The use of external information by managers in larger industrial companies with special reference to the role of electronic external information services
This research examines the use of external information by managers in larger industrial companies, with special reference to use of electronic information services. Five different industries are selected for study - oil, pharmaceutical, construction, electronics and retail. Evidence on the areas and sources of external information of most importance to managers, including electronic sources, was sought by means of a questionnaire survey distributed to managers in marketing, finance, corporate planning, computer systems and management services and to company librarians! information officers. The questionnaire was completed by 122 managers from fifty-one companies and followed up by case study interviews with eleven selected respondents. All respondents agree on the importance of industry market trends and competitor activities as the main areas of external information and on the personal communications network and industry publications as the prime sources. Information of the organization's broader environment is viewed as less important, Company libraries, where they exist, are not always highly regarded or fully exploited as sources of information by managers. The research shows that electronic information services are not in general rated highly as an information source. The main reason for the lack of use by managers appears to be lack of content relevance, but lack of awareness, pricing structure and accessibility are also contributory factors. Videotex services are held in low regard by their users and non-users alike. Commercial databases, on the other hand, are valued by their main user group, which consists of librarians from the pharmaceutical industry and from larger oil companies. Type of industry, type of respondent and size of company are all important variables in use of electronic information services. The research identifies four different approaches to external information use - individual, library, systems and information management. In spite of the acknowledged importance of external information, the informal approach is still prevalent. There is no extensive use of electronic services in companies which do not have an established library structure and there are few examples of a properly structured 'information management' approach which combines both internal and external sources.