ARTICLE IN PRESS



                         International Journal of Information Management 26 (2006) 386–400
           ...
ARTICLE IN PRESS
                        A. Lin / International Journal of Information Management 26 (2006) 386–400       ...
ARTICLE IN PRESS
                           A. Lin / International Journal of Information Management 26 (2006) 386–400
388...
ARTICLE IN PRESS
                         A. Lin / International Journal of Information Management 26 (2006) 386–400      ...
ARTICLE IN PRESS
                                    A. Lin / International Journal of Information Management 26 (2006) 38...
ARTICLE IN PRESS
                            A. Lin / International Journal of Information Management 26 (2006) 386–400   ...
ARTICLE IN PRESS
                            A. Lin / International Journal of Information Management 26 (2006) 386–400
39...
ARTICLE IN PRESS
                        A. Lin / International Journal of Information Management 26 (2006) 386–400       ...
394




Table 4
External users: interviewees’ background

                                                          1     ...
ARTICLE IN PRESS
                        A. Lin / International Journal of Information Management 26 (2006) 386–400       ...
ARTICLE IN PRESS
                        A. Lin / International Journal of Information Management 26 (2006) 386–400
396

 ...
ARTICLE IN PRESS
                            A. Lin / International Journal of Information Management 26 (2006) 386–400   ...
ARTICLE IN PRESS
                        A. Lin / International Journal of Information Management 26 (2006) 386–400
398

s...
ARTICLE IN PRESS
                             A. Lin / International Journal of Information Management 26 (2006) 386–400  ...
ARTICLE IN PRESS
                            A. Lin / International Journal of Information Management 26 (2006) 386–400
40...
Upcoming SlideShare
Loading in …5
×

B2b Info Sys

438 views
381 views

Published on

Published in: Business, Technology
0 Comments
0 Likes
Statistics
Notes
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Views
Total views
438
On SlideShare
0
From Embeds
0
Number of Embeds
2
Actions
Shares
0
Downloads
2
Comments
0
Likes
0
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

B2b Info Sys

  1. 1. ARTICLE IN PRESS International Journal of Information Management 26 (2006) 386–400 www.elsevier.com/locate/ijinfomgt The acceptance and use of a business-to-business information system Angela Linà Department of Information Studies, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S1 4DP, UK Abstract Motivated by the need for a better understanding of the acceptance and use of business to business information systems, this study builds upon the technology acceptance model to study the use of an Internet business-to-business information system in a leading Chinese information technology provider and its distributors In particular the study investigates individual users’ acceptance of a business-to-business ordering system with a view to examining how users’ perception and use of the system in one company influences perception and use of the system in another. The results suggest that while both perceived ease of use and usefulness were influential factors in system utilisation at the user level, it was perceived usefulness that was the more influential factor The study also provides evidence that the processes by which an inter-organizational information system is accepted in one organisation have an impact on the acceptance of the same system in the other organisations. r 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. Keywords: Interorganizational business-to-business information system; User acceptance; Perceived usefulness; Perceived ease of use; Information quality 1. Introduction User acceptance of technology has long been a traditional area of research in the information systems domain. The research findings suggest various factors that can influence users’ decisions when adopting technology. These factors include socio-cognitive factors such as perceptions and expectations of the technology and self-efficacy (Davis, 1989; Orlikowski & Gash, 1994; Venkatesh, 2000), relevance to task, (Goodhue & Thompson, 1995), and social and institutional factors (Lewis, Agarwal, & Sambamurthy, 2003; Venkatesh, Morris, Davis, & Davis, 2003). Such studies often focus however on technology acceptance among a homogenous group of users who work within the same company and interact with the same system through the same interface (e.g. Adams et al., 1992; Karahanna & Straub, 1999). Current trends in e-business indicate an increasing number of businesses connected with each other through the Internet in order to streamline their business processes. As this trend continues an interesting question arises as to what the criteria are that influence technology acceptance among heterogeneous as opposed to a homogenous group of users. What are the criteria for example that influence the acceptance of the same system used by separate groups of users but ÃTel.: +44 114 222 2634; fax: +44 114 278 0300. E-mail address: a.lin@sheffield.ac.uk. 0268-4012/$ - see front matter r 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.ijinfomgt.2006.04.002
  2. 2. ARTICLE IN PRESS A. Lin / International Journal of Information Management 26 (2006) 386–400 387 accessed via different interfaces? Investigating these questions can enhance understanding of business-to- business information systems beyond a set of core measurements (e.g. volume, diversity, breadth, and depth) (Massetti & Zmud, 1996), and ‘macro’ level issues (e.g. the acceptance of technology at the organisational level) (Hart & Saunders, 1997). Such an investigation is also relevant o the design and management of business-to-business information systems. This paper presents a study that investigated users’ acceptance of a business-to-business information system among heterogeneous user groups. The study assumes that users’ acceptance of an information system is largely influenced by how the system is perceived by its users. It is also argued that the use of information systems by one user group can influence the way in which the technology is perceived by other user groups. The theoretical foundation of the study is an adapted version of the technology acceptance model (TAM) that examines the influence of users’ perceived usefulness, ease of technology, and self-efficacy in computing, on their acceptance of the technology. The model helps determine what is regarded by the users as important when they consider the technology to be useful and/or easy to use. During 2003 a case study was carried out within a leading Chinese information technology provider, China Digital. In 2000 China Digital had launched an Internet-based business-to-business information system, I- Bridge, with the aim of supporting an ordering process distributed between itself and its distributors. In 2002 the I-Bridge project team conducted a user survey of the system among both its internal and external users. The results of the survey suggested that I-Bridge had not been as well received by users as the project team had expected. This current study followed up the use of I-Bridge within China Digital and among its distributors in two respects: (1) Users’ perceptions of I-Bridge in all participating companies (2) Users’ usage of I-Bridge in China Digital compared to users’ use of the system within its distributors. The paper is organised as follows. Section 2 reviews the literature on user acceptance of information systems; Section 3 presents the research design; Section 4 presents the case study; and Section 5 discusses the findings that emerged from the analysis of the case study. The paper concludes by addressing the implications of the case for research and practise in information systems. 