Top Management Support

IT capability refers to the availability of technological resources and expertise within the local agency that enable participation in information sharing with state agencies. As stated by Premkumar and Ramamurthy (1995), inter-organizational information systems are complex systems, composed of database, hardware and telecommunications technologies. Participation in such systems requires a certain level of IT infrastructure. The lack of sufficient IT capability has been found to be an important barrier in participation in inter-organizational information systems (Premkumar and Ramamurthy 1995).

Premkumar and Ramamurthy (1995) stated that the existence of adequate equipment in an agency is a major determinant of adoption of new technologies. Dawes et al. (1997) found that differences in the technological capabilities of agencies limited the participation in state-local information sharing initiatives. Tornatzky and Fleischer (1990) state that the introduction of new technologies can result in changes in the required skill sets of employees.

Therefore, the skill set of the available personnel is an important factor that constrains the introduction of new technologies. Organizations that employ well-trained and experienced personnel tend to incur fewer costs in terms of training and equipment when new innovations are in place. Particularly, for older industries that are undergoing a new wave of modernization, the relationship with the labor quality and new technology becomes extremely important (Tornatzky and Fleischer 1990).

Norris (1999) posits that local governments have argued that their employees were not very well-trained in using information technologies and this inadequate training resulted in resistance to change, resistance to use, and, the inability to utilize information technologies to their capacity. Similarly, Grover (1993) showed that one of the most important factors in the adoption of computer applications by local government was staff competence. IT capability emerged as a frequently cited factor influencing local agency participation in this initiative.

In general, the level of technological competence was higher in participating agencies. These agencies seemed to have already acquired a certain level of IT infrastructure and their employees were better trained in using information technologies. It was found that relatively low computerization level of the local agency operations and the limited IT skills of the employees were important barriers to participation. A lot of times employee fears and concerns about the new technology were observed.

Another related issue that was brought up was that the agencies usually had limited personnel that possessed the necessary IT skills to do the data entry for participation in this system. And moreover, the high turnover rate in local agencies was found to be leaving holes in IT-savvy staff, which contributed to the dissipation of the projects. Top management support refers to the commitment from top management to provide a positive environment that encourages participation in information sharing with state agencies.

Without support from the top management, an innovation is less likely to be adopted. Top management support has been consistently found to play an important role in the adoption and implementation of information systems, in general, and inter-organizational information systems in particular (Premkumar and Ramamurthy 1995). Top management support emerged as a frequently cited factor influencing local agency participation in this initiative. A lot of times, the top management was not aware of the potential uses of crash information or was not familiar with current technology.

Lack of interest from top management to participate in information sharing was also among the barriers. It was observed that, in participating agencies, top management was more supportive of adoption of technologies in general and this information sharing initiative in particular. The study showed that, at times, willingness to share information occurred at the line level, but these people were either reluctant to bring it up or they received little or no support from their management. The reverse was also common; willingness to share at the top levels didn’t always trickle down to the lower levels of the agency.