The information needs and information seeking behaviors of SME managers : a study of the manufacturing industry in Botswana
The purpose of this study is to investigate the information needs and information seeking behaviours of small and medium-size enterprises managers (SMEs) in Botswana's high-profile manufacturing industry. As the business environment becomes more complex and dynamic, it becomes increasingly vital for top executives of small firms to utilise information from a variety of sources to make consequential decisions about the survival and prosperity of their organisations. The overall objective of the study is to better understand the information needs and information seeking behaviours of this unique and unstudied group of users in a developing nation socio-cultural country context. Specifically, the study addresses the following research questions: (1) which types of information do SME managers need; (2) how much information seeking is done by SME managers; (3) what types of information are sought by managers; (4) which information sources are utilised by managers; (5) which factors influences election of information; and (6) in what ways do managers use the acquired information? The research design, which was developed to address the research issues, comprised both quantitative and qualitative research methods. The quantitative research method was an exploratory mail survey (n=400) of Botswana's manufacturing firms in eight industrial classifications. The survey was used to obtain broad patterns and evidence concerning the information behaviour of SME managers. The qualitative research method (follow-up face-to-face interviews) was explanatory case-based research. A convenience sample (n=9) of SME managers drawn from each sector provided rich descriptive information about their information needs and information seeking behaviours, which were used to build case studies. The case study research was used to confirm the survey results (a process of triangulation) and more importantly, to explain the trends and patterns observed in survey results analysis. The key findings of the study indicate that: (1) SME managers consider customer and competition information to be the most important types of information to their firms; (2) SME managers devote a significant time to active information seeking and on average, spend approximately 5 hours seeking information; (3) SME managers spend time seeking customer and competition information; (4) they use both personal (customer, business associates) and impersonal sources (newspapers, broadcast media, and government publications); (5) information source selection is determined largely by accessibility and ease of use; and (6) managers utilise information as they go about performing their routine day-to-day activities and making important decisions. It is concluded that in spite of their size and resource limitations, SMEs need more information than ever before. Globalisation has heightened uncertainty and therefore SME managers need external information to predict environmental changes and their impact on the organisations. Accordingly, and as suggested by the evidence from both data sets used in this study, SME managers are dynamic consumers of information and information seeking is an activity intrinsic to SME managerial work. Finally, information is not a homogeneous entity, that is what constitutes information to one group of users is dependent upon the contextual and situational peculiarities of a given setting.