Technology selection and trusted information sources

iblioteca José Vasconcelos / Vasconcelos Library by * CliNKer * (from flickr) (cc)
iblioteca José Vasconcelos / Vasconcelos Library by * CliNKer * (from flickr) (cc)

A rather comprehensive selection of papers on Information Overload was compiled for the recent IEEE Engineering Management Review (EMR, vol 38, #1, March 2010).  Among the many excellent papers was one that seemed somewhat important for many of my readers: Managing Technology Information Overload; Which Sources of Knowledge are Best? by C.J. Rhoads on the faculty at Kutztown University and with ETM associates.

Rhoads surveyed top decision makers in businesses listed in the Chamber of Commerce and in newspaper directories regarding information technology (IT) use and selection decisions.  Industries surveyed included Education, Healthcare, Manufacturing, Media & Publishing, Non-Profit, Retail, and mostly Services.  584 responses were received. (More information on the research can be found in the article.)

There were many questions that were asked but the two most significant items of interest to me were:

  • Who in an organization was involved in technical decisions?
  • What source did those people most trust to help them decide?

Who decides?

It turns out that ” … the person in the technology experienced role was involved in the decision only 19% of the time.”  According to Rhoads research the CEO was most involved at  51% of the time.  Now as Rhoads explains, this could be due to the research being done across a statistically representative sample of businesses where a high percentage of businesses were “… on the smaller side.” I suppose most sales organizations would agree wholeheartedly with this result.  Nonetheless, clearly such minimization of technical insight makes the information these people use to make technical decisions even more important.

What do they trust?

Rhoads selected five information sources to discover which was most used and most trusted by IT decision makers.  The information sources chosen included “Top” consulting firms (such as Gartner, Giga, Meta, Forrest and others), Friends & Family, publication and web resources, vendors, and local consulting firms.  Rhoad’s survey results revealed, by a statistically significant margin, that people making IT decisions trusted local consulting companies more often than any of the other sources.  Once again the size of the companies surveyed may be biasing the non-use of top consultancies due to their relatively high expense. Nevertheless, even local consultants aren’t as inexpensive as some of the other sources of information. (Almost makes me glad that I represent a small, LOCAL consulting company).

In addition to the above resulst, Rhoad’s study classified IT use effectiveness of the organizations surveyed.  As a result Rhoads was also able to determine which “savvy”, “blossoming”, “base” or “unversed”  users of IT were influenced by which information source.  The survey found that savvy users were most influenced by local consultancies and that both savvy and blossoming IT users were secondly most influenced by publication and web resources.  (Makes me also glad to be a blogger.)

A lot more interesting stuff in the article and I found at least two other papers in the EMR compendium to be worth reading.