The Adoption of Spreadsheet Software: Testing Innovation Diffusion Theory in the Context of End-User Computing

Brancheau, James C.; Wetherbe, James C.
June 1990
Information Systems Research;Jun90, Vol. 1 Issue 2, p115
Academic Journal
Judging by the wealth of problems reported in the literature, information systems (IS) and general managers are not sure bow to manage the introduction of new information technology. One step toward providing sound management guidelines is to improve understanding of the social forces which affect the introduction and diffusion process within organizations. This research takes a step toward that goal by examining the validity of innovation diffusion theory within the context of end-user computing. The research involved a field study and historical analysis of the diffusion of spreadsheet software in organizations. To assist in controlling exogenous factors, only finance and accounting departments were studied. Over 500 professionals in 24 business units from 18 large businesses in manufacturing and services participated in the research. Findings supported hypotheses that earlier adopters of spreadsheet software were younger, more highly educated, more attuned to mass media, more involved in interpersonal communication, and more likely to be opinion leaders. Also supported was the hypothesized sigmoidal distribution of adoption over time. Application of the theory was not supported in all areas, however, suggesting that information technology diffusion is different from other diffusion phenomena. Contrary to theory, interpersonal channels of communication were dominant in all phases of adoption decision making. And contrary to their hypothesized role as change agent, IS departments played a minor role in the diffusion process. This was consistent with the observed user-led nature of the phenomenon. Implications for research and practice are discussed.


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