The Concept Of Research Design Information Technology Essay

In this chapter we will cover the research questions concerning the impact of CRM implementation on company performance. In the first section, we will explain the concept of research design and the different research designs types.

In the second section, we will define the research design that we will use in our thesis. First, we will define the problem and explain the objectives of our studies. Second we will define the research method that we are using. Third, we will explain the different concept of scaling. Fourth, the will explain the design of the questionnaire and the sampling process.

Section 1: The concept of research design

In this section we will explain the different concept and methodologies of the research design in order to use the correct research design type in our thesis.

1. Research design

The research design is defined as a framework with specific procedures for collecting and analyzing the necessary data from different sources, allowing the identification of the research problem (Emory and Cooper, 1991). The successful research design should cover the following tasks: it should define the research problem, select the required information when it is needed, specify the measurement and scaling procedures, make a pre-test questionnaire, define the sampling process and the sample size, select the correct plan for data analysis and tabulation, define the time and financial constraints and follow up on the completed research study ( Brierty and Al,1998). The Nature of the study defines which research method should be adopted.

It exist three different types of research, the exploratory, the descriptive or the causal.

1.2 The exploratory Research type

The objective of exploratory research is to help the researcher to understand the problem situation. The results of using this type of research are guidelines for a better comprehension of the problem and encouragement of the personal explanation and creativity of the researcher (Sudman and Blair, 1997).

Usually the exploratory research is used for the following reasons: developing hypotheses, in case we don’t know much information about the research issue, to isolate the variables and relationships for advanced examination, for positioning studies, familiarization with customers, to establish precedence for auxiliary research, getting new ideas, to describe process, to defines a problem more specifically and developing an approach to the problem.

The exploratory research is necessary when the information is loosely defined that leads to unstructured working format. This type of research allows high flexibility in the research, since it allows changes in the procedures and protocols (Tull and Hawkins,1993).

In addition the exploratory research can be divided into four categories: expert surveys, secondary data analysis, pilot studies. First, the expert surveys are conducted by consulting persons that have experience in a specific field, which help the researcher to collect technical data about the studied subject. Second, secondary data analysis is based on another research area which is economical and ready to use. Secondary data help the researcher to identify and define the research problem, to develop clear research design approach for the problem, to allow analyzing the primary data more astutely and to answers some research questions (Malhotra, 1996). Third, pilot studies are small scale exploratory researches that are used to understand the research problem setting (Zikmund, 2000).

In general the exploratory research use the focus group , which is an interview conducted with a small group of respondent in a free-flowing manner. Focus groups have many advantages, since it is much quicker to collect information compared to interviewing individuals, the level of excitement increase when the topic stimulates the respondents, the discussion is usually recorded and the researcher can refer to it later, the moderator controls the discussion and he doesn’t allow respondents to deviate the topic, respondents feel more comfortable in group discussions and they will express their personal ideas more freely which produce a wide range of information and ideas.

In other hand, focus groups have some disadvantages, since they are difficult to moderate and sometimes they are misjudged , results can be misused and can be considered not to be representative of the whole population (Malhotra,1996).

1.3 The descriptive research type

The descriptive research is used to describe a phenomena and it studies the relationship between variables (Churchill, 1998).

The descriptive research should be the most accurate as possible allowing the understanding of the research problem. The results of successful descriptive studies can answer any question with high precision.

The descriptive research is used for the following reasons: for define the perceptions of problem characteristics, to explain the decision making process and its impacts, to get specific predictions, to explain the characteristics of groups such as customers and organizations, and to determine the differences in needs among subgroups.

The descriptive research is characterized by the formulations of explicit hypotheses, which leads to a research design more structured and contains several statistical methodologies. In addition, the descriptive research can be applied using four different methods: panels, secondary data, observational data and surveys. First, the panels are group of people that answers to a number of telephone interviews or mail or personal interviews for a period of time. The observation includes recording the behavior of the respondents in a methodical way to obtain the needed information about a proposed problem. Second, the surveys include interviews with a number of people by using a questionnaire about the studied subject (Tull and Hawkins,1993).

