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ABSTRACT

The paper reports on the discovery of some small but successful information technology firms. These firms, which are geographically and structurally highly mobile, were found in a recent survey of information technology firms in the north-west of England. Detailed investigation of the firms as case studies, revealed that they have many distinctive and interesting properties. Eleven distinguishing characteristics in addition to small size are identified; among them being lack of hierarchy, pervious boundaries, and extreme mobility including growth by replication. In the discussion, some differences in the organization of the firms are identified, it being argued that although all the firms lack hierarchy and tend to adopt very extreme forms of matrix organization, they do this to a greater degree the less they are dependent on technology for the creation of their products, and/or on the extent to which they retain proprietary products in their range. the paper concludes with a consideration of other work on new technology firms and argues that these findings are not unique. However, it is also argued that small firm researchers have not been very creative in their use of the available frameworks to account for the existence of the firms analysed in this paper, or to understand that it is the contingencies they face which allow them to be highly mobile and adaptable.