Web Presence Governance

Web Presence Governance

Stephen Burgess (Victoria University, Australia), Carmine Carmine Sellitto (Victoria University, Australia) and Stan Karanasios (Leeds University Business School and AIMTech Research Group, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-224-4.ch009
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The initial idea behind this chapter was to expand on the issue of security, predominantly in relation to ensuring that a small business operator would be confident that not only its own information was protected, but that customer information derived via its Web presence was also safe and secure. However, it seemed more appropriate to expand the discussion in the chapter to how the security associated with a small business Website might fit into an overall business continuity plan and the general governance of a small business, including a discussion of ethical and cultural issues. The purpose of this chapter is not to be a primer on corporate governance and business continuity. However, the chapter does introduce various concepts associated with these areas for the purpose of identifying their importance to the running of the business.
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Corporate Governance

Corporate governance is concerned with improving the performance of a company, allowing the commensurate benefits to flow to stakeholders, such as owners and employees. The particular characteristics of small businesses mean that the way they deal with corporate governance issues will be different from those associated with larger businesses. As previously stated in the book, many small businesses might not interested in focusing on business growth, tending to concern themselves more with maintaining a lifestyle. These businesses tend to be satisfied as long as they survive on a day-to-day basis and can provide themselves and perhaps their employees a comfortable living.

One or two people usually make major decisions in small business, primarily the owner(s) and/or the managers(s) of the business. For them, governance is a combination of the views of the owner and the manner in which the business is run. It reflects the critical steps in the management of the business.

How does a small businesses access the knowledge and/or skills it requires to meet its regulatory or legislative requirements? These skills are often not available within the business, especially in the case of micro businesses. Our own research has found that it is common for the small business to engage an accountant as a primary source to provide appropriate guidance and assistance for the business with respect to compliance and regulatory requirements. On some occasions, accountants will also be asked for advice that might be seen as being outside their normal briefing activities - such as providing recommendations on aspects of computer systems and related Internet issues. In these situations, the small business operator should be directed to appropriate consultants that have relevant expertise with information technology. Clearly, there is a key message here. Often accountants are seen as a ‘trusted’ source for many aspects of business advice and it may be questionable to seek advice or engage them in areas where their expertise does not necessarily exist.

A common challenge faced by small businesses is the amount of time and effort they put into planning the direction of the business. Small business planning can include an examination and positioning of the business in the longer-term, may relate to assessing the market share of various goods and/or services, accounting practices associated with employees, budget forecasting and revenue predications, as well as the all important aspect of business cash flow. Of course, we are particularly interested that small business operators also view their ICT investments, and in this case their Web presence activities particularly, as a long term investment and plan them as a key component, along with their other business activities.

One of the areas where it is possible to make a case to small business operators that good governance practices can assist in the longer-term viability of their firms is by highlighting the benefits of business continuity management (BCM). Collectively, small businesses tend to be located in one common community with their employees, customers and suppliers all originating from that community (Haksever 1996). Consequently, small business stakeholders are more likely to be in a common geographical area, often forming part of a larger local community, with their viability as a business entity being reliant on the local economy. It is therefore as important for smaller businesses to ensure that there are strategies in place to deal with different types of business interruptions - an issue that is addressed by the concept of business continuity management (BCM).

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