2. User acceptance A variety of factors can affect users’ acceptance of an information system. Of these factors users’ perceptions and expectations of the system are said to be the key factors that influence their acceptance. This is because it is users’ perceptions and expectations of a system take mediate the process by which a system is defined within an organisation; and it is that definition of the system that often decides users’ attitudes towards (i.e.. acceptance or rejection) and their use of the system (Davis, 1989; Orlikowski & Gash, 1994; Venkatesh & Davis, 2000; Venkatesh et al., 2003). A range of conceptual frameworks exist for studying the factors that contribute to the formation of user perceptions and expectations of an information system (Venkatesh et al., 2003). Three frameworks are reviewed here: the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM), the Computer Self-Efficacy model (CSE), and the Task-Technology Fit (TTF) model. Of these the TAM is the framework most commonly employed to examine user acceptance of information systems (Lee, Kozar, & Larsen, 2003). In essence, TAM argues that users’ acceptance or rejection of an information system is directly influenced by their perceptions of the usefulness and ease of use of that system. The concept of perceived usefulness is defined as ‘‘the degree to which a person believes that using a particular system would enhance his or her job performance’’ while the concept of perceived ease of use is defined as ‘‘the degree to which a person believes that using a particular system would be free of effort’’ (Davis, 1989, p. 320). Davis (1989) proposes that both perceived usefulness and ease of use are significantly correlated with self-reported indicators of system use, but no amount of ease of use can compensate for a system that does not perform a useful function. This echoes Robey’s (1979) argument that ‘‘a system that does not help people perform their jobs is not likely to be received favourably in spite of careful implementation efforts’’ (p. 523). Perceived usefulness and ease of use are people’s subjective appraisal of a system’s performance. Davis continues [y] beliefs are seen as meaningful variables in their own right, which function as behavioural determinants, and are not regarded as surrogate measures of objective phenomena. yThus, even if an application would
  3. 3. ARTICLE IN PRESS A. Lin / International Journal of Information Management 26 (2006) 386–400 388 objectively improve performance, if users don’t perceive it as useful, they are unlikely to use it (Davis, 1989, p. 335). The computer self-efficacy (CSE) model argues that users’ perception of a system’s usefulness and its ease of use are influenced not only by extrinsic values such as the system design but also by intrinsic values such as their perceptions of their own ability to master the system (Compeau & Higgins, 1995). The model proposes that users who have confidence in their own computing ability are likely to develop a more positive attitude to a new information system, compared with those who do not possess such confidence. The CSE model can be used in conjunction with TAM to identify further intrinsic factors that influence users’ acceptance of an information system (Dishaw & Strong, 1999). A further framework also often used in conjunction with TAM, is the task-technology fit (TTF) model. The TTF model argues that users’ acceptance of a system is influenced by whether the system is perceived as assisting the tasks that they perform (Dishaw & Strong, 1999). The TTF model emphasises the interactions between the task, the technology, and the individual (Goodhue & Thompson, 1995). Task-technology fit refers to ‘‘the degree to which a technology assists an individual in performing his or her portfolio of tasks. More specifically, the TTF model is the correspondence between task requirements, individual abilities, and the functionality of the technology (Goodhue & Thompson, 1995). Table 1 summarises the research that has adopted the above models in studying users’ acceptance of information systems. The current study assumes that factors such as perceived ease of use and usefulness will remain influential in users’ acceptance of an information system regardless of whether is an intra- or inter-organisational information system. In keeping with previous studies, this study also assumes that users’ perceptions as to the ease of use of the system can be influenced by their experience and knowledge with the new system or with other technology (self-efficacy in computing); and that users’ perceptions of the usefulness of the system can be influenced by the nature of the tasks that users are engaged in (task-technology fit). Fig. 1 illustrates the assumptions informing the research into the I-Bridge system. At the individual level, knowledge and perception of the system are assumed to influence users’ attitudes and therefore their behaviour towards the system (Arrow 1). At the organisational level, the business-to- business information system presents a ‘network’ that identifies different users and their interactions with the system. The system acts as a common interface through which individuals in separate companies interact with each other (Arrow 2). Thus, users’ perceptions of the business-to-business information system are assumed to be influenced by the way in which users in other participating companies interact with the interface (Arrow 3). Changes in users’ perceptions of the system can further alter the way in which the information system is used. 3. Case study method 3.1. Case study site The I-Bridge initiative in China Digital was motivated by the then current boom in Internet commerce The Chief Executive of the company believed that streamlining and harnessing the supply chain both within China Digital and between China Digital and its distributors could enhance efficiency of the ordering process so that the products could reach the market quicker. I-Bridge served two distinct groups of users: salespeople (internal users) and distributors (external users). In principle, the salespeople would use I-Bridge to take orders from and arrange the deliveries to the distributors; and the distributors would use I-Bridge to check product information and to place orders. At the time of the study, I-Bridge was partially integrated with China Digital’s Enterprise Resource Planning system (ERP). The connection with the ERP system was to ensure that the information in I-Bridge was up-to-date and consistent with information in other systems in the company. The ERP system fed I-Bridge with operational data including product prices and stock levels, distributors’ account information (e.g. order history, payment, credits, and rebates), transaction information, delivery information, and sales figures. Fig. 2 illustrates the process of how an order is placed and dealt with by the I-Bridge system.
