Strategies for Dealing with Drift During Implementation of Erp Systems

35 Pages Posted: 29 Feb 2008

See all articles by Peter J. van Baalen

Peter J. van Baalen

University of Amsterdam

P. C. van Fenema

Netherlands Defence Academy

Date Written: 13 2005 7,


Research on the relationship between Information Technology (IT) and organizations emphasizes the complexity of adaptation processes and the potential of drifting. Drifting means that an organization encounters unexpected circumstances that show the incompleteness and possible failure of an initial technological design without organizations having yet feasible alternatives. This conceptual and empirical paper investigates the origins and nature of drifting, and strategies for dealing with drift. Three strategies have been proposed to deal with drifting: control, incremental, and drift containment. We explore the third option that seems most realistic and relevant from an organizational point of view. We empirically investigated how drift containment could be accomplished in practice in a multi-site ERP implementation project. Our results suggest three phases of dealing with drift. Organizations must first recognize when drifting occurs. Next, they must develop a dual focus. On one hand, they must differentiate between a projects overarching objectives (which remain relatively stable). On the other hand, they attend to and resolve their operational drifting experience. The dual focus thus means that while organizations stay focused on their objectives, they address the causes of drifting. During the final phase, lessons learnt during drifting resolution must be shared and applied to accelerate accomplishment of project objectives. Implications for research and practice are elaborated.

Keywords: IS implementation, strategy, drift

JEL Classification: M, L15, O32

Suggested Citation

van Baalen, Peter J. and van Fenema, Paul C., Strategies for Dealing with Drift During Implementation of Erp Systems (13 2005 7,). ERIM Report Series Reference No. ERS-2005-043-LIS, Available at SSRN:

Peter J. Van Baalen (Contact Author)

University of Amsterdam ( email )

Roeterstraat 11
Amsterdam, Z-H 1018 WB
+31 20 525 4320 (Phone)

Paul C. Van Fenema

Netherlands Defence Academy

PO Box 90002
Breda, 4800


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