Besides the people who work to create, administer, and manage information systems, there is one more extremely important group of people: the users of information systems. This group represents a very large percentage of the people involved. If the user is not able to successfully learn and use an information system, the system is doomed to failure.
One tool that can be used to understand how users will adopt a new technology comes from a 1962 study by Everett Rogers. In his book, Diffusion of Innovation, 1 Rogers studied how farmers adopted new technologies, and he noticed that the adoption rate started slowly and then dramatically increased once adoption hit a certain point. He identified five specific types of technology adopters:
- Innovators. Innovators are the first individuals to adopt a new technology. Innovators are willing to take risks, are the youngest in age, have the highest social class, have great financial liquidity, are very social, and have the closest contact with scientific sources and interaction with other innovators. Risk tolerance has them adopting technologies that may ultimately fail. Financial resources help absorb these failures (Rogers 1962 5th ed, p. 282).
- Early adopters. The early adopters are those who adopt innovation after a technology has been introduced and proven. These individuals have the highest degree of opinion leadership among the other adopter categories, which means that they can influence the opinions of the largest majority. They are typically younger in age, have higher social status, more financial liquidity, more advanced education, and are more socially aware than later adopters. These people are more discrete in adoption choices than innovators, and realize judicious choice of adoption will help them maintain a central communication position (Rogers 1962 5th ed, p. 283).
- Early majority. Individuals in this category adopt an innovation after a varying degree of time. This time of adoption is significantly longer than the innovators and early adopters. This group tends to be slower in the adoption process, has above average social status, has contact with early adopters, and seldom holds positions of opinion leadership in a system (Rogers 1962 5th ed, p. 283).
- Late majority. The late majority will adopt an innovation after the average member of the society. These individuals approach an innovation with a high degree of skepticism, have below average social status, very little financial liquidity, are in contact with others in the late majority and the early majority, and show very little opinion leadership.
- Laggards. Individuals in this category are the last to adopt an innovation. Unlike those in the previous categories, individuals in this category show no opinion leadership. These individuals typically have an aversion to change-agents and tend to be advanced in age. Laggards typically tend to be focused on “traditions,” are likely to have the lowest social status and the lowest financial liquidity, be oldest of all other adopters, and be in contact with only family and close friends.
These five types of users can be translated into information-technology adopters as well, and provide additional insight into how to implement new information systems within an organization. For example, when rolling out a new system, IT may want to identify the innovators and early adopters within the organization and work with them first, then leverage their adoption to drive the rest of the implementation.