  4. 4. ARTICLE IN PRESS A. Lin / International Journal of Information Management 26 (2006) 386–400 389 Table 1 Summary of the literature on TAM, TTF, and CSE Study Conceptual model Context of study Findings Davis (1989) TAM User intentions and use of a word The perceived usefulness had a processor within the companies significant greater correlation with the usage behaviour than did the perceived ease of use Adams, Nelson, and TAM Study 1: user intentions and use of Study 1 confirmed the result by Todd (1992) messaging technology Davis (1989) that perceived usefulness was more important than perceived ease of use. Nevertheless, the result of Study 2 was mixed as it suggested that both perceived usefulness and ease of use were both important Study 2: user intention and use of popular software (WordPerfect, Louts 1–2–3, and Harvard Graphics) Venkatesh and Davis TAM The research is based on TAM which Both social influence and cognitive (2000) incorporated social influences and instrumental possess significant cognitive instrumental into the original influences on user acceptance of TAM model. Four studies were information systems conducted in different organisations. Two of them involved the introduction of window-based new work environment. The remainder one was a computerised scheduling and personnel assignment system while the other was portfolio analysis tool used by financial advisors Lewis et al. (2003) TAM+CSE The study builds upon and extends prior The findings of the study suggested research examining the factors influence that individual factors of personal individual beliefs about technology use. innovativeness and computer self- Three main sources of influences efficacy had significant impact on contributing to perceived usefulness and the perceived usefulness and ease of ease of use were: institutional, social, and use individual factors. The study was carried out in an academic community to examine students’ and academic staff’s use of web for their learning and teaching Compeau, Higgins, CSE The study investigates whether computer The finding of the study suggested and Huff (1999) self-efficacy had affect and caused that there was a significant anxiety on computer usage relationship between CSE and affect and anxiety and use Goodhue, and TTF and individual The research proposes a Technology-to- The finding of the study highlights Thompson (1995) performance Performance Chain (TPC) model and the importance of the fit between argues that technologies lead to technologies and users’ work tasks performance impacts at the individual in order to achieve individual level. The questionnaire surveys were performance from information distributed to non-IS department users in technologies two different companies The reasons for carrying out the case study in China Digital were twofold. First, I-Bridge is an Internet- based business-to-business information system that supports a distributed ordering process among organisations. As such this provided an opportunity to study user acceptance of a business-to-business information system in an-inter-organisational setting. Second, the I-Bridge project provided an opportunity to examine user acceptance of a business-to-business information system at the individual level rather than at an organisational level.
  5. 5. ARTICLE IN PRESS A. Lin / International Journal of Information Management 26 (2006) 386–400 390 Company A 1 Perceptions 3 Usage Behaviour Business to Business 2 Information Systems 2 Usage 3 Behaviour Perceptions 1 Company B Fig. 1. Researching I-Bridge: assumptions. Account supervisor (8) Authorised Manual process (7) Submitting the order order (4) Alert (1) Placing an order i-Bridge Sales force (5) Taking order Distributor (10) Confirmed (6 (2) Checking account info (3) Distributor’s order the ) Ch sto eck account ck ing ERP (9) Authorised (10) Alert the warehouse order Accounting Warehouse (11) Updated order details after department delivery (12) Updated order details Fig. 2. Workflow process within I-Bridge. 3.2. Data collection Data was collected from various sources, primarily via structured interviews conducted over the telephone. Interviewees included salespeople at China Digital (internal users), distributors (external users), I-Bridge system developers, and current and former project managers. Each interview lasted about 45–60 min. A list of 20 distributors was provided by China Digital and seven of them agreed to participate in telephone interviews. Other interviewees included four users from different departments in China Digital, two I-Bridge developers, and three project managers. Table 2 summarizes the interviewees involved.
