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SMEs digital footprints and their ethical implications

This project focuses on SMEs who have been facing challenges regarding the rapidly increased usage of digital tools (e-mails, cloud, big data), particularly after the COVID-19 outbreak. The aim of this research project is to develop an analytical framework that helps SMEs to better understand their digital footprints and their ethical implications both at organisational and individual levels. The main objectives of this project are: - to explore the main ethical concerns regarding the SMEs' digital footprints, in terms of transparency strategies of organisations and equal opportunities for individuals. - to investigate the processes required to develop organisations understanding of their organisational digital footprints - to better understand the transparency strategy at organisational (employer) and individual (employee) levels in building sustainable and ethical growth in SMEs. 

COVID-19 outbreak has posed a significant shift to the digital world and consequently caused massive challenges to the protection of human rights. Digitalisation of the business environment creates digital footprints that blur the boundaries between individuals and organisations, and creates various risks in terms of transparency, equality, and inclusion.

Previous research has shown that the Covid-19 pandemic necessitates digitalisation by creating circumstances like remote working, which is one of the main sources of digital footprints. A large number of SMEs' executives specified that their prime concern in SMEs is digitalisation strategies. Since the COVID-19 pandemic has created an extensive dependency on the digital world, SMEs have severe challenges for the management of data and digital footprints.

This project is an 18-month action research programme, where data will be gathered to develop insights both at organisational and individual levels to use digital footprints ethically and safely in creating business and social value and support future work scenarios.

Project partners

HR Tech Partnership  and TechMahindra 

Key research investigators
Key research investigators: Ozlem Ayaz Arda, Asieh Hosseini Tabaghdehi, Ainurul Rosli
Postdoctoral Research Assistants & Research administrator
Postdoctoral Research Assistants & Research administrator: Prerna Tambay, Waheed Mughal, Ahrabie Kirubasuthan (Research assistant)

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Meet the Principal Investigator(s) for the project

Dr Ozlem Ayaz Arda
Dr Ozlem Ayaz Arda - Ozlem Ayaz Arda received her PhD in Management and Organisations in 2016 from Bahcesehir University Istanbul. She joined Brunel Business School in February 2020. Dr Ayaz-Arda has several years of management experience in strategic management, working at big companies in Turkey. Her research is embedded in the strategic management field specifically interested in the integration of management systems with different operational aims. Her interest also resides in the role of leadership, social and business value creation ethical organisations during the digital era started with Industry 4.0. Dr Ayaz-Arda has published widely in internationally well-regarded academic journals such as Journal of Business Research, Decision Support Systems, Business Strategy, and the Environment. She has presented her research output at international conferences such as Academy of Management Conference in 2016, 2018, and 2020. 

Related Research Group(s)


Strategy Entrepreneurship and International Business - Our themes of research range from entrepreneurial and internationalisation strategies of small-to-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to inward and outward investment by large enterprises and supra-national governance.

Partnering with confidence

Organisations interested in our research can partner with us with confidence backed by an external and independent benchmark: The Knowledge Exchange Framework. Read more.

Project last modified 17/11/2023