Top Barriers to Adopting to Technology in Market Research


Event coverage for IIR's 2011 Technology Driven Research Event in Chicago: "Are you Scared of Change?" Dr. William MacElroy, Socratic Technologies


Risk-aversion can be a common characteristic of large companies. In the final presentation slot at the TMDR event, Dr. William MacElroy from Socratic Technologies explained his research behind a common complaint by technology-driven researchers: Why do research companies hate technology?

Putting Technology into Perspective

Dr. MacElroy attended a different presentation five years ago, where another presenter announced a list of things "that will be dead in five years"... yet everything on the list was discussed at this 2011 Technology-Driven event.

According to Dr. MacElroy, many researchers enable themselves and their teams to "hate technology" by promoting some of its possible risks. To identify such researchers, Dr. MacElroy shared some of the ideas that researchers who are averse to these new tools and methods have said about technology:

Technology in research ...

  • "is expensive."

  • "may change the organization in a negative way."

  • "may be a dead end."

  • "is time consuming and expensive to provide client education."

  • "is a chaotic, problematic process to implement."


While the benefits from early adoption are unclear, and some of the risks above have been valid concerns in less-than-agile organizations, the ability to gain a technological edge is advantageous and attractive in the marketplace. Nevertheless, constant demands from competitive parties for research companies to stay current and relevant to the broader picture can be difficult, and for some, short-lived.

Barriers to Adopting Technology
There are existing technologies that can assist research teams with Project Management, yet there are evidently some firms that do not take advantage of them. Professor of Management at Bentley University, Hans J. Thamhain, an expert in R&D Risk management who has held management positions with Verizon & General Electric, has studied the corporate barriers to adopting technology. Within his findings, he cultivated a list of their barriers to adopting technologies related to project management, some of which simplify to the following ideas...

  • value of technology is not known

  • how to apply technology is not known

  • how to use technology is not known

  • lack of agreement about technology

  • technology involves too much paperwork

  • technology reduces personal drive and problem solving

  • technology create too much work

  • misuse of technology

  • high cost of technology

  • too busy for technology

  • technology is a threat to personal freedom

  • technology is different from established work processes and procedures

  • technology will have a negative impact on teamwork and cooperation

  • bad experiences with technology in the past

  • technology is not appropriate for our clients or products


To understand how technophilic companies operate beyond these barriers, Dr. MacElroy conducted another field study to interview the Senior Managers and Research Managers in various-sized organizations.

According to Dr. MacElroy's findings, without growth, the success rate and profitability of technophilic firms that are smaller and younger tend to decrease over time. He cited that only three firms exhibiting at a 2001 conference about technology in market research are still independent and in business in 2011.

In addition, Dr. MacElroy commented that, in most circumstances, the size of the agency is inversely related to their propensity to adopt new research technologies. For many of these firms, guarding the current technological investment is more important than new experimentation. For example, when online research was initially introduced, Dr. MacElroy suggests that some research firms were averse to online research because they were guarding their phone houses. Now, when telephones are no longer the preferred method of research communications, it is more acceptable to love online research in 2011.

Moreover, only 14% of research firms in the study tend to have technology adoption as a core value. Assignments to learn a new tool or technology are seen as a burden in larger organizations, and a majority of research firms (86%) tend to be constrained.


Technophilic and Breaking Free!


According to Dr. MacElroy, we are moving from "crunched numbers to crunchy words and crunchy videos." Our current research is based on feelings and emotions, and remote participation, and we can take advantage of that in the tools that we currently have.

Are technophilic companies going to be better off than those that don't move forward?

Sources at TDMR say "YES!" When it comes to technology, some clients may shrug, and some may be scared of change, but for those who move forward, only time and our ROI will truly tell our stories.

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