The use of information and consequently the development of more effective strategies for its management are widely accepted as being important issues for any organisation, This is particularly the case for engineering. SMEs in the Advanced Engineering sector where systematic knowledge resources are critical for achieving and sustaining competitive advantage. However, relatively little empirical work has been undertaken which seeks to explore and understand the barriers to improving information management for this class of organisation. To address this, an in-depth study of issues within 10 engineering SMEs has been undertaken. This paper presents an overview of the research method and describes the process of eliciting and filtering the issues. Using the filtered results a set of core issues is developed that characterises the range of issues currently facing engineering SMEs. An indication of the relative significance of these core issues is obtained by reclassifying the initial empirical data against the core set of issues. It is further argued that in practise many of these core issues are related to one another. To explore these relationships, the dependencies and causalities between core issues are explored. This reveals a set of fundamental issues which may be considered to represent the key barriers to improving information management within engineering SMEs. These barriers and their implications for improving information management are discussed with respect to the information flow in engineering SMEs and a number of important considerations are highlighted. The findings of this study and the understanding gained are critical for improving information management and the development and long-term planning of the information systems strategy. (c) 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.