Publication Date

8-1-1985

Approximate Date

1985-08-01

Report Number

22

Abstract

Acceptance of Computer-Mediated communication Systems (CMCS) by managers and professionals corresponds to its incorporation into their daily patterns of communication and work. Acceptance includes at least three inter-related dimensions: amount of use, subjective satisfaction with the process of using the system, and a perception that system use has positive impacts upon productivity.

Pre-use and follow-up questionnaires were distributed to 150- 250 new users of four different CMCS. Three are conferencing systems, designed to support "group work." They differ in terms of comprehensiveness or complexity of design, and size and nature of the user communities; COM/KOM, a Swedish system with mostly European users, was included to provide a cross-cultural dimension. The fourth system is a commercially available electronic mail system used for internal communication within a single corporation.

Users' pre-use expectations are the strongest determinants of learning time, getting to know other people online, and subjective satisfaction with the system interfaces. Satisfaction with CMCS as a mode of communication, particularly for emotional or personal content, is most strongly affected by group-level variables. Those who have not previously communicated (offline) with group members and who do not like or trust them have the most problems with expressive communication via CMCS.

Group membership and pre-use expectations in combination are the strongest determinants of amount of system use. The "dropout" rate varied from zero or 1% for some groups to over 50% for others. Among those who did use the three conferencing systems, the best predictor of cumulative time online at four months is the user's own expectation of the amount of time that would be spent online, made at pre-use. In turn, expected usage is explained by a combination of importance of the online task; convenient access to a terminal, especially at home; and previous lack of regular communication channels with the online group.

The pattern for the internal mail system was quite different; regular previous communication with the online group (rather than its absence) is correlated with use. The strongest correlate is an expectation that using the system will be hard; those who thought so simply did not use the electronic mail system. The contrasting pattern of association underscores the quite different functions of the two types of CMCS. Mail systems are used as a supplementary channel of communication to support ongoing communication within an organization. Conferencing system usage is maximized when it represents a new opportunity to communicate with others who were not conveniently available via traditional channels, about an important task.

An experimental intervention in training and user support suggests that interactive online tutorials can be an effective learning mechanism and increase time online. The placement of a single personal telephone call offering assistance did not increase amount of use, within the context of the availability of a variety of other sources of information and support.

Two factors comprising productivity impacts were identified. "PRODUCTive" is comprised primarily of improvements in the quantity and quality of work, the overall usefulness of the system, and improvements in the ease of reaching people. "CAREER" encompasses contributions to long-term and short-term career advancement, and the provision of information and ideas.

The strongest correlates of PRODUCTivity improvements, for all four systems, are pre-use expectations about whether the system would increase productivity. The second strongest determinant appears to be the perceived leadership skill of the group moderator or leader. Another group-level variable, the level of satisfaction with previous channels of communication with one another, also significantly adds to predictions of productivity increases as a result of system use.

Four process variables play an important part in determining positive productivity outcomes. One is the perceived value of the items contributed by the other group members. Another is time spent online, which is positively related to perceived productivity impacts, once pre-use expectations and motivations have been taken into account. A third is whether or not there were "mode problems" encountered, and the fourth , how many new people users came to know online.

"SYSTEM" software differences do appear to make a significant impact on whether or not there will be productivity increases; but system enters the stepwise regressions in only fifth or sixth place, or not at all, depending on the combination of candidate variables entered.

The best equations for predicting productivity increases are markedly different for the four systems. This is the main impact of software differences: given four basically well designed but quite different CMCS, the social context and software differences will interact to affect the most productive way to use the system.

The best overall predictor of whether CMCS use will be seen to lead to CAREER advancement is whether the user was able to adequately express social-emotional content in communications in this mode. For individual systems, the specific variables and factors which are included in the best stepwise multiple regression equation to explain variations in CAREER vary markedly from one system to another, but all the equations include a subjective satisfaction factor in the selected variables. Career advancement depends to a large extent on strengthening and widening personal relationships with a network of peers and hoped-for peers. Thus, it is reasonable that this process was most likely to occur for those users who felt most comfortable and satisfied with the system as a communication mode. Only then is a user likely to go beyond the immediate task-oriented online activities and engage in the kinds of information exchanges and relationship-strengthening exchanges that may be related to general career advancement rather than just the efficient completion of a specific task at hand.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 License.

Share

COinS