Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences

Information Technology Projects by International Logistics Services Providers: The Case of Canada's Small Customs Brokers

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences

Information Technology Projects by International Logistics Services Providers: The Case of Canada's Small Customs Brokers

Article excerpt


This study explores the motives and effects of information and communication technology (ICT) investments made by some of Canada's small customs brokers. Like other providers of support services for global supply chain operations, customs brokers have been implored to recognize the significant rewards of effectively deployed ICT. Using qualitative data on eight small Canadian customs brokers, this study determines the extent to which expectation of those rewards motivated the workers' ICT investments. Drawing on institutional theory to complement the analysis, the study finds that the motives transcend belief in ICT projects' inherent utility. This and related findings on the impact of ICT projects on the brokers, extend knowledge concerning the study of important ICT investment decisions in the context of trans-border goods movement.

JEL Classifications: O33, L8, L2, D81

Keywords: Technology Choice; Technology Consequences; Services Industry; Firm Behaviour; Decision-Making Criteria


Cette étude examine les motifs et les effets des investissements réalisés dans la technologie de l'information et de la communication (ICT) par de petits agents en douane canadiens. Comme d'autres fournisseurs d'abonnement de maintenance des opérations de chaîne d'approvisionnements, ces agents étaient invités à identifier les récompenses considérables liées au déploiement efficace de l'ICT. À partir de données qualitatives portant sur huit agents, l'étude s'attelle à déterminer dans quelle mesure l'espérance des récompenses motive les investissements. S'inspirant de la théorie institutionnelle pour compléter l'analyse, l'étude constate que les motifs dépassent la croyance en l'utilité intrinsèque des projets ICT. Cette conclusion et l'impact des projets sur les agents, s'inscrit dans le prolongement des études sur les décisions d'investissement en ICT dans le contexte du commerce transfrontalier.

Mots clés : Choix de Technologie, Conséquences de Technologie, Service Industrie, Comportement de Compagnie, Critères de Décision

With increasing emphasis on the belief that ICT can significantly aid the competitiveness of customs brokers in their role as providers of services to support international logistics and supply chain management (ILSCM) operations (e.g., Briggs, 1997; Tausz, 2000; Woods, 1997), it would seem fair to conclude that the implementation (or at least the contemplation) of ICT projects by Canadian customs brokers has been based on such belief. Yet, at the same time, some commentators suggest that smaller customs brokers view ICT less as a means to exploit the potential opportunities (or prevent the consequences of missing out on those opportunities) than as an imposition reflecting the agenda and will of external entities. For example, Mark (2001) opined that the potential benefits of ICT have not been made sufficiently clear to generate universal enthusiasm among those brokers. This alternative suggestion raises the question of what the motives are for ICT initiatives by small customs brokers operating in Canada. Is it that the initiatives are, to use the words of Teo, Wei, and Benbasat (2003, p. 20), "driven by a rationalistic and deterministic orientation guided by goals of technical efficiency"? Or is it that, as Oliver (1991, p. 149) says, they merely are driven by pressures suggesting that "it would be unthinkable to do otherwise"?

The primary focus of this paper is to investigate these differing viewpoints on the motives for these brokers' ICT projects. The investigation draws on institutional perspectives which reason that the motives for an organization's decision to undertake an initiative such as an ICT project transcend belief in the project's inherent utility. These motives include isomorphic pressures (see Tingling & Parent, 2002) that cause some brokers to imitate their peers' ICT choices. The paper also addresses the related issue of how the projects undertaken have affected the brokers, and is based on qualitative data collected through telephone interviews and electronic mail from eight brokers. …

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