Online IT shopping has become a regular hit

The GCN Reader Survey is intended to provide data on trends and product preferences. This survey is based on a telephone survey of 100 readers who on their subscription forms identified themselves as IT or systems managers.

Buying IT products on the Web has become a matter of routine for most government managers.

In a recent GCN telephone survey, 96 percent of IT and systems managers we polled do at least some of their shopping online.

By comparison, when we last surveyed government managers about electronic procurement two years ago, only 56 percent hit the Web to buy IT.

And in the most recent survey, half of the managers we talked with said they expected to increase their online buying in the next two years.

Most managers agreed about the positives of buying online.

'It's easy and convenient,' said an information systems manager for the Army Recruiting Command at Fort Knox, Ky., echoing a common response.

'It's quick, so it requires little effort,' said a communications officer at Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Managers also like being able to comparison shop.

'I like the versatility of being able to search multiple vendors for the best price,' said an IRS division chief in Denver.

And a systems administrator at the Federal Public Defender Office in Oklahoma City found this aspect of buying online to his liking: 'No sales calls.'

But they also noted downsides to using the Web.

'There isn't enough product information,' said a physical security specialist for the Federal Protective Service in Buffalo, N.Y.

Added an Air Force supply supervisor at Camp Douglas, Wis.: 'The descriptions of items on the Web are not always clear.'

Another drawback was not being able to closely inspect and handle what you're buying.

'You can't touch and feel the products,' said a systems specialist for the Federal Aviation Administration in Salt Lake City. 'There's a feeling of anonymity.'

And some sites are poorly designed and difficult to navigate, managers found.

'Sometimes sites are not user-friendly,' said an Air Force information officer at Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota.

'Sometimes it's easier to find something in a [printed] catalog,' added the systems manager at Fort Knox.

Most managers in the sample, 73 percent, weren't worried about the security of online transactions. The 27 percent who were voiced concern about credit card fraud.

'I worry that hackers might get hold of my government credit card number,' said an Army information management officer at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

'The encryption methods are not always reliable,' said the NIH computer specialist.

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