A PILOT STUDY OF SMALL BUSINESS'S PERCEPTION OF VENDOR PROVIDED SERVICES: ARE THESE ASSOCIATED WITH SMALL BUSINESS IT EDUCATIONAL REQUIREMENTS?
R.C. MacGregor' D.J. Bunker1 J.K. Pierson2 K.A. Forcht2 'Department of Business Systems University of Wollongong Northfields Avenue, Wollongong, Australia 2522 2 Department of Information and Decision Sciences James Madison University Harrisonburg Virginia 22807 USA
Despite the extensive use of microcomputers in the small business environment, little research has been applied to the training needs of those small businesses. This study examines the computer related training needs of 131 small businesses and the factors which appear to impinge upon those needs. In particular the paper examines whether satisfaction with vendor provided services (both pre and post sales) are associated specific educational requirements in small business. The results suggest that there a need for the development of a university/college IT training program directed specifically towards small business. These programs should avoid the more technical aspects of IT and concentrate on areas which involve the analysis and use of software in the small business. The results further show that a number of vendor provided services appear to be associated with the rating of importance of potential curricular inclusions in IT training programs.
INTRODUCTION Since the microcomputer became readily available in the early 1980's, more and more small firms have adopted them in their day-to-day operations. Initially, most small businesses acquired computer technology for the purposes of accounting (Baker 1987, Heikkila, Saarinan & Saaksjarvi 1991). More recently, computer technology has been acquired for a variety of uses (Raymond & Pare 1992, Raymond 1990, Raymond & Bergeron 1992). With increase in sophistication of information systems used in small business, there has been a growing need to provide adequate training for personnel (Cragg & Zinatelli 1995). Originally training was minimal, usually being provided by the vendor from whom the technology was purchased. Today, however, more and more training is provided by service organisations and, in some cases, universities and colleges. A number of reasons have been suggested. Raymond et al (1993) suggest that the use of technology by small business tends to affect the structure of the business, often resulting in a more complex organisation, with the increase of technology use. Chan & Huff (1993) suggest that technology allows the organisation to focus on strategic decisions rather than simply maintaining the operational status quo. With this change of emphasis, there is a requirement to examine training curricula which addressed the needs of the small business client. When considering curriculum design, Nelson (1991) suggests that a curriculum which merely addresses the technical issues only provides half the requisite knowledge and skills necessary to adequately adopt and maintain information technology in an organisation. This is supported in the literature by the many studies which point to the problem incurred when organisational issues are not adequately considered at the inception of technology (Turner & Karasek 1984, MacGregor & Clarke 1988, Raymond 1988, Sharp & Lewis 1992, Kahn & Robertson 1992, Williams 1992, Bergeron et al 1992, Hedberg & Harper 1992). A number of studies (Wattenberger & Scaggs 1979, Rislov 1979, Hansen 1985, El-Khawas 1985, Dawkins 1988, Beeson et al 1992) have suggested that in order to include organisational issues in curriculum design, it is necessary to involve employer groups in the development of university/college IT training programs. While many of these studies focus on larger businesses, recent studies (Neergaard 1992, Holzinger & Hotch 1993, MacGregor & Cocks 1994, DelVecchio 1994) have suggested that there is no less a need to involve employer groups at the small business level. A number of factors have been found