  6. 6. ARTICLE IN PRESS A. Lin / International Journal of Information Management 26 (2006) 386–400 391 Table 2 Summary of telephone interviews Interviewee Number Project managers 3 Systems developers 2 Internal users 4 External users (in agent companies) 7 Total 16 The questionnaire for the interviews with both the internal and external users was designed to collect data on their perceptions of the usefulness and ease of use of I-Bridge. The questions were structured into three main sections: (1) Users’ confidence in their computing skills. This section aimed at collecting general information from interviewees relating to their job content, computer and Internet skills. This information would help establish how confident interviewees were in their computing skills and with their use of I-Bridge (CSE). (2) Perceived usefulness of I-Bridge. The questions in this section were designed to ascertain users’ views as to the relevance of I-Bridge to their work tasks. (3) Perceived ease of use of I-Bridge. The questions included in this section were also based on Davis’ (1989) questionnaire, and aimed to ascertain users’ views as to the ease of use of I-Bridge, in particular with regard to the functionality designed into the system. Most of the questions in the questionnaire were of a structured nature with interviewees responding to the questions by indicating whether they strongly disagreed, tended to disagree, were undecided, tended to agree, and strongly agreed with the statement. In order to reflect the different nature of the internal and external users groups some additional [semi-structured?] questions were asked of external users only e.g. ‘‘What is a typical ordering process in your company’’ and ‘‘do you perceive any risks involved in using I-Bridge?’’ The questionnaires for the interviews with the project managers and the members of the project team were designed to elicit information on the background to the project. Additional questions were asked during the interviews in order to follow up on interviewees’ comments. Company documents and follow-up e-mails were used to further clarify and to validate the data from the interviews. Documents used in this work included: company description, information on the I-Bridge website, and presentation slides on the results of the internal survey. These documents provided background knowledge on China Digital and of I-Bridge. Follow up e-mails were also sent to interviewees to validate the analysis and interpretation of the data. 3.3. Data analysis An interpretive approach was taken to analysing the case data, the data was first organised according to the four types of interviewees: internal users, external users, system developers, and project managers. The interview data of the system developers and project managers were analysed to help establish the history of the I-Bridge project; while the interview data of internal and external users was categorised and then analysed in accordance with the research purposes of each section of the interview. Relevant issues emerging from the interviews were identified by looking for instances in the data that displayed similar properties. These instances were then grouped into categories for further analysis (Stake, 1995). At the end of the process three common themes emerged: technology, work tasks, and self-efficacy in computing. These themes were defined in the following way: Technology. Users’ overall perceptions and use of the I-Bridge system. Work tasks. Users’ views of whether and how I-Bridge’s functionality supported their work tasks. Self-efficacy in computing. Users’ confidence in their own computing skills in general and the impact of that these levels of confidence had on their views of the I-Bridge system.
  7. 7. ARTICLE IN PRESS A. Lin / International Journal of Information Management 26 (2006) 386–400 392 4. Analysis The analysis is divided into two sections: internal users and external users. Each section is further sub- divided according to the three themes: the technology (i.e. functionality of I-Bridge), the impact of I-Bridge on users’ work tasks, and users’ sense of their own self-efficacy in relation to their use of I-Bridge. 4.1. Internal users: salespeople The internal users generally displayed a positive attitude towards I-Bridge, mainly because the system provided support for their work tasks and reduced workload. However, although the interviewees were positive about the usefulness of I-Bridge in relation to their work tasks they were critical of the design of the system and believed that a lack of use of the system was due to poor system design. Although they were aware of the problems caused by the poor quality of the information within the system, this was not considered to be a problem for which they were responsible. Table 3 summarises the background to each interviewee and how each interviewee perceived I-Bridge in relation to the usefulness of the system and its ease of use. 4.1.1. Technology: I-Bridge In general, the internal users perceived that I-Bridge was easy to use (Table 3) although they all also agreed that the user interface of the system required improvements. When they were asked to elaborate on this view all of the users expressed that the system could be more user friendly. A member of the project team supported this claim and agreed that the current system interface was not intuitive for new users. The previous survey of internal users had also revealed that 70 percent of the internal respondents believed that lack of use of the I-Bridge system among China Digital’s distributors was due largely to issues relating to the user interface of the system. The interviewees pointed out that the information within I-Bridge was neither always accurate nor was it regularly updated. Hence, the distributors still contacted the salesforce at China Digital to request product Table 3 Internal users: interviewees’ background 1 2 3 4 Name Internal user 1 Internal user 2 Internal user 3 Internal user 4 Gender Male Male Female Female Which department are Computer peripheral Laptop Channel service Computer peripheral you currently working for? Job title Sales-Manager Sales Staff Operational Manager Sales Staff Responsibility Sales Sales Order operation Sales How long have you 5 2 5 4 been working for the Company? How long have you 5 2 1 1 been working for the department? What major product Computers peripheral PCs (include desktop PCs (include desktop PCs (include desktop and service your equipment and laptop) and and laptop) and and laptop) and department provide? accessories accessories accessories Where is location at Xian Shanghai Beijing Chengduo your work? The level of you Diploma Bachelor Bachelor Bachelor education Perceived usefulness 3.15 3.69 4.54 3.92 Perceived ease to use 3.69 3.85 3.23 3.46 1 ¼ Strongly disagree, 3 ¼ undecided, and 5 ¼ Strong agree for perceived usefulness and perceived ease of use.
  8. 8. ARTICLE IN PRESS A. Lin / International Journal of Information Management 26 (2006) 386–400 393 details before they placed an order via I-Bridge. As a consequence internal users expressed that if the quality of the information within I-Bridge could be improved the time spent answering distributors’ questions such as product price, stock levels, and competitors’ prices could be considerably reduced. The main reason given for the poor quality of the information within I-Bridge was its partial integration with the ERP system. Not all information within I-Bridge was automatically updated by the ERP system, some information in I-Bridge still relied on the internal users to update. Only one out of four internal users in this study spent time updating the product information within I-Bridge while the other three admitted that they did not pay attention to this. The internal users explained that I-Bridge was perceived by them as an order-taking system. That is, they used the system to receive and process the orders from the distributors. They used the ERP system to check product information because the information in the system was up-to-date and more likely to be accurate. In addition, it was considered more convenient to use the ERP system rather than I-Bridge when searching for stock information (interview with an internal user in the Beijing office). Such perceptions added to the problems relating to the non-use of I-Bridge and made the quality of the product information within I-Bridge even poorer. As explained by one interviewee, the frequently fluctuating product prices in the PC market was another factor contributing to the information quality issue. The users, especially in the division where product prices are likely to fluctuate more, perceived that it was not possible to update the information whenever the price changed. 4.1.2. Work tasks With one exception the interviewees perceived I-Bridge not only to be easy to use but also useful. The system was said to support users’ work tasks by redistributing their workload. The results of the internal survey had also revealed that 70 percent of the internal users had agreed that allowing distributors to fill in an order form online had streamlined the ordering procedure; while 49 per cent of users felt that their workload had been reduced. The interviewees suggested that the complexity of an order would influence the way in which the users’ perceived the usefulness of I-Bridge. If an order involved a single product line then using I-Bridge would make the order process simpler than processing it manually. Nevertheless, if an order involved more than one product line no process advantage would be gained by using I-Bridge. This explained why 49 per cent of the internal survey’s respondents perceived that using I-Bridge to process an order was more efficient than using manual system. 4.1.3. Self-efficacy in computing It was evident that the interviewees who had a strong belief in their computing skills were more inclined to perceive I-Bridge as being easy to use. Nevertheless, one interviewee pointed out that although he was confident in his level of computing skills he was still dissatisfied with I-Bridge. This interviewee felt that speed of access to the system was slow and that the system did not always provide accurate information. 4.2. External users: users in China digital’s distributors The external users perceived that I-Bridge was useful in terms of supporting the order-placing procedure; but they did not think that I-Bridge was useful for obtaining product information. Overall, external users from the distributors were less critical of the system design than internal users and they were more positive about the ease of use of I-Bridge. The management’s decision about the adoption played an important role in the acceptance of the system. In addition, China Digital’s recent decision about making I-Bridge as the only order- placing channel has increased the extent of the system acceptance among distributors. One interviewee personally believed that I-Bridge was neither easy to use nor useful. He used the system simply because he had no choice. It is worth noting that I-Bridge was mainly used by users to complete the order-placing task despite other functions being available to support other tasks. 4.2.1. Technology: I-Bridge The results (Table 4) show that four out of the seven external users in this study felt that I-Bridge was did not have any major problems with using the system and found it fairly easy to use. Two further external users
  9. 9. 394 Table 4 External users: interviewees’ background 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Name Customer 1 Customer 2 Customer 3 Customer 4 Customer 5 Customer 6 Customer 7 Gender Female Male Female Female Female Male Female Which department are you currently working for? Purchase dept. Purchase dept. Logistics dept. Market dept. Logistics dept. Logistics dept. Logistics dept. Job Title Staff Staff Manager Product Manager Sales Assistant Staff Staff Responsibility Purchase Purchase Purchase Purchase Purchase Purchase Purchase How long have you been working for the company? 0.2 0.3 6 3 3 3 1.4 How long have you been working for the department? 0.2 0.3 3 3 3 3 1.4 What is your company location? Southeast South Southwest Northeast Southmiddle Northwest Northmiddle What major product and service your company provide? Computer peripheral PC PC PC PC PC PC ARTICLE IN PRESS How widespread geographically does your business trade? Your city Your city Your province Your province China Your province Your province Perceived usefulness 3.35 2.94 4.41 4.29 3.47 4.59 3.94 Perceived ease to use 3.67 3.72 4.61 2.94 4.06 4.61 4.11 Perceived risk 3.00 2.80 3.00 3.00 2.90 2.70 2.80 A. Lin / International Journal of Information Management 26 (2006) 386–400
  10. 10. ARTICLE IN PRESS A. Lin / International Journal of Information Management 26 (2006) 386–400 395 were also inclined to agree that the system was easy to use. The remaining one interviewee felt strongly about the difficulty of using of the system. This exception will be explained later when addressing external users’ self- efficacy in computing. In general external users seemed to be more positive than the internal users in their judgement of the ease of use of I-Bridge. It was interesting to note that not all the interviewees used the online product catalogue within I-Bridge to check product information. The users claimed that the function was somewhat useful but the product information was not because the product information was often out-of-date and inaccurate. As a result they had to call the salesforce at China Digital to request and check the product information before they could place an order via I-Bridge. Outdated and inaccurate information had a profound influence on the external users’ perceptions of the usefulness of I-Bridge. This problem was also highlighted in the results of the internal survey. According to the survey result more than 50 per cent of the external users said I-Bridge failed to provide current and accurate product and account information. y the inaccurate stock information in I-Bridge failed to tell us the correct stock level. Therefore it is important for us to keep in touch with the salespeople either via telephone or face-to-face meetings in order to acquire necessary production information. (External user from Ji Nan city) All interviewees agreed that the search function within I-Bridge was difficult to use but they continued using the function for two reasons. First, the function was useful in terms of searching for product information. Second, there was no alternative tool available in the system. As shown in Table 4 all interviewees did not perceive any element of risk involved in using the system. As explained by the interviewees, this was partly because of their contractual relationship with China Digital, and partly because China Digital’s leading position in China which boosted their confidence in I-Bridge. A further critical reason for why external users did not perceive the use of I-Bridge as involving any risks was that the payments were settled offline rather than online. 4.2.2. Work tasks Almost all external users (six out of seven interviewees) perceived that I-Bridge was useful to the tasks that they performed (e.g. placing orders). It was observed that those who had joined the company before the launch of I-Bridge appeared to feel more positive about the usefulness of the system than those who joined after its launch. Two possible explanations can be provided. First, those who had been in post before I-Bridge had experience of China Digital’s previous manual system, and thus they appeared to appreciate the automation brought by I-Bridge As for the newcomers, using I-Bridge was part of their daily routine hence they did not share the same view of how the system had improved their situation. The second possible explanation was that more experienced employees might have received the initial training on the system that had been provided by China Digital, while those who had joined the company subsequently had not had any training on the system. Thus, the newcomers might feel that using I-Bridge only added to their inconvenience as they not only had to be familiar with the ordering procedures but also had to learn about the system by themselves. The perceived usefulness of the functions in I-Bridge varied among the external users depending on how the system supported the internal ordering process within their own organisation. Nevertheless, all interviewees agreed that I-Bridge was definitely used for placing orders with China Digital. It was pointed out by the external users that in spite of the fact that the ordering process between them and China Digital had been automated the internal ordering process within their own organisations had not been changed. The distributors still processed orders manually. A distributor based in Xi’an described a typical order procedure in the company in the following way: (1) Business departments specified the products and quantity of the products that needed ordering; (2) placing the order online within China Digital with I-Bridge; (3) printing a hard copy of the order information from the computer; (4) getting the line manager to sign off the order; (5) making three copies of the order; (6) sending the accounting, operation, and business department a copy of the order in order for them to file the information manually; (7) faxing the order to China Digital; (8) receiving the goods; (9) settling the payment with China Digital; (10) receiving an invoice from China Digital.
