Who Do You Trust To Recommend New Technology?

Ya gotta believe! A few gray-haired IT veterans might recall Tug McGraw's exhortation to the 1969 Mets who were on their improbable journey to World Series victory. The Mets grew to believe in themselves—and in McGraw's great relief pitching. That belief emerged as a crucial ingredient in their recipe for success.

Belief is also a crucial ingredient in successful technology upgrade cycles. Before beginning major IT projects, companies typically conduct extensive research to learn about available products and the potential benefits of installing a new technology. IT teams often lead the way in reviewing and interpreting the research information.

When an upgrade to Windows 2000 is in the works, which sources of information do IT upgrade teams believe in? According to an exclusive analysis of data provided by Survey.Com, IT teams rate as most trustworthy word of mouth from colleagues and peers. They view Microsoft's information with suspicion.

To gather the data, Survey.com asked IT managers involved in Win2K upgrades to rate the credibility of potential information sources on a scale of 0 to 5, with 0 standing for Don't Know, 1 for Not Very Credible, and 5 for Highly Credible. Four information sources were evaluated: theoretically disinterested third-party sources of information, such as market research organizations and the trade press (Graph 1); Microsoft (Graph 2); other vendors supplying the market (Graph 3); and personal interaction (Graph 4). All figures are rounded.

Several very interesting trends emerge from the data. First, except for word of mouth, no single source of information commands the confidence of more than half the respondents. Almost 60 percent of respondents reported neutral or negative views of the information on Microsoft's Web site.

Second, IT managers generally view online information more critically than printed information. For example, they rate Microsoft's Web site as less credible than its white papers. The same is true for other vendors' Web sites. Only the online trade press received credibility ratings comparable to those of its print counterparts.

Usenet postings garner lower confidence than other forms of word-of-mouth and peer-to-peer interaction, a particularly startling finding because Usenet, list servers, and chat interactions were once considered outstanding Web features. As sources of good information, however, their charm might be wearing thin.

Professional magazines were ranked nearly as credible as high-powered market-research firms, and many more respondents were familiar with the magazines. (Windows 2000 Magazine was judged the most credible professional magazine; if you want to see the numbers, email me at [email protected])

On the surface, the IT professionals managing the Win2K transition seem pretty skeptical about available information, a perception that might have slowed the overall upgrade process. In general, the early adopters trust information from Microsoft and word-of-mouth sources more than do those who moved more slowly to upgrade to Win2K. The laggards trust market researchers more than their nimble colleagues do.

During the past 3 months, Win2K's adoption pace has increased, in part because the word of mouth has been good—Win2K is delivering on its promises.

There is a long-term lesson here. The information environment plays an important role in the technology adoption process. As IT professionals evaluate information-source credibility, they must decide to trust somebody.

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