1.3 The causal research type

The causal research type is to recognize the cause and effect relationship between the variables in the problem model. In general, the descriptive and the exploratory research lead the way for cause and effect relationship studies. The descriptive research allows examining the associations between variables, and the causal research explain the relation between those variables, for example a change in one variable affects the other variables. The causal research can be used in the following cases: to define which variables are the cause, the independent variables, and which variables is the effect, the dependent variables, of a phenomenon, and to explain the nature of relationship between the dependent and the independent variables.

The causal research has a structured design and should be carefully planned. The design explain how several independent variables are manipulated to see its effect on the dependent variables in a well-defined environment (Malhotra, 1996).

The causal research has some disadvantages, since it is expensive, difficult to administer, doesn’t reflect the real population opinions (Walker et al., 1999).

2. Selecting the research approach

In general, the nature of research and the researcher personal discretion defines which research design should be adopted in the study (Zikmund, 2000). The previous researches can direct the researcher to the right direction for choosing the correct research design. In general, it is always recommended to start the research design using the exploratory research if the research problem is of an ambiguous nature. Researchers use the descriptive research when they are aware of the research problem but they need more understanding of the different aspects of the problem. In case of the research problem is clearly defined, the researchers use the causal research method. The exploratory research allows forming hypothesis and the causal or descriptive research are used to statistically test the hypothesis.

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In order to choose the correspondent research approach it is very important to compare every approach characteristics, and to choose the research method based on logical examination of the research problem aspects.

The purpose of our study is to determine the impacts of changes resulting from the implementation of the CRM solution on the Lebanese firms’ performance. In addition, we will use the exploratory research to formulate the hypothesis and the causal research since we will evaluate the effects of the CRM on the firm.

In order to achieve the required results of the study, the researcher should define the stages of activity which must be worked through to achieve a reliable study (Johnson, 1994). Those steps are : establish the purpose of the study, identify the specific objectives of the study, define the research method, develop the research instrument and access, collect the required data, ordering the data, analyzing the data, writing results and conclusion.

The measurement procedure is defined by assigning numbers to the different aspects of objects based on certain pre-defined rules, to produce accurate data (Malhotra, 1996). In our thesis, we use statistical numbers to analyze and communicate the responses of the employees and the customers. In addition, scaling allows the generation of a continuum upon which measured objects are located (Malhotra, 1996).

Section 2: The research design

In this section we will define the research design that we will adopt in our thesis. We will explain all the aspects of the adopted research design.

3. Problem definition:

The research problem is divided into different interconnected steps allowing the researcher to deeply study the proposed subject and it defines the direction of the study. The challenge that researchers face in the research problem definition is that the defined should not be defined too broadly or too narrowly. The caution should be exercised when defining the problem to avoid defining a symptom instead of the real problem (Cravens, 2000).

The purpose of our study is to evaluate the impact of changes brought by the implementation of CRM on the firm performance in the Lebanese market. Firms are implementing CRM to increase their competitive advantages. This implementation has several impacts on firm performance, such as financially (Profits and ROI), customer loyalty and employees productivity. From here we will study the impact of CRM implementation on firm performance.

4. The objectives.

In order to achieve the required results from the study, researchers need to have clear understanding of the research purpose (Sigmund, 2000).

The main objective of our research is to evaluate the impact of CRM implementation on the firm. The success of CRM process starts with the implementation phase, by including the entire firm departments in the implementation and by focusing on the processes re-engineering.

The research objectives are defined as following: the importance of change management plan before implementing a CRM system, the importance of people in the CRM, the importance of customer satisfaction, the ROI of the CRM implementation and the productivity of the employees.

The managers having experience with the implementation of CRM provides the research with the necessary background information and the employees working the CRM (customer service) solution provide us with the necessary operation information.