  11. 11. ARTICLE IN PRESS A. Lin / International Journal of Information Management 26 (2006) 386–400 396 The procedure described above was not an unfamiliar one to interviewees from other companies. As was the case with this distributor from Xi’an, other interviewees also expressed that I-Bridge was, from their company’s point of view, only a small part of the ordering process and only replaced the previous step of the process that involved telephone ordering. Being able to check the status of their credits and rebates online was also considered useful. Indeed, credit and rebate status checking is the second most used function in the system. Each agent company was only authorised by China Digital to order specific ranges and quantities of products depending on its contract. Therefore being able to check the status of their credit and rebates online before placing an order could potentially reduce subsequent administration costs. 4.2.3. Self-efficacy in computing Interviewees who were confident in their computing skills felt that they could concentrate on completing their tasks rather than having to worry about how to use the system (e.g. hitting the wrong keys or making unrecoverable mistakes). One interviewee mentioned she had a lot of experience of using different computer software and yet she did not have enough confidence in her computing skills and did not feel that I-Bridge was easy to use. 5. Discussion The findings of the study are discussed at two levels: individual level and organisational level. 5.1. Individual level At the individual level, the findings of this study are consistent with previous studies. The findings suggest that the use of a business-to-business information system is largely influenced by users’ perceptions of its usefulness and ease of use. But it was the perceived usefulness of a system that determined the extent to which the system was used and utilised (Davis, 1989; Lee et al., 2003; Lewis et al., 2003). It was observed that the perceived ease of use of a business-to-business information system was influenced by users’ self-efficacy in their computing skills and by the quality of the information system (i.e. the design of the system); while the perceived usefulness of a system was influenced by whether the system supported work tasks (Gefen & Straub, 2000) and by the quality of the information contained within the system. In different terms, the quality of I- Bridge, from both an information system and information quality standpoint was critical to the extent of user acceptance among both internal and external users. It is noted that the quality of the information system (e.g. the design and the functionalities embedded in I-Bridge) has an impact on users’ perceptions of the ease of use of the system; while the quality of the information has an impact on users’ perceptions of the usefulness of I- Bridge. Although both internal and external users used I-Bridge to perform their tasks it was clear that poor information system design and poor information quality has prevented the majority of users from using the system further (Table 5). 5.2. Organisational level At the organisational level, issues such as the visibility and relevance of individuals’ work tasks to others in the system, the perception and use of the system, and the business relationship between companies seemed to determine the acceptance and use of the business-to-business information system. The implementation of a business-to-business information system not only requires collaboration between participating companies but also collaboration among system users. Using a business-to-business information system to complete a distributed process means that use of the system in one company can affect the users of the same system in another company. That is, the consequences of using or not using a system in one company become visible and therefore influence users’ interaction with the same system in another company. Visibility here refers to the situation where the consequence of a user’s or group of users’ actions can easily be observed by all the other users of the same system. For example, prior to the installation of the I-Bridge system distributors telephoned the accounts salespeople to check on product information. As such neither the
  12. 12. ARTICLE IN PRESS A. Lin / International Journal of Information Management 26 (2006) 386–400 397 Table 5 A comparison of internal and external users’ perceptions and use of the I-Bridge system Themes Internal users External users Technology (I-Bridge) 1. Many aspects of the system require further 1. Information quality influenced development in order to encourage acceptance and interviewees’ perception of usefulness use 2. Although the functions were not easy 2. It is not always possible to update the product of use the external users still had to information on a moment to moment basis use them because there was no 3. The design of the I-Bridge system and user alternative for them interface were poor 3. I-Bridge was perceived to be an order 4. Information quality prevent distributors from placing system exploring the system further 5. I-Bridge was perceived to be an order taking system Work tasks 1. I-Bridge offloaded salespeople’s workload by 1. I-Bridge was perceived to be useful as automating some of the procedure and by allowing it supported ordering procedures users at the agent companies to take responsibility 2. Existing internal ordering procedures for filling in the order form within the distributors would 2. I-Bridge was not entirely compatible with the determine what functions users used existing ordering procedures in China Digital most often 3. I-Bridge did not reduce the number of the phone calls from distributors because the distributors needed to call the sales force to check product information Computer self-efficacy Users who had a strong belief in their computing skills Users who were confident with their are likely to perceive the ease of use of I-Bridge computing skills were likely to perceive that the system was ease of use information on I-Bridge nor who was responsible for its update or when was ‘visible’ to the distributors. With the use of I-Bridge distributors became aware of whether the information was updated and when it was updated and as such information quality emerged as an issue. Moreover, with the use of I-Bridge the inconsistency in its uptake among internal users (e.g. some of the salesforce-updated information in I-Bridge while some did not), and the weak connection between I-Bridge and the ERP system became visible to the external users. These visibility issues subsequently influenced external users’ perceptions, and ultimately their use, of the I-Bridge system. Similar to a computer-based workflow system, a business-to-business information system attempts to link together all activities in a particular business process so that the outcomes of individuals’ tasks become accessible to those who use the same system. Linking together activities, which are previously carried out by different individuals offline, makes these activities and the outcomes of the activities not only visible but also more relevant. For example, prior to the launch of I-Bridge how the salesforce carried out their tasks was largely ‘irrelevant’ to external users. A business-to-business information system creates a common interface through which the activities of participating parties are linked together and the consequences of one user’s actions become accessible and directly relevant to others who also use the same system. The perceptions of the role of I-Bridge appeared to determine the way in which the system was used. In this case study both internal and external users perceived that I-Bridge was a system supporting order ‘taking’ and order ‘placing’ tasks. For the internal users especially, the system was perceived as an order-taking system, using instead the ERP system to check on product-related information. Less attention was hence paid to maintaining product information within I-Bridge and subsequently, the external users also perceived I-Bridge as an order-placing system using it mainly for placing orders with China Digital. Other organisational factors such as management’s commitment and business relationship between the system hosting company and participating companies are critical to how users construct the value of a system (Lewis et al., 2003). The contractual business relationship between China Digital and its distributors can be
  13. 13. ARTICLE IN PRESS A. Lin / International Journal of Information Management 26 (2006) 386–400 398 said to be the key factor in the acceptance of I-Bridge among its distributors. As a market-leading company in the computer sector in China, China Digital was undoubtedly in a strong position to leverage its business associates to adopt I-Bridge. Indeed, the external users admitted that they would not have used I-Bridge if China Digital had not asked them to do so. It is evident that users’ perceptions of the ease of use and usefulness of a system in relation to their work tasks are an important factor in their adoption of the system. Even more important however are the perceptions of the value of having good relations with the senior partner in a business-to-business information systems relationship, in this case the system-hosting company. 6. Conclusion and implications The main contribution of this paper is its examination of users’ acceptance of technology in a business-to- business information system context. This has been achieved by conducting a case study informed by an understanding of user acceptance models. It was found that user attitudes are influenced by their beliefs about a specific technology, in particular their beliefs about the usefulness of the system. This finding will not be affected by whether it is an intra or inter–organisational information system. Nevertheless, we learned that issues concerning the management and implementation of business-to-business information systems are more complicated as management faces the needs of a heterogeneous user group (e.g. users from different organisations) rather than a homogeneous user group. The main focus of this study was the individual factors that can influence users’ perceptions in relation to the acceptance of business-to-business information systems. However recognition of the institutional factors that emerged from the investigation suggest that these also play an important part in influencing companies’ decisions about their adoption of business-to-business information systems. 6.1. Implications The findings of this study have several implications for both research and practise. As for research, this study sheds light on issues of ‘awareness’ and ‘visibility’ in the use of interorganisational business-to-business systems. First, research into ‘interorganisational’ awareness of the use of the system across organisations and the management of such awareness in information systems management should receive more attention in the IS domain because the findings of this work suggest that such awareness has a direct impact on how the system is perceived and received among all users. Second, the issue of visibility, e.g. how visibility influences users’ acceptance and use of the system, how visibility influences collaboration between the system hosting company and participating companies, and how visibility changes a company’s internal process are topics worthy of further investigation. Current conceptual frameworks e.g. TAM need to be extended in order for them to be used to investigate system acceptance and use in an interorganisational context. TAM should also incorporate institutional factors such as management commitment to the system, power relationships between system hosting and participating companies, the complexity of distributed business processes that are connected through an interorganisational business-to-business information, etc. These institutional factors would have a direct impact on whether a system is perceived as useful. Although some of these factors have been studied previously, they have been studied in single organisational contexts rather than in multi-organisational contexts. It would be interesting to compare and contrast the impact of institutional factors on system acceptance and use in single and multi-organisational settings. As for practise, the findings support the argument that acceptance and use of the system are influenced by users’ beliefs about a specific system. Among these beliefs perceived usefulness has a greater influence on usage and usage intention than perceived ease of use. This suggests that the management needed to pay more attention to both information and information systems quality in business-to-business information systems. Information quality is about the accuracy, liability, reliability, and accessibility of information provided by a system. Information systems quality refers to first, the functionality of the system that can support the activities and tasks carried out by its users and its ease of use. The former encourages users to form a positive perception of the usefulness of the system while the latter encourages the users to form a positive perception of ease of use.
