Saturday, August 29, 2015

Ways of encouraging companies to participate in survey for my doctoral reseach

I've been working hard on my doctoral research. As far as I am concerned, I have completed the pilot stage and I intend to send my 'intermediate submission' to the research committee. They are holding their next meeting on 15 September; as the material has to be submitted two weeks in advance, this means now. Their meetings are held once every seven weeks, so the next one will be at the beginning of November.

Whilst the material is ready, there is one glaring problem: so far, I have managed to receive consent forms from only six companies. This number is far too few and my supervisor warns that the committee will not pass my submission until this number is at least doubled.

Following is a question which I posted on Academia Stack Exchange, looking for help.
I am a doctoral candidate in Business Administration, researching the use of ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) programs in companies. When I have explained my research to system administrators, the usual response is that it is an interesting subject. Despite the use of social media such as LinkedIn, a user group forum and direct mailing system administrators, very few companies have consented to participate in the research.

The research will be implemented via user questionnaires. In my opinion, very little time is actually required to complete the questionnaire (obviously I'm biased) and point out in the covering letter about the research that completing the questionnaire requires only about ten minutes. Of those companies who bothered to reply, almost all have stated that participating would require too much time.

Does anyone have any suggestions how I might encourage companies to participate? I know that basically I am asking them for something and not giving anything back in return.

One answer was posted:
From what you've described, you haven't done much, if anything, to provide a compelling argument for companies to participate in your research. Even though it doesn't, from your point of view, take much time or effort, it does take time and effort, both of which cost money.
If you're talking to a company that has 300 employees. You say it takes 10 minutes. Now multiply that by the number of participants and you have 3000 minutes or 50 person-hours. Then multiply that by the labor cost, say $80/hr (you have to consider the entire cost of the employee's time; salary, benefits AND the missed opportunity cost of NOT doing what something that would make the company money) that's $4000 for your 10 minute survey.
You need to think about what you can offer in return for their $4000 and sell it. Access to your findings? What would you offer them if you were asking for that much money to fund your research?

Whilst the calculations are a bit off in my case (I'd be only too pleased to have 300 respondents but they won't come from the same company, and the labour costs are somewhat less where I live), I agree with the sentiments. The problem is that I don't really have anything to offer. 

I am going to approach two people for advice before I continue trying to sign up companies. One is a lecturer in ERP studies and the other is a fellow PhD candidate who is studying the implementation of IT systems in Israeli companies (fortunately we barely overlap). How did they persuade companies to help with their research?

One important statistic which I needed for the pilot study was Cronbach's alpha, which is a measure of internal consistency: how closely related a set of items are as a group. It took me a long time to find a site which explained how to calculate this statistic, but  eventually I struck gold. For most of my variables, I get good values for alpha - above 0.7. But for one variable, user training, the value is very low, about 0.31. At first, I thought that there was a mistake in the calculation, but after checking, I realised that this is not the problem, but rather each question is checking something different (frequency, quality and type) and there is no correlation between the answers. Technically, this means that I should separate each question and present it as a separate variable.

No comments: