Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for development of small and medium-sized exporters in Latin America: Mexico
Juan Antonio Ramírez Bustos
Although small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Mexico are gradually adopting information technology (IT), many are still far from fully leveraging the potential operational advantages of that technology. This is especially true of SMEs whose interaction with large clients or whose role in supply chains depends on their ability to share various types of information, such as information related to inventories, factoring, production control and logistics, and to connect to their clients' headquarters. The lack of a more fully developed IT culture partly explains Mexico's lagging international competitiveness. A new IT culture has begun to emerge within many large companies, and a small number are implementing enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems; however, only a few are improving their competitiveness by using second-generation customer relationship management (CRM) systems. Although ERP-based solutions appear to be gaining acceptance among Mexican SMEs, in many cases such solutions are inadequate, because of the many obstacles preventing ERP from being implemented according to the needs of individual companies. Foremost among these difficulties is the fact that most Mexican companies lack information on management and operational procedures. The case studies presented in this survey underline Mexican SMEs' reluctance to use IT and their poor understanding of it. Even SMEs in the most advanced economic sectors continue to be hesitant to use IT-based solutions ?or to improve upon systems in place? to gain a competitive advantage. Hence, the Government needs to implement an industrial policy that will promote the development of such tools and a program to test various software applications. From this perspective, economic policy instruments implemented by the federal Government to encourage the development of the IT industry in Mexico and instil an IT culture among SMEs might prove to be one of the most important ways of enhancing SME competitiveness in many business sectors.