“Should i stay or should i go?”: a multiple-criteria group decision-making approach to SME internationalization
Due to domestic markets’ current economic conditions, companies increasingly feel that they need to become actively involved in international trade. However, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) typically face financial and intellectual constraints during internationalization processes. This means that decision makers must consider a wide range of different variables before deciding to internationalize firms. This study sought to integrate a well-established problem structuring method (i.e., cognitive mapping) and a multiple-criteria decision analysis (MCDA) technique (i.e., Decision EXpert (DEX)) in order to develop a decision model suitable for the identification and assessment of variables influencing SME internationalization capability. Using data collected during face-to-face meetings with a panel of experts (i.e., SME entrepreneurs and chief executive officers (CEOs)), a constructivist method of evaluating SME internationalization capability was created and tested using real data. The results confirm that the dual methodology adopted facilitates the development of a robust evaluation model that can improve decisionmaking processes in the context in question. Specifically, the proposed model identifies product features as the most important factor in SME capability for successful internationalization. In addition, internal factors are significantly more relevant than external factors. The integrated use of cognitive mapping and DEX provides decision makers with a well-informed perspective on SME internationalization capability. We know of no prior research reporting the use of these two methodologies in the SME internationalization context.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Bana e Costa, C., Corrêa, E., De Corte, J., & Vansnick, J. (2002). Facilitating bid evaluation in public call for tenders: A socio-technical approach. Omega, 30(3), 227–242. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0305-0483(02)00029-4
Barney, J. (1991). Firm resources and sustained competitive advantage. Journal of Management, 17(1), 99–120. https://doi.org/10.1177/014920639101700108
Bell, S., & Morse, S. (2013). Groups and facilitators within problem structuring processes. Journal of the Operational Research Society, 64(7), 959–972. https://doi.org/10.1057/jors.2012.110
Belton, V., & Stewart, T. (2002). Multiple criteria decision analysis: an integrated approach. Kluwer Academic Publishers. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4615-1495-4
Bohanec, M. (1991). Introduction to DEX: an expert system to shell for a multi-attribute decision making. Jozef Stefan Institute, Ljubljana.
Bohanec, M. (2014). DEXi: program for multi-attribute decision making user’s manual. Ljubljana University, Slovenia.
Bohanec, M., & Rajkovič, V. (1990). DEX: An expert system shell for decision support. Sistemica, 1(1), 145–157.
Bohanec, M., Cestnik, B., & Rajkovič, V. (2001). Qualitative multi-attribute modeling and its application in housing. Journal of Decision Systems, 10(2), 175–193. https://doi.org/10.3166/jds.10.175-193
Bohanec, M., Rajkovič, V., Leskosek, B., & Kapus, V. (2000b, July 9−11). Expert knowledge management for sports talent identification and advising process. In S. Carlsson, P. Brezillon, P. Humphreys, B. Lundberg, A. McCosh, & V. Rajkovič (Eds.), Decision support through knowledge management, IFIP (pp. 46–59). KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm.
Bohanec, M., Rajkovič, V., Semolič, B., & Pogačnik, A. (1995). Knowledge-based portfolio analysis for project evaluation. Information & Management, 28(5), 293–302. https://doi.org/10.1016/0378-7206(94)00048-N
Bohanec, M., Rajkovic, V., Zupan, B., & Bratko, I. (2013). DEX methodology: Three decades of qualitative multi-attribute modeling. Informatica, 37(1), 49–54.
