Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Do the Ends Justify the Means for an ERP Implementation?

Yesterday I discussed some of the reasons why Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) has helped many organizations achieve some of their International Strategies. Today, I am looking at how a company’s culture can affect Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) initiatives within an organization. Using a previous model that consisted of cultural and linguistic concepts developed by Antonio Gramsci, (Willis and Chiasson 2007) provide some helpful insights into why negotiations and debates that occur across organizational sub-groups can make it difficult to achieve technical or cultural change based on democratic participation. Since ERP implementation provides an organization with the opportunity to enhance their business and management processes and/or strategies through technical change, Willis and Chiasson implemented a case study that examined the positive and negative effects of normative and spontaneous grammars. In other words, since ERP, implementation is affected by an organizations culture, then the organization’s culture must change first before any type of software implementation takes place, which was the objective of the research.

By analyzing the different ways that groups within a company interact with one another during a major software implementation effort, (Willis and Chiasson 2007) found three normative phrases present in an ERP implementation project (1) a new way to manage, (2) best practice, and (3) professionalism.

(1) A new way to manage- an opportunity that surfaces as a result of the restructuring of an organizations systems (i.e. software implementation)
(2) Best practices- the unification of management interests with local practices or in this case ERP system implementation and employee satisfaction
(3) Professionalism- to move up the corporate ladder while maintaining ones personal interests with that of the company or threatening the sub-cultures of the organization through the implementation of an ERP initiative

Using these three narrative phrases (Willis and Chiasson 2007) were able to determine managers that expect change and prepare for change, while using best practices and professionalism would be the ones “organizations” that develop key negotiation strategies, which unite software implementation “ERP” with that of the corporation. Because of this strategy, ongoing negotiations taking place between management and sub-groups would be minimized and ERP implementers “management” would recognize the need to prepare their company culture(s) better before making such a software purchase.

As I continue to review different scholarly articles that deal with ERP systems (Willis and Chiasson 2007) describe yet another viewpoint of how ERP system implementation can have both positive and negative effects on a corporation’s employee culture, which makes this another important piece in the puzzle that I have and will continue to examine over the next several weeks.

And, as usual, any comments, questions, or suggestions are always welcome and remember to Keep Smiling!

Willis, R. and M. Chiasson (2007). Do the ends justify the means? A Gramscian critique of the processes of consent during an ERP implementation. Information Technology & People 20(3): 212.

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