PCs AT THE TOP Fortune survey finds use is widespread

March 16, 1992|By Robin Stacy | Robin Stacy,Knight-Ridder News Service

Picture computers in business.

Do you see PCs being used by top managers? No?

It's a popular notion that many managers don't have a clue about computers. They sort of recognize their value and buy them for employees, the theory goes, but wouldn't know a floppy disk from a file server.

A new survey by Fortune magazine, however, shows management use of computers is widespread in corporate America. Seventy-six percent of all managers in the survey use a computer at work, and another 12 percent who don't use one themselves manage people who do.

OK, you think, so they've got PCs sitting on their desks. That still doesn't mean they use them, does it?

Maybe not, but they do report spending 15 hours a week at their PCs, an inordinate amount of time for those simply keeping up appearances. More than half of the respondents also say they use a computer at home, where they spend another 4.4 hours a week on work-related tasks.

That homework's likely to increase, though. Another 30 percent plan to buy a desk-top PC for their home in the coming year, while 19 percent say they plan to buy a portable PC to use at home.

Even though portable computers have been hot sellers for the last couple of years, only 35 percent of managers have used one in the past year, and only about 5 percent say a portable is the machine they mainly use.

Lotus 1-2-3 was the most popular software among managers, in use by just less than half of those responding. A third of the managers say they use WordPerfect, while less than 20 percent mentioned using Harvard Graphics, dBase, Windows or Excel.

Nearly half of the computer-using managers do their work on stand-alone PCs, while slightly more than a quarter are hooked into a network. But that's a function of the size company they work for -- 65 percent of those whose companies employ 50 or fewer people have independent PCs, while nearly 40 percent of those who work for companies with more than 1,000 employees are hooked into a network.

Just less than half of those surveyed say there's at least one IBM-brand computer in their office, and 20 percent say there are Apples, presumably Macintoshes, in use in their offices. The count for IBM could be deceptive, though, as many people call IBM-compatible computers IBMs.

Management is convinced of the crucial importance of computers. Three-fourths of those surveyed agreed that, "I believe that information systems hold the key to competitive advantage for my organization in the 1990s."

Almost that many say their companies will purchase new hardware or software in the next 12 months, and only 4 percent expect their company to be using fewer computers by next year.

Managers -- more than end users, a data processing department or anyone else -- will determine the need for computer equipment, pick the brand to buy, select a source for the purchase and make the final decision to buy new computers in a majority of the companies surveyed.

vTC Price is the leading factor considered in most purchases.

The survey, conducted by the Gallup Organization, was mailed to 2,500 top and middle managers who subscribe to Fortune.

Thirty-five percent returned their surveys; a telephone survey was conducted of those who didn't respond to make sure the data reflected all managers who subscribe to the magazine.

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