The computer has become a useful tool for purchasing managers in administering contracts and in daily operations. Computer support for contract negotiations may also be provided. This article investigates the use of a computerized Negotiation Support System, or NSS, as an aid to a purchasing manager, and to the sales manager with whom he or she is dealing, in a typical industrial buying/selling negotiation. After reviewing the results of three prior studies using student subjects, the article reports on an empirical study — using purchasing managers as subjects — designed to test the effectiveness of an early version of an NSS. In this laboratory test of the NSS, the managers arrived at better contracts (higher joint outcomes and more balanced contracts) in less time when provided with the NSS. From the results of the study and the comments of NSS users, a number of implications for practicing purchasing managers are identified. The article concludes with suggestions about which organizations should develop an NSS and how they should begin the development effort.
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