5. The Problem definition

After the implementation of CRM in the firm, the managers in the Lebanese organizations cannot evaluate the impact of the CRM Solution on their organization performance. The evaluation of the CRM starts from the implementation phase before going to the after implementation phase. The managers cannot define clear criteria for controlling the results of CRM on the firm. Furthermore, the reason is that the impacts of CRM cannot be viewed directly and it requires a long period to see tangible results.

In order to clearly define the problem researchers need to view the problem from different aspects. The first issue that we need to evaluate after the implementation of CRM is the success of the implementation. This can be evaluated by studying the change management strategy adopted. Based on our literature review, most of the projects failures are due to the absence of clear change management strategy.

The second to evaluate is how the CRM affected the firm performance; this can be evaluated by studying the customer retention and satisfaction in addition to the employee productivity.

In order to define all the dimensions of the problem, a questionnaire should be prepared. In the questionnaire we will include all the objectives of our study. First we will focus how to manage an information technology driven change in the firm from the change management perspective (change management strategy, planning and budget). Second, we will study the impact of CRM on people in the organization (Training, evaluating their productivity and rewarding) and resistance problem. Third, the questionnaire will include the importance of customers background and satisfaction in CRM implementation (Customers trends, and customers feedback). At the end, we will the study the Return on investment of CRM.

Our research will evaluate different change aspects resulting from the implementation of CRM in the Lebanese firms.

6. Research methods

In this section will explain the research method that we will adopt in our thesis. We will define the work field and the different aspects of the research methods.

6.1 Surveys

The research method is the base of the research project, since it defines the methods to collect the necessary information for the project. The research method defines and justifies the methods to collect the required data, and to develop a questionnaire allowing us to obtain the required information. It also specifies the sampling of the respondents.

The first step in the research method is to select the respondent for the survey, to allow the collection of the primary data. In our thesis the population is employees from Lebanese firms, and the respondents are managers and employees from three Lebanese organizations that have implemented CRM.

The surveys have many benefits for the researchers, since it is low-cost and efficient to get the required information about the population. The surveys are simple to administer, it allows the researcher to have control on the sample, and the use of fixed responses decrease the variability in the results (Birks, 2003).

It exist several forms of surveys such as emails and personal interviews (Zikmund, 2001). In our survey, we will use two methods, the email form and the personal interviews method. The personal interview is personalized and it allows direct interaction with the respondent, but it is time consuming for the researcher. Personal interviews assure high response rates, and better observation of the respondent behavior. The personal interview is based on the direct communication with respondent and the researcher asks the questions face to face.

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Personal interviews have many advantages for the researcher; he can change or adapt the questions depending on the interviewee reaction. In addition, personal interviews increase the response rates and increase the number of the participants in the surveys.

The disadvantage of personal interviews is that respondents sometimes find difficult to answer face to face personal questions.

In other hand, the online survey provides the researcher with instant feedback and it is inexpensive to distribute especially for large samples. However the main disadvantage of online surveys is the inaccurate data in the answers of the survey. Thus, online surveys depend on people to be honest especially about their personal information such as age, gender and location. The inaccurate data may affect the results of the study.

6.2 Survey research errors:

The error is necessarily a part of any survey, and it exist different type of errors. The first error is associated with the respondents that answer the survey. This type of error occurs when the sample is drawn from larger population and there are chances that the sample differs from the total population (random sampling error). Furthermore, the way the sample is designed and selected can influence how much the sample shows the real characteristics of the population. The random variation from the real characteristics of the population should also be taken in consideration in the sampling process.

In our thesis, the random sampling error is reduced since the target population is specifically selected. We will select number of firms that have implemented CRM, which operates in the Lebanese market. In addition, the sample should be representative of the Lebanese market.

The second type of error is the systematic error that occurs from some mistakes in implementing the research. The systematic errors are non-sampling errors which are divided into two categories: the administrative error and the respondent error.

First, the administrative error is caused by confusion or by neglecting some aspects of the survey or improper administration of the survey. The administrative errors are divided into four types: the data processing error, the interviewer error and cheating, and the sample selection error. In order to reduce this type of errors we will double check the data processing.

