Information technology (IT) is a key enabler of modern small businesses, yet fostering reliablyeffective IT systems remains a significant challenge. This paper presents a light weight IT
effectiveness model for small businesses to assess their IT and formulate strategies for
improvement. Employing an action research approach we investigate a mixed method analysis of
120 survey responses from small family businesses and user participation in 10 semi-structured
interviews. We then conduct critical reflection to identify refinements which are validated using
72 survey responses from university students. The results present compelling evidence that
employees’ normative patterns (norms) are a significant driver of IT effectiveness in a second
order PLS predictive model able to explain 26% of observed variance.
A norms-based approach to IT effectiveness helps fill a significant research and managerial gap
for organizations unable or unwilling to adopt IT best practice frameworks used by large
organizations. Our findings imply that comparing norms to IT best practices may offer a less
technical approach to assessing IT operations, which may be well suited to small businesses.
Although further investigation cycles are needed to systematically test this model, we encourage
small business managers to: 1) anticipate IT risks and mitigate them; 2) identify measures of IT
performance, and monitor them, and 3) review/synchronize business and IT goals.