Journal of Management Information Systems

Volume 19 Number 1 2002 pp. 17-46

Learning to Implement Enterprise Systems: An Exploratory Study of the Dialectics of Change

Robey, Daniel, Ross, Jeanne W, and Boudreau, Marie-Claude

ABSTRACT: This paper reports on a comparative case study of 13 industrial firms that implemented an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. It compares firms based on their dialectic learning process. All firms had to overcome knowledge barriers of two types: those associated with the configuration of the ERP package, and those associated with the assimilation of new work processes. We found that both strong core teams and carefully managed consulting relationships addressed configuration knowledge barriers. User training that included both technical and business processes, along with a phased implementation approach, helped firms to overcome assimilation knowledge barriers. However, all firms in this study experienced ongoing concerns with assimilation knowledge barriers, and we observed two different approaches to address them. In a piecemeal approach, firms concentrated on the technology first and deferred consideration of process changes. In a concerted approach, both the technology and process changes were undertaken together. Although most respondents clearly stated a preference for either piecemeal or concerted change, all firms engaged in practices that reflected a combination of these approaches.

Key words and phrases: dialectics of change, Enterprise Resource Planning, information technology implementation, organizational learning, process theory