Decision-aiding software in natural resource management: A study of intentions to adopt

                         Gardner, Ara Kay; PhD

                         UNIVERSITY OF IDAHO, 1996

                         It is becoming increasingly difficult for natural resource managers, to process, sort out, and apply
                         pertinent information when an informed management decision is needed. Contemporary ecosystem
                         management requires accessing and using large amounts of accumulated information in a diversity of
                         disciplines. Computer software, specifically designed to aid in the natural resource manager's
                         decision-making process, can enhance their ability to view the greatest range of options and decide
                         among them with greater confidence and insight. These decision-aiding software include simulation
                         models, databases, visualization systems, and expert systems. A major problem in implementing these
                         tools is lack of understanding of why these software are not widely used by intended users. The central
                         question addressed in this dissertation is: How significant are certain perceived software characteristics in
                         affecting a potential user's intention to adopt decision-aiding software? Based on theories of innovation
                         diffusion, reasoned action, and motivation, and pilot interviews with resource managers, a software
                         adoption model was developed to help explain why some software are successfully used and some are
                         not. Methods used included focus group interviews, one-on-one interviews, and an individually
                         administered survey to test the model. Qualitative and quantitative data analyses were used to identify
                         and examine adoption-influencing software characteristics. Initial interviews suggested that several
                         factors were important to adoption: inclusion of end users in software design, ease of use, an
                         improvement over existing tools, software introduction geared to the end user, view of software as a
                         decision aid rather than a decision maker, understanding of the environment in which end users make
                         their decisions, reliability of data on which the model is based, and goals of software design centering on
                         usability rather than publications. These factors were used to develop a model, SAM (Software Adoption
                         Model), that shows relationships among five factors (relative advantage, trialability, compatibility,
                         complexity, and participatory design), three attitudinal variables, and intention to adopt. Testing of this
                         model indicated that participatory design and compatibility had the greatest influence on attitudes and
                         intention to adopt by resource managers. Both of these elements need to have greater emphasis in
                         software design.

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