Improving Competitiveness, Productivity, and Operations Strategy using Technology — Examining the Barriers to use of Technologies in Operations Management

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ImprovingCompetitiveness,Productivity,and Operations Strategy using Technology— Examining the Barriers to use of Technologies in OperationsManagementNameInstitution

Therevarious complexities that call for firms to embrace informedstrategies to operate effectively. For instance, globalization haspaved the way for firms across the world to operate seamlessly acrossborders, implying the business environment is characterized byheightened competition that players must now contend. Secondly,market regulations have been increasing over time, requiring thatbusinesses align their practices with the legal requirements lestthey be penalized. It is noteworthy that these regulations areparticularly demanding and can even compromise the ability of firmsto grow or survive on the market. Thirdly, the business environmentis also marred with uncertainties such as economic downturns, whichmeans firms need to weigh their operation strategies effectively,managing risks while exploiting the market opportunities. Fourthly,since the market is saturated with firms offering more or less thesame products, the consumers and suppliers now command highbargaining powers over firms. This situation requires the firms to bekeen to reflect the interests of these players in the operationprocesses. At the same time, there is also a call for sustainablepractices through corporate social responsibility and observing rulesand regulations, which is also a costly practice. Therefore, forbusiness owners and managers, the issue invites the question of whatneeds to be done to survive and grow.

Aspart of the solution to the problem, the society is increasingly lookoperation management practices. Operation management, in this case,is lauded because it focuses on designing and controlling productionprocesses, aligning business activities with the market demands(Vrande,Jeroen, Jong &amp Rochemont, 2013, pp 34).However, even operation management has its inherent challenge — itis evolving drastically and tends to rely heavily on technologicalsolutions. Therefore, success is not just about having operationmanagement strategy, but adapting to available technologies.

Althoughthe criticality of technology is widely acknowledge, it has beenasserted that many firms are not doing well in responding totechnological developments (Wolf,Kaudela-Baum &amp Meissner, 2012, pp 67).Therefore, the question particular intrigue is the cause of sluggishmove. The aim of this paper is to explore the barriers in adoptiontechnologies in operation management and make recommendations forpractice.


Tofind answers to the underlying question, this paper purposes to carryout an online literature survey using the Google search engine.First, the combinations of key search words are developed to reflectthe central theme, and these are barriers/challenges,adoption/implementation, technologies/ERP/MRP operation management.The essence of including Enterprise Resource Planning andManufacturing Resource Planning in the search words is to be able tonarrow on the two popular operation management technologies. As faras the inclusion and exclusion criterion is concerned, onlypeer-reviewed sources are included in the discussion. Moreover, onlystudies published within the last five years will be considered forreview. The essence of using this inclusion criterion is to be ableto ensure that the derived information is not only accurate, but alsorelevant to reflect the trends in the practice.


TheGoogle search presented dozens of results. However, only 8 sourcessatisfied the inclusion criteria. An examination of the materialpresented an array of themes that are relevant to answering the keyquestions. The discernible themes can be essentially classified intothree — leadership, lack of knowledge and cost of technologies.

Leadershipand management

Leadershipis the most cited barrier to adoption of technologies in operationmanagement, appearing in four articles (Farrukh,2015Galiaand Legros, 2013Griffith, Kickul, Gundry &amp Fernandez, 2013O`Regan,Ghobadian and Sims,2013).Farrukh(2015),for instance, discusses that several enterprises are always slow toadopt technologies in their operation management because the managersare not committed. In the view of the author, the leaders andmanagers to these firms have other priorities for increasing thecompetiveness of firms, but many are limited because they areconservative (Farrukh,2015).Galiaand Legros(2013) reportsthat many enterprises, while they acknowledge the criticality oftechnologies to organization growth and survival, have weakorganization structures that impede technological innovativeness.Galiaand Legros(2013),in particular, notes a large number of businesses have hierarchicalstructures and authoritarian management systems that inhibitcommunication, openness and flexibility in sharing ideas on how tosupport implementation of technologies in operation managemententerprises. Griffith,Kickul, Gundry and Fernandez (2013)discuss that companies are slow to adopting technologies becausemanagers fear the risks. It happens that the managers have the fearthat many technologies are risky to adopt and even the few effectivetechnologies are hard to identify. Therefore, they are always afraidof being part of the risky decision-making processes, just in casethe technologies fail (Griffith,Kickul, Gundry &amp Fernandez, 2013).Indeed,thediscussions on the role of leadership and management as the barrierfor implementation of technologies in the operation management areindisputably plausible.