Bohanec, M., Zupan, B., & Rajkovič, V. (2000a). Applications of qualitative multi-attribute decision models in health care. International Journal of Medical Informatics, 58, 191–205. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1386-5056(00)00087-3
Calof, J., & Beamish, P. (1995). Adapting to foreign markets: Explaining internationalization. International Business Review, 4(2), 115–131. https://doi.org/10.1016/0969-5931(95)00001-G
Carlucci, D., Ferreira, F., Schiuma, G., Jalali, M., & António, N. (2018). A holistic conception of sustainable banking: Adding value with fuzzy cognitive mapping. Technological and Economic Development of Economy, 24(4), 1303–1322. https://doi.org/10.3846/20294913.2016.1266412
Castela, B., Ferreira, F., Ferreira, J., & Marques, C. (2018). Assessing the innovation capability of small- and medium-sized enterprises using a non-parametric and integrative approach. Management Decision, 56(6), 1365–1383. https://doi.org/10.1108/MD-02-2017-0156
Cerrato, D., Crosato, L., & Depperu, D. (2016). Archetypes of SME internationalization: A configurational approach. International Business Review, 25(1), 286–295. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ibusrev.2015.05.010
Chandra, Y., Styles, C., & Wilkinson, I. (2009). The recognition of first time international entrepreneurial opportunities: Evidence from firms in knowledge-based industries. International Marketing Review, 26(1), 30–61. https://doi.org/10.1108/02651330910933195
Child, J., & Hsieh, L. (2014). Decision mode, information and network attachment in the internationalization of SMEs: A configurational and contingency analysis. Journal of World Business, 49(4), 598–610. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jwb.2013.12.012
Çipi, A., Llaci, S., & Ferreira, F. (2014a). A Delphi investigation into the corporate governance practices of Albanian joint stock companies. International Journal of Transitions & Innovation Systems, 3(2), 88–103. https://doi.org/10.1504/IJTIS.2014.062809
Çipi, A., Llaci, S., & Ferreira, F. (2014b). Corporate governance and the 2008 financial crisis: The Albanian experience based on the perception of joint stock company chief executive directors. Arethuse – Scientific Journal of Economics & Business Management, 1/2, 49–70.
Correia, J., Ferreira, F., Meidutė-Kavaliauskienė, I., Pereira, L. F., Zopounidis, C., & Correia, R. (2020). Factors influencing urban investment attractiveness: an FCM-SD approach. International Journal of Strategic Property Management, 24(4), 237–250. https://doi.org/10.3846/ijspm.2020.12384
Czinkota, M., & Ronkainen, I. (2012). International marketing. Thomson South-Western.
Dominguez, N., & Mayrhofer, U. (2017). Internationalization stages of traditional SMEs: Increasing, decreasing and re-increasing commitment to foreign markets. International Business Review, 26(6), 1051–1063. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ibusrev.2017.03.010
Dubravska, M., & Sira, E. (2015). The analysis of the factors influencing the international trade of the Slovak Republic. Procedia Economics & Finance, 23, 1210–1216. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2212-5671(15)00569-9
Dutot, V., Bergeron, F., & Raymond, L. (2014). Information management for the internationalization of SMEs: An exploratory study based on a strategic alignment perspective. International Journal of Information Management, 34(5), 672–681. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijinfomgt.2014.06.006
Eden, C. (2004). Analyzing cognitive maps to help structure issues or problems. European Journal of Operational Research, 159(3), 673–686. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0377-2217(03)00431-4
Eden, C., & Ackermann, F. (2001). SODA – The principles. In J. Rosenhead & J. Mingers (Eds.), Rational analysis for a problematic world revisited: Problem structuring methods for complexity, uncertainty and conflict (pp. 21–41). John Wiley & Sons.
Eden, C., & Ackermann, F. (2004). Cognitive mapping expert views for policy analysis in the public sector. European Journal of Operational Research, 152(3), 615–630. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0377-2217(03)00061-4
Efstathiou, J., & Rajkovič, V. (1979). Multiattribute decision making using a fuzzy heuristic approach. IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man, & Cybernetics, 9(6), 326–333. https://doi.org/10.1109/TSMC.1979.4310221
European Commission. (2017a). Benefits of internationalization. Retrieved November 17, 2019, from https://ec.europa.eu/growth/smes/access-to-markets/internationalisation_en
European Commission. (2017b). SME performance review 2016/2017. Retrieved November 17, 2019, from https://blogs.ec.europa.eu/promotingenterprise/files/2017/11/SME-Assembly-2017-SMEPerformance-review.pdf
Evers, N., & O’Gorman, C. (2011). Network intermediaries in the internationalization of new firms in peripheral regions. International Marketing Review, 28(4), 340–364. https://doi.org/10.1108/02651331111149930
Ferreira, F. (2016). Are you pleased with your neighborhood? A fuzzy cognitive mapping-based approach for measuring residential neighborhood satisfaction in urban communities. International Journal of Strategic Property Management, 20(2), 130–141. https://doi.org/10.3846/1648715X.2015.1121169
Ferreira, F., Jalali, M., & Ferreira, J. (2016). Experience-focused thinking and cognitive mapping in ethical banking practices: From practical intuition to theory. Journal of Business Research, 69(11), 4953–4958. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusres.2016.04.058
Ferreira, F., Jalali, M., Bento, P., Marques, C., & Ferreira, J. (2017a). Enhancing individual entrepreneurial orientation measurement using a metacognitive decision making-based framework. International Entrepreneurship & Management Journal, 13(2), 327–346. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11365-016-0388-5
Ferreira, F., Jalali, M., Zavadskas, E. K., & Meidute-Kavaliauskiene, I. (2017b). Assessing payment instrument alternatives using cognitive mapping and the Choquet integral. Transformations in Business & Economics, 16(2), 170–187.
