Does Size Matter? an Investigation of Collaborative Information Technology Adoption by U.S. Firms

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

We explore the adoption pattern of seven IT innovations to support task-oriented collaboration between group members working asynchronously or synchronously and the impact of two size-related variables, organization size and the size of the internal IT function, on the adoption of these seven IT innovations. IT adoption is viewed as a transition from the state of non-adoption to adoption (adoption status) and then to the extent of accessibility of the IT to organizational end-users (adoption level). Analysis of data collected from one hundred and eighteen U.S. organizations suggests that adoption patterns of the seven IT clusters vary considerably and that size (organization and IT function) is associated with the aggregate adoption status of the ITs investigated. Larger organizations with larger IT functions had adopted more of the ITs than their smaller counterparts. However, when exploring effects of size-related variables on adoption status of individual IT clusters, our findings suggest that size is associated with adoption of only those IT clusters that may require large resource infusions for acquisition, are fairly complex to use, and require substantial technical support. Size was not found to be associated with the adoption level of the majority of individual IT clusters. However, interestingly, at the aggregate level, our results suggest that once adopted, the IT clusters had higher adoption level in smaller organizations than their larger counterparts. Implications of these findings are discussed along with some directions for practice and research.

INTRODUCTION

The notion of information technology (IT) support for task-oriented collaboration is attracting a lot of attention in modern organizations. There is no dearth of industry reports advocating such support. With the growth of the Internet, many IT applications that can support collaboration, irrespective of time and geographical barriers, have been developed and their popularity continues. However, we know very little about the collective adoption patterns of these technologies and the organizational context that promotes their adoption.

This paper reports on a study that investigates the adoption patterns of seven IT clusters to specifically support task-oriented collaboration amongst workgroups in organizational settings. We also focus on two size-related antecedents of IT adoption, namely, organization size and internal IT function size, and explore their association with the adoption of these seven IT clusters. Although several antecedents of IT adoption have been identified in the literature, our motivation to include the two size-related antecedents stems from the fact that the relationship between "size" and IT adoption has probably been most widely debated due to the inconclusive nature of the results. We attempt to provide some richer insights to resolve some of the past empirical inconsistencies.

The seven IT clusters investigated in this study include: E-mail systems, audio teleconferencing, videoconferencing, dataconferencing, web-based tools, proprietary groupware technology, and electronic meetings systems (EMS). Some of these technologies to support group work have been around for nearly two decades. Others are somewhat recent developments. There have been a few studies investigating the adoption of some individual technologies like e-mail (Kettinger and Grover, 1997), and web groupware (Dennis et al., 1998), proprietary groupware (Slyke, Lou, & Day, 2002), and EMS (Straub and Beauclair, 1988; Lewis, Garcia, & Keleman, 2000). However, no prior research has attempted a large-scale investigation to explore adoption patterns across multiple technologies to inform IT practice as well as research and development efforts.

The rest of the paper is organized as follows. The next section focuses on IT support in task-oriented collaboration. This is followed by a review of the literature that focuses on the impact of size-related variables on the adoption of innovations and IT. …