Theplausibility of this view follows that the competence of leadershipand management in organization is largely defined by its ability toadopt strategies to address all organization challenges, no matterthe nature of the problems. This point conforms to the shift ofparadigm that now holds managers with high expectations of being ableto address all forms of organization challenges to leverage success,regardless of the external and internal factors. This new paradigmexpects the managers to be all knowing and all-round, and expeditethe necessary skills and knowledge in all areas of organizationoperations, bearing blame for the failures and praise for all thesuccesses.

Lackof Knowledge

Thetheme of lack of knowledge is also outstanding, mentioned three times(i.e. IfM.2013Laforet&amp Tan, 2014Laforet,2015).IfM(2013),for example, highlights that technological developments are alwaysmoving fast, and tend to find many firms within the market lessprepared to adopt them. In this regard, by the time the market adjustto the prevailing technological environment, they are always late andcannot safeguard the edging competitive advantages that thetechnology initially presented (IfM,2013).According to the author, well over 33 percent of enterprises in theworld are often unable to adopt technologies on time because lack ofstandby technological skills. Laforet(2015) notesthat, while many firms respond to new waves of technologies bytraining their employees, the responses are always slow. Typically,organizations often hesitate to see whether a technology ispromising, waiting for other few firms to lead the way inexperimenting. It is only after the few early adopters have benefiteddo others embark on the journey of training their employees. Laforet&amp Tan (2014),nevertheless, notes some firms do not respond to the technologicalwaves by training their employees. For them, lack of knowledgepersists as a chronic challenge, and this group is unable to embraceinnovative technologies because of the conviction that they couldfail. Besides, the discussion also reveals that not all businessowners are aware about the technological developments in the market.Many owners remain in the dark about what type of innovation couldwork for them, fearing to venture in technologies becauseunscrupulous vendors could easily exploit them or they lack updatedinformation of new revolutionary technologies on the market (Laforet&amp Tan 2014).The discussion of lack of knowledge on technology is valid becauseknowledge is widely cited as success factor for technologicaldevelopment. Technological knowledge is particularly critical becauseit enables firms to adopt technological innovations successfully, aswell as shun feeling of apprehension over failures.

TheCost of Technologies

Anothernotable factor constraining technological adoption in operationmanagement is cost inherent to technological adoption. This factor ismentioned in three sources (i.e. Pullen,Petra, Groen, Song &amp Fisscher, 2013Laforet&amp Tan 2014O`Regan,Ghobadian and Sims,2013).According to Pullen,Petra, Groen, Song, and Fisscher (2013),the processes of adopting new technologies are expensive. Thediscussion highlights that the small and medium-sized enterprises areoften heavily hit by the cost factor because of their relative smallsize, a determinant of limited resources to commit to technologicaladoption. The cost factor is also exacerbated by the fact thattechnologies are initially expensive because they involve training,structuring, and even recruitment of new employees. According toLaforet&amp Tan (2014),however, the costs of obsoleteness are also another significantbarrier. Typically, technologies are always evolving fast so that atechnology that was revolutionary today would be rendered obsoletewithin one month (Laforet&amp Tan, 2014).Because technologies are always moving fast, the managers are oftenworried about how long the new technologies would be relevant, incase adopted. Enterprises are often compelled to hesitate, unsureabout whether to appease the market of rivaling technologies.O`Regan,Ghobadian and Sims(2013),however, brings into light the risks of failure. The author discussesthat many firms abandon some technologies along the way because theyhave been found to be unviable. Therefore, the problem oftechnological adoption for operation management also stems from thetechnologies themselves. In this regard, the discussion of the costfactor as a technological barrier is plausible, too.


Basedon the discussions, it can be inferred that the process oftechnological adoption in operation management is constrained bythree factors— leadership factor, lack of knowledge and cost oftechnologies. The leadership barrier is characterized by limitedcommitment, poor organization structure, and fear of risks. Theknowledge barrier is manifested in terms of lack of skills, training,experience, and awareness of technological market offers. Lastly, thebarrier of cost is evidenced in the form of expensive technologies,the costs of failures and tendencies of obsoleteness. Havingidentified these barriers, the issue of particular interest is howthese areas of weaknesses can be addressed. Certainly, therecommendation on how the issue can be addressed need to be hinged onthe three areas.

Theleadership problem can be addressed by encouraging firms refocustheir operation management strategies to technological adoption.Managers will need to be made aware that success within the market isnot about avoiding the risks, but trying the risks, which is the bestway of leveraging the edging competitive advantage. Organizationswill also need to be encouraged to reform their management structuresto favor openness and flexibility in communicating and sharinginformation on the innovative practices.