Ferreira, F., Marques, C., Bento, P., Ferreira, J., & Jalali, M. (2015). Operationalizing and measuring individual entrepreneurial orientation using cognitive mapping and MCDA techniques. Journal of Business Research, 68(12), 2691–2702. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11365-016-0388-5
Ferreira, F., Spahr, R., Sunderman, M., Banaitis, A., & Ferreira, J. (2017c). A learning-oriented decisionmaking process for real estate brokerage service evaluation. Service Business, 11(3), 453–474. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11628-016-0315-4
Filipe, M., Ferreira, F., & Santos, S. (2015). A multiple criteria information system for pedagogical evaluation and professional development of teachers. Journal of the Operational Research Society, 66(11), 1769–1782. https://doi.org/10.1057/jors.2014.129
Foltin, C., & Smith, M. (1994). Solve problems with software that captures and uses the knowledge of human experts: Accounting expert systems. The CPA Journal, 64(11), 46–53.
Gonçalves, J., Ferreira, F., Ferreira, J., & Farinha, L. (2019). A multiple criteria group decision-making approach for the assessment of small and medium-sized enterprise competitiveness. Management Decision, 57(2), 480–500. https://doi.org/10.1108/MD-02-2018-0203
Goodwin, N., Harris, J., Nelson, J., Roach, B., & Torras, M. (2014). Macroeconomics in context. Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315702735
Greenbaum, S., Thakor, A., & Boot, A. (2015). Contemporary financial intermediation. Elsevier. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-405196-6.00022-7
Grillo, C., Ferreira, F., Marques, C., & Ferreira, J. (2018). A knowledge-based innovation assessment system for small- and medium-sized enterprises: Adding value with cognitive mapping and MCDA. Journal of Knowledge Management, 22(3), 696–718. https://doi.org/10.1108/JKM-08-2017-0332
Hollender, L., Zapkau, F., & Schwens, C. (2017). SME foreign market entry mode choice and foreign venture performance: The moderating effect of international experience and product adaptation. International Business Review, 26(2), 250–263. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ibusrev.2016.07.003
Howick, S., & Ackermann, F. (2011). Mixing OR methods in practice: Past, present and future directions. European Journal of Operational Research, 215(3), 503–511. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejor.2011.03.013
Jalali, M., Ferreira, F., Ferreira, J., & Meidutė-Kavaliauskienė, I. (2016). Integrating metacognitive and psychometric decision making approaches for bank customer loyalty measurement. International Journal of Information Technology & Decision Making, 15(4), 815–837. https://doi.org/10.1142/S0219622015500236
Ju, X., Ferreira, F., & Wang, M. (2020). Innovation, agile project management and firm performance in a public sector-dominated economy: Empirical evidence from high-tech small and medium-sized enterprises in China. Socio-Economic Planning Sciences, 72, 1–14. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.seps.2019.100779
Keeney, R. (1992). Value-focused thinking: A path to creative decision making. Harvard University Press.
