Beyond the ERP Implementation Study: A New Approach to the Study of Packaged Information Systems
University of Edinburgh - Institute for the Study of Science, Technology and Innovation
University of Edinburgh
June 23, 2009
Whilst scholarship addressing the social and cultural issues surrounding enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems is blossoming, many of the studies, framed within well established modes of research, and constrained within particular loci, timeframes, disciplinary perspectives and concerns, are producing unhelpful readings of the characteristics of these systems and their implications for organizations. In particular research on particular socially and temporally bounded locales – the typical ERP implementation case study – has become the norm and given undue emphasis within Information Systems (IS) scholarship. Often influenced by constructivist frameworks and qualitative methodologies - including Actor Network Theory (ANT) and ethnography - scholars have developed actor centered analysis and rich local pictures of the immediate response by organizations and users to these systems. However we are skeptical that the most useful way to study ERP is solely at the place where the user encounters it. One implication of focusing only on certain locales or moments (like implementation) is that important influences from other levels and timeframes are missed from analysis. Lest we forget, ERP is typically a generic and global technologies designed at some remove from the place and time where it is used. It is also often instantiated at multiple sites and across distributed contexts. After setting out what we think are the limitations of current approaches we propose an alternative research approach - the emerging ‘Biography of Artefacts Framework’ - that attempts to take seriously the multiple locations and different timeframes in which ERP systems operate and evolve. We argue that if IS researchers our to fully understand these and related organizational systems they need more adequate spatial metaphors to understand the influence of technology supply and of the broader historical setting on the unfolding of ERP as well as approaches able to track both the trajectory of these artefacts over time. The framework developed is based on a review of relevant scholarship from Science & Technology Studies, Organization Studies, Cultural Psychology and IS research.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 39
Date posted: June 24, 2009