Thebarrier of lack of knowledge can be addressed through trainingemployees. The training process should be responsive to the dynamictechnological developments, including software literacy. An elaboratetraining methodology would be the kind that seeks to increase thecapacity of understanding on the innovations and the underlyingchallenges. Alternatively, firms are presented with the options ofusing external consultants to help them realize the technologicalcapacity. In light of the fact that firms are unaware about thetechnological development within the market, technology vendors areencouraged to be vibrant in sensitizing and reaching the market aboutexistence of the products and their benefits.

Addressingthe cost of innovation may require concerted efforts between thegovernment and financial institutions. The role of the governmentwill be beneficial in creating an environment that is conducive forfirms to adopt innovative technologies. This process could beachieved by creating financial policies that catalyze thetechnological adoption, which could also include providingincentives. The financial institutions should also come in byproviding source of funds, such as through loans for technologicaldevelopment. To address the dilemma of what technology works, thegovernment may play a crucial role in funding market research to findout the viable technological solutions and endorse to theenterprises.


Inconclusion, the aim of this paper has been to explore the barriers inadoption technologies in operation management and makerecommendations for practice.

Thispaper has been written in the acknowledgement to the fact that themarket environment is characterized by a myriad of challenges thatfirms must consider to survive and grow. As part of the solution tothe problem, the society is increasingly looking to operationmanagement practices. Operation management, in this case, is laudedbecause it focuses on designing and controlling production processes,aligning business activities with the market demands while relying ontechnologies. It is further noted that the success, however, is notjust about having operation management strategy, but usingtechnologies available, yet firms have not been adequately responsiveto technologies.

Tofind answers to the underlying question, the paper purposed to carryout an online literature survey on the subject using the Googlesearch engine based on relevant key word search. While Google searchpresented dozens of results, only 6 sources satisfied the inclusioncriteria. Subsequent examination of the material presents an array ofthemes that are relevant in answering the key questions.

Itcan be inferred that the process of technological adoption inoperation management is constrained by three factors— leadership,lack of knowledge and cost of technologies. The leadership barrier ischaracterized by limited commitment, poor organization structure andfear or the risks. The knowledge barrier is manifested in terms oflack of skills, training, experience, and awareness of technologicalmarket offers. Lastly, the barrier of cost is evidenced in the formof expensive technologies, the costs of failures and tendencies ofobsoleteness. Therefore, the process of supporting firms to improvecompetitiveness and productivity should be focused on addressingthese barriers.


Farrukh,C. (2015). Practice And Needs, Lessons From The Prisms Program.Centrefor Technology Management working paper series.No. 8 August.,d.d2s

Galia,F and Legros, D., (2013).“Complementarities between obstacles to innovation: Evidence fromFrance”, ResearchPolicy,Vol.33:1185-1199.

Griffith,G. Kickul, F, Gundry, L. &amp Fernandez, A. (2013) “Innovationecology as a precursor to entrepreneurial growth: Across-countryempirical investigation”, Journalof Small Business and Enterprise Development,Vol. 16, No. 3, pp. 375-390.

IfM.(2013). Stimulating growth and employment in the UK economy,Institute for Manufacturing, University of Cambridge.,d.d2s

Laforet,S. &amp Tann, J.(2014)“Innovative characteristics of small manufacturing firms.”Journalof Small Business andEnterpriseDevelopment, Vol. 13 N3,363-380.

Laforet,S. (2015) “Effects of size, Market and Strategic Orientation onInnovation in non-high-tech Manufacturing SMEs.” EuropeanJournal of Marketing, Vol.43,N1/2,:188-212.

O`Regan,N., Ghobadian, A. and Sims, M. A.(2013) “Fast Tracking Innovation in ManufacturingSMEs.”Technovation,26:251-261.

Pullen,A Petra, W., Groen, A. Song, M. &amp Fisscher, O. (2013).Successful Patterns of Internal SME Characteristics Leading to HighOverall Innovation Performance. Creativeand Innovation Management,Volume 18 Number 3 pp. 209-223.

Vrande,V. Jeroen P., Jong, J &amp Rochemont, M. (2013). Open innovationin SMEs: Trends, motives and management challenges, Technovation29 423–437.

Wolf,P., Kaudela-Baum, S., &amp Meissner, J (2012) Exploring innovatingcultures in small and medium-sized enterprises: Findings from CentralSwitzerland, InternationalSmall Business Journal30: 242–274.

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