  14. 14. ARTICLE IN PRESS A. Lin / International Journal of Information Management 26 (2006) 386–400 399 The findings of the current study suggest that business-to-business information systems will not only make internal users’ attitudes towards the system become transparent to external users, but also highlight the connectivity of a company’s internal business information systems. Hence, in order to ensure the success of a business-to-business information system, the management of the system hosting company needs to promote the system among the internal users first. The management should publicly support and endorse the project, provide incentives for its employees to use the system, and increase potential users’ involvement in the project. The case study presented in this paper illustrated that a system hosting company might be able to exercise its power on associated companies to encourage participation in business-to-business e-commerce. Nevertheless, not all system-hosting companies have such power. Hence, in order to encourage member companies to form a positive perception of the system the benefits of using the system should always be made explicit to potential participating companies (Hart & Saunders, 1997). 6.2. Limitations The experience of conducting telephone interviews tells us that there are practical issues one needs to overcome especially when interviewers and interviewees are communicating across different time zones. First, it increases the difficulty of gaining access to potential interviewees as they were not always available. Second, the format of the interviews had to be structured somewhat in order to reduce the chances of misunderstanding during the interviews. Although some follow up questions were asked during the interviews in order to keep the interviewees focused, the interviews followed the structure of the prepared questionnaire. Third, the use of telephone interview reduces the possibilities of observing the social cues that are accessible during a face-to-face interview. Social cues such as body movement and facial expression may give away critical information. Besides, compared with a face-to-face interview a telephone interview reduces the chances of both interviewer and interviewee interacting informally. A further limitation relates to the issue of generalising from a single case study. However, we have followed the suggestions of other qualitative researchers that indicate that the benefits of a case study approach are not to be found in generalizations but in the articulation of theoretical insights that can subsequently inform practise and be tested empirically (Eisenhardt, 1989; Walsham, 1995; Yin, 1994). Finally, the constructs used to examine the perceived usefulness and ease of use of the technology were adapted from Davis’ work on technology acceptance among homogeneous user groups. Constructs for studying technology acceptance among heterogeneous user groups need to be further developed. Some guidance as to how such constructs might develop is provided by the current study. Acknowledgement The author would like to thank Angela Wang for her assistance in data collection at China Digital. References Adams, D., Nelson, R., & Todd, P. (1992). Perceived usefulness, ease of use, and usage of information technology: A replication. MIS Quarterly, 12, 227–247. Compeau, D., & Higgins, C. (1995). Computer self-efficacy: Development of a measure and initial test. MIS Quarterly, 19, 189–211. Compeau, D., Higgins, C., & Huff, S. (1999). Social cognitive theory and individual reactions to computing technology: A longitudinal study. MIS Quarterly, 23(2), 145–158. Davis, F. (1989). Perceived usefulness, perceived ease of use, and user acceptance of information technology. MIS Quarterly, 13, 319–332. Dishaw, M., & Strong, D. (1999). Extending the technology acceptance model with task-technology fit constructs. Information and Management, 36, 9–21. Eisenhardt, K. (1989). Building theories from case study research. Academy of Management Review, 14, 532–550. Gefen, D., & Straub, D. (2000). The relative importance of perceived ease of use in IS adoption: A study of e-commerce adoption. Journal of the Association for Information Systems, 1, 1–28. Goodhue, D., & Thompson, R. (1995). Task-technology fit and individual performance. MIS Quarterly, 19, 213–236. Hart, P., & Saunders, C. (1997). Power and trust: Critical factors in the adoption and use of electronic data interchange. Organization Science, 8, 23–42.
  15. 15. ARTICLE IN PRESS A. Lin / International Journal of Information Management 26 (2006) 386–400 400 Karahanna, E., & Straub, D. (1999). The psychological origins of perceived usefulness and ease-of-use. Information and Management, 35, 237–250. Lee, Y., Kozar, K., & Larsen, K. (2003). The technology acceptance model: Past, present, and future. Communications of the Association for Information Systems, 12, 752–780. Lewis, W., Agarwal, R., & Sambamurthy, V. (2003). Sources of influence on beliefs about information technology use: An empirical study of knowledge workers. MIS Quarterly, 27, 657–678. Massetti, B., & Zmud, R. (1996). Measuring the extent of EDI usage in complex organizations: Strategies and illustrative examples. MIS Quarterly, 20, 331–345. Orlikowski, W., & Gash, D. (1994). Technological frames: Making sense of information technology in organisations. ACM Transactions on Information Systems, 12, 174–206. Robey, D. (1979). User attitudes and management information systems use. Academy of Management Journal, 22, 527–538. Stake, R. (1995). The art of case study research. Thousand Oaks: Sage. Venkatesh, V. (2000). Determinants of perceived ease of use integrating control, intrinsic motivation, and emotion into the technology acceptance model. Information Systems Research, 11, 342–365. Venkatesh, V., & Davis, F. (2000). A theoretical extension of the technology acceptance model: Four longitudinal field studies. Management Science, 46, 186–204. Venkatesh, V., Morris, M., Davis, G., & Davis, F. (2003). User acceptance of information technology: Toward a unified view. MIS Quarterly, 27, 425–478. Walsham, G. (1995). The emergence of interpretivism in is research. Information Systems Research, 6, 376–394. Yin, R. (1994). Case study research: Design and methods. Thousand Oaks: Sage. Angela Lin is Lecturer in Information Systems at the University of Sheffield, UK. Her current teaching and research interests include information systems management; computer supported cooperative work; and e-business, technology, and work.

×