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In the comparative pairs analysis method, data can be collected from the focal firm about both buyers and sellers (customers and suppliers) so that a chain of three organizations is analyzed. Sales staff can be asked questions about customers, and mirrored questions can be asked of purchasing staff about suppliers. It may be possible to get one respondent to answer questions about both customers and suppliers in smaller organizations, where the respondent is sufficiently knowledgeable about both organizations (e.g., chief executive officer or owner). For many organizations, it may be more appropriate to have sales staff discuss customers and purchasing staff discuss suppliers. This would be highly recommended for larger organizations, where a marketing/customer service department has more contact with customers and a purchasing/logistics department has more contact with suppliers. A similar approach could be taken for any third-party organization of interest. While the unit of analysis is the focal firm’s perception about the other organizations, a chain perspective is provided by collecting data about organizations both upstream (suppliers) and downstream (customers) in the chain. Comparisons can be made “within the organization” to see if those dealing with customers and suppliers have different responses.
Another key element of the comparative pairs analysis method is the suggestion that respondents be asked to answer each question about two organizations (pair). By simultaneously looking at two organizations, the differences in responses are highlighted during the data collection process. Each respondent can be asked to explain why he or she perceives that the differences arise and can provide details to explain answers given. The explanations provide a test of validity of responses given as well as provide rich qualitative data that can be used to suggest reasons for differences in variables that can later be tested in the data analysis. While it is assumed that respondents can make meaningful differences about pairs of third parties (customers, suppliers, etc.), this can be tested. A “within respondent comparison” can be made by analyzing the consistency of each respondent’s answers with the unit of analysis being the individual respondent.
To examine the usefulness of comparative pairs analysis for IOIS research in chains of organizations, this chapter addresses the following questions:
Does each respondent perceive there are significant differences between pairs of third-party organizations evaluated? (within respondent comparison)
Do supplier-oriented boundary spanning staff (purchasing staff) have significantly different responses to customer-oriented boundary spanning staff (sales staff)? (within organization comparison)
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