Technology Selection, Acceptance & Culture

Technology Selection, Adoption & CultureIn my article titled Technology Selection and Cultural Fit, I argue that cultural fit is an important aspect to consider when undertaking Technology Selection projects. While the article was well received by most folks, I did have a few people comment (privately via email and twitter DM) that I was making some broad statements that couldn’t be backed up with hard proof.

I’m all for backing up claims with evidence. I mean I am working on my doctorate you know…nothing like a doctorate program to teach you how to base theories on evidence right? :)

So…let’s take a second to revisit my theory that cultural fit is important to technology selection projects. We’ll start by taking a second to review the idea of Technology Acceptance.

To get started, let’s take a second to review a highlight from my previous article:

…failure to consider organizational culture prior to or during a technology selection project can be disastrous…

Now…the rest of this article dives into why I think culture is a key component of technology acceptance.

Technology Acceptance within Organizations

The Technology Acceptance Model (which I linked to in my previous post but didn’t really discuss) was introduced and popularized by Davis and Bagozzi in the late 1980′s and early 1990′s.  You can find a brief discussion of the model on Wikipedia or you can dig through the following papers:

All are great papers and provide a good introduction to the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM for short) and how it can be used in organizations.

The model boils down to two major points for consideration during technology selection. A quick discussion of these points follows.

  1. Perceived Usefulness -The understanding / belief by a user that by using a new technology they will be able to do their job better / faster / more effectively.
  2. Perceived Ease of Use – The understanding / belief by a user that a new technology will be easy to learn and use and will require little effort to use on a regular basis.

Notice that the model uses the word “perceived” for both major issues affecting technology acceptance.  Perception is key….if the users perceive that something is difficult to use or that it will not make their job easier, they will not use it to its full potential…if they use it at all.

The TAM has been built upon many research projects, all of which are very rigorous and the model has been the basis of a ton of other research projects with similar results.

Based on my research and my experience, I believe the Technology Acceptance Model is a fairly good model to use as a rule-of-thumb while looking at an organization’s ability to accept a new technology.  In fact, in most of my technology selection projects, I’ve used the TAM as a starting point when surveying organizations to help determine a baseline for the organizations willingness to accept new technology.

Acceptance is an important aspect to technology selection wouldn’t you agree?  Without acceptance, technology is useless.

Technology Selection, Acceptance & Culture

Now that we all have a baseline understanding of one theory around technology acceptance (there are other more complicated theories than the TAM), let’s take a second to look at how culture plays into this and how it can greatly affect technology selection.

I think we can all agree that acceptance of any new technology is important.  The perception of the usefulness and ease of use of any new platform is extremely important.  Definitely something to consider during technology selection projects, no? I believe these two areas (usefulness and ease of use) are considered during selection projects, but I don’t think the real underlying cultural aspects are well understood.   What do I mean by the ‘underlying cultural aspects’ behind ease of use and usefulness?

Organizational culture plays a large role in creating the concept of ease of use and usefulness to an individual.  Think about it this way…ease of use and usefulness is a factor of how a person perceives technology as a whole and for the most part, that perception is shaped and driven by the underlying organizational culture. While the TAM is a bit too simplistic to model every individual’s reaction to new technology, it can be used as a baseline heuristic for how well the organization will accept new technology.

The culture of an organization plays a large part in the individual’s reaction to new technology and platforms. Before undertaking a technology selection project, if you can take some time to understand the the cultural proclivity towards acceptance of technology, the selection project might be more successful.    With the culture of the organization better understood, you can add some additional filters a more robust selection criteria.

Have I provided “proof” that my idea of culture playing a large part in technology selection project outcomes? Nope…but I might find a way to do so in the future :)  Sometimes you need proof…sometimes you can just go with faith that something feels ‘right’ and you should go with it. With this particular issue, I feel that organizational culture has played such a large role in the success and failure of technology selection projects that it feels ‘right’ to say culture and technology selection are intertwined.

Stay tuned for more on this topic…I’m hoping to put together another post with some actionable items for use in your next technology selection project.