (simple vs sophisticated).
Research limitations/implications – A small number of firms of similar size, sector and location were studied, which limits generalizability. Nonetheless, the results offer a pointer to the likely future use of Web 2.0 tools by other small businesses.
Practical implications – The research provides evidence of the attraction and potential of Web 2.0 for collaborations between small businesses.
Originality/value – The paper is one of the first to report on use of Web 2.0 ICT in collaborative working between small businesses. It will be of interest to those seeking a better understanding of the potential of Web 2.0 in the small business community.