Second, the respondent error depends on the respondents answers; if the answers are not accurate the results of the surveys will not be significant. The non-respondent error occurs when a number of respondents of the sample fail to answer the survey questions.

Third, the response bias occurs when the respondent like to take a pre-defined direction for the answers and this doesn’t represent the correct opinion of the interviewee. The respondent may give answers that differ from the way he really thinks. In order, to avoid the response bias we will use clear and well defined questions to minimize the ability of the respondent to direct the survey in a pre-defined way.

7. The concept of scaling

A scale is considered a series of arranged items and every item is placed according to its quantification. The scale is divided into four types’ ordinal, nominal, ratio and interval.

The ordinal scale type is ranking the data according to have more or less characteristic. The ranking have logical order. Furthermore, this type of scale allows the measurement the degrees of difference but not the specific amount of difference.

The nominal scale, provide the respondent with series of possibilities in the objective of categorizing events or attributes. The nominal scale does not express any relationship between the variables. Furthermore, the only statistical operation that can be done by using the nominal type is the frequency run. It is important to include all the possible answers in the nominal scale, and it is important to provide the respondent with the choice to choose “other”.

The ratio scale demonstrates growth relationships between items and time periods. It allows comparing items in the same graph, starting at different levels. In other hand, the interval scale is an advanced notion of ranking items, since the distance between adjacent points are equal. In order to determine if a scale is interval or not it is important to underlie intent regarding the equal intervals. For example, dates can be measured on interval scale because differences are measured in years and no ratio can be given to a ratio of times (Collins, 2003).

In our thesis, we will use three interval scales, the nominal, ordinal and interval scales to explain and compare the different aspects of CRM impact on the firm.

First, we will use the nominal scale to collect data concerning the demographic data concerning the respondents and the Lebanese firms. Second, we will use the ordinal scale to allow respondents (employees and managers) to rank the answers. This allows us to know which answer is the most important for the respondents. Third, we will use interval scale to identify the importance of the answers by using the Likert scale.

In natural science, the validity and reliability of the research is essential to assure the integrity of the research and assure the achievement of the desired objectives. The reliability is concerned with consistency. The consistency has three aspects, the first aspect is when reproducing the study again, the same results are found. This is defined as stability over time. The second aspect is equivalence; this means that the study can be done elsewhere, for example in a different country. The third aspect is internal consistency which means that the results of one section is confirmed by the others sections (Bryman, 2001).

Validity is concerned with accuracy and which method provides the most accurate answers which is the integrity of conclusions (Gorman and Clayton, 1997). The internal validity is when we assure that any causal relationships found are related to the variables and the external validity is that the result can be applied outside of the current research context. Furthermore, the face validity and criterion validity are necessary elements to assure the reliability, which means that the information fit the expected pattern, and assure the accuracy of findings by using a different method. In addition, to enhance the reliability and the validity each item in the survey is clear and easily understood, each item should be analyzed in the intended way, and the relation between the items and the objective of the study is clear (Suskie ,1996).

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In order to assure high reliability and validity of the collected data we address the questionnaire to managers and employees that are directly related to the CRM, in Lebanese firms.

8. Designing the questionnaire

Designing a questionnaire is based on setting specific questions allowing the researcher to get the required information. The well designed questionnaire minimizes the response error and pushes the respondents to complete the questionnaire (Malhotra and Birks, 2003). The benefits of the questionnaire is to ensure comparability of the data , increase the speed and accuracy , and facilitate the data processing (Kotler, 2000). It is necessary to choose the right type of questions and the optimized ordering.

In order to collect data related to our pervious hypothesis we prepared two questionnaires. The first questionnaire is addressed to the employees and managers in the Lebanese firms that are directly related to the implementation of CRM. The second questionnaire is addressed to customers that are buying from these firms.

The questionnaires will be divided into two parts. In the first part, we will collect information about the background of the respondent and the profile of the company. In the second part, we will collect information about each of the research objectives.