Kubíčková, L., Votoupalová, M., & Toulová, M. (2014). Key motives for internationalization process of small and medium-sized enterprises. Procedia Economics & Finance, 12, 319–328. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2212-5671(14)00351-7
Kunday, Ö., & Sengüler, E. (2015). A study on factors affecting the internationalization process of small and medium enterprises. Procedia – Social & Behavioral Sciences, 195, 972–981. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2015.06.363
Marques, S., Ferreira, F., Meidutė-Kavaliauskienė, I., & Banaitis, A. (2018). Classifying urban residential areas based on their exposure to crime: A constructivist approach. Sustainable Cities and Society, 39, 418–429. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scs.2018.03.005
Mian, A., Rao, K., & Sufi, A. (2013). Household balance sheets, consumption, and the economic slump. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 128(4), 1687–1726. https://doi.org/10.1093/qje/qjt020
Milici, A., Ferreira, F., Pereira, L., Carayannis, E., & Ferreira, J. (2021). Dynamics of open innovation in small- and medium-sized enterprises: A metacognitive approach. IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management, 1−14. https://doi.org/10.1109/TEM.2020.3042458
Montibeller, G., & Belton, V. (2006). Causal maps and the evaluation of decision options: A review. Journal of the Operational Research Society, 57(7), 779–791. https://doi.org/10.1057/palgrave.jors.2602214
Oliveira, M., Ferreira, F., Pérez-Bustamante Ilander, G., & Jalali, M. (2017). Integrating cognitive mapping and MCDA for bankruptcy prediction in small- and medium-sized enterprises. Journal of the Operational Research Society, 68(9), 985–997. https://doi.org/10.1057/s41274-016-0166-3
Oviatt, B., & McDougall, P. (1994). Toward a theory of international new ventures. Journal of International Business Studies, 25(1), 45–64. https://doi.org/10.1057/palgrave.jibs.8490193
Oviatt, B., & McDougall, P. (2005). Defining international entrepreneurship and modeling the speed of internationalization. Entrepreneurship Theory & Practice, 29(5), 537–554. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-6520.2005.00097.x
Pangarkar, N. (2008). Internationalization and performance of small and medium-sized enterprises. Journal of World Business, 43(4), 475–485. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jwb.2007.11.009
Pérez-Bustamante Ilander, G., Marques, C., Jalali, M., & Ferreira, F. (2016). The impact of continuous training in small and medium enterprises: Lessons from an industrial case analysis. Journal of Business Economics & Management, 17(2), 234–250. https://doi.org/10.3846/16111699.2014.938359
Ribeiro, M., Ferreira, F., Jalali, M., & Meidutė-Kavaliauskienė, I. (2017). A fuzzy knowledge-based framework for risk assessment of residential real estate investments. Technological and Economic Development of Economy, 23(1), 140–156. https://doi.org/10.3846/20294913.2016.1212742
Rita, D., Ferreira, F., Meidutė-Kavaliauskienė, I., Govindan, K., & Ferreira, J. (2018). Proposal of a green index for small and medium-sized enterprises: A multiple criteria group decision-making approach. Journal of Cleaner Production, 196, 985–996. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2018.05.275
Simões, J., Ferreira, F., Peris-Ortiz, M., & Ferreira, J. (2020). A cognition-driven framework for the evaluation of startups in the digital economy: Adding value with cognitive mapping and rule-based expert systems. Management Decision, 58(11), 2327–2347. https://doi.org/10.1108/MD-09-2019-1253
Surugiu, M., & Surugiu, C. (2015). International trade, globalization and economic interdependence between European countries: Implications for businesses and marketing framework. Procedia Economics & Finance, 32, 131–138. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2212-5671(15)01374-X
Trdin, N., & Bohanec, M. (2012, May 25). Extending the multi criteria decision-making method DEX. In Proceedings of the 4th Jožef Stefan International Postgraduate School Students Conference (pp. 182–187). Slovenia.
Trdin, N., & Bohanec, M. (2018). Extending the multi criteria decision-making method DEX with numeric attributes, value distributions and relational models. Central European Journal of Operations Research, 26(1), 1–41. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10100-017-0468-9
Welch, L. & Luostarinen, R. (1988). Internationalization: Evolution of a concept. Journal of General Management, 14(2), 34–55. https://doi.org/10.1177/030630708801400203
Yener, M., Doğruoğlu, B., & Ergun, S. (2014). Challenges of internationalization for SMEs and overcoming these challenges: A case study from Turkey. Procedia – Social & Behavioral Sciences, 150, 2–11. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.09.002
Zavadskas, E. K., Turskis, Z., & Kildienė, S. (2014). State of art surveys of overviews on MCDM/MADM methods. Technological and Economic Development of Economy, 20(1), 165–179. https://doi.org/10.3846/20294913.2014.892037