The questionnaire starts by asking general simple questions such as the respondent opinion about CRM and the firm. This will increase the will of the respondent to proceed with the questionnaire. In addition, we will ask the sensitive questions at the end of the questionnaire such as costs and ROI of the CRM project. The questions will be asked with third-person approach and we will use structured and unstructured questions. In addition, we will include open ended questions and structured questions.

The structured questions provide the respondent with several alternatives for answering the question. In addition, structured questions take the form of dichotomous, multiple choice and scale. The open ended questions allow the respondent to provide personalized answers.

For the firm employees and managers the questionnaire will include the demographic information about the respondent, attitude about the CRM system (Five point Likert scale), dealing with the implementation of CRM system, CRM implementation information and working with CRM system.

For the customers, the questionnaire will also include the demographic information, attitude toward firms that have implemented CRM, general feeling about the relations with the firms that have implemented CRM, the will customers to pay more to gain more services, likelihood to keep dealing with the same firm, and wanting to have stronger relationship with the firm.

After developing the questionnaires we will run pretests, to identify the problems in questionnaires directions and design. Furthermore, pretests are run with a small group of respondents. We will provide small sample of people (ten persons) with the questionnaires to evaluate the questionnaires direction and quality. The sample will include three middle line managers and three employees and four customers. After answering to the surveys questions we asked the respondent about their opinion and about the problems they found in the surveys. This helped us to improve some aspects in the surveys and adding some new questions.

9. Sampling

Sampling process has to answer some basic questions: how should we select the sample? Second, which process should be used? What is the size of the sample? How can we adjust the non-response errors?

In general, the more diversified sample assures an accurate research. The random sampling error varies depending on the sample sizes (Hawkins et al., 2000); with the increase of the sample size the results reliability decreases. In order to determine the sample size several factors should be taken into consideration such as the resource constraints, the variance of the population, the previous studies, and the confidence interval (Hawkins and Tull, 1993).

The first step in the sample selection process is defining the target population; the collection of objects that the researcher considers having the necessary information is considered as the target population. The target population should be chose based on the sampling units, the time and the elements (Malhotra and Birks, 2003). The elements of our research are employees and customers of Lebanese firms that have adopted CRM .The extent of the survey is Lebanon, and the period is between December 2012 and January 2013.

9.1 The sampling technique

In order to create the sample, we used the sampling without replacement technique.

Adopting this sampling technique means that when an element is selected, it is removed from the sampling frame and it cannot be selected again. Furthermore, we adopted the non-probability technique in order to define the correspondent sample for our study. The non- probability depends on the personal opinion of the researcher and doesn’t rely on chance to choose the sample elements (Malhotra and Birks, 2003). In addition, the convenience sampling technique is also adopted; the convenience sample is used to select a sample of correspondent elements that helps to achieve the objectives of the study. In general, the interviewer selects the convenient units (Malhotra and Birks, 2003). The convenience sampling is the least expensive in comparison to other sampling techniques, it is the least time consuming and all the sampling units are cooperative and accessible. In other hand, the convenience samples may not represent any definable population.

9.2 The sample selection

The sampling design includes several criteria to select the correct sample, such as size and kind of sample.

In our thesis, the firms studied are employees and customers of Lebanese firms that have implemented CRM which are considered the population. The respondents are the employees and managers that work with CRM. In addition, the customers sample is selected from the CRM database in the same firms.

In our research, we chose three (3) Lebanese firms that have implemented CRM from different industries, and we selected three (3) managers from each company, and five (5) employees from each firm. In addition, we selected ten (10) customers that deal with these firms.

Population

Employees and customers of Lebanese Firms that have implemented CRM

Sample

Three (3) Lebanese Firms employees and customers

Managers

Nine (9)

Employees

Fifteen (15) employees

Customers

Thirty (30) customers

 

Table 2: The population and the sample of the study

10. The Data collection

The data collection for our thesis started in December 2012 till January 2013. We distributed the questionnaire by two ways, by email and personally. The respondent of the questionnaire were in general cooperative and most of them completed all the questions of the survey.

The selection of three Lebanese firms in different industries allowed us to have a variety in the respondents’ perceptions.

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