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Business Information Systems

Achieving Alignment in Enterprise Systems Implementations - A Critical Realist Perspective

Corina Raduescu,

17th Nov 2010  10:00 am - Room 214/215, H69 - Economics and Business Building

Because Enterprise Systems (ES) are being implemented in organisations of all types and sizes, understanding how to align the organisational requirements with the ES package capabilities is important and essential knowledge for achieving successful ES implementations. Despite extensive ES implementation experience, organisations still experience considerable problems in the alignment process, problems that contribute to failure to achieve expected business benefits.

This study seeks to explain how alignment between organisational requirements and ES capabilities takes place in ES implementations. The research goal is addressed via a longitudinal case study of the ES implementation being conducted in a public organisation in an expanding region of the country. The research uses a critical realist (CR) lens and employs grounded theory GT to document and explore the organisation-technology relationship.

This study investigates the process of alignment by conceptualising ES projects as Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS) because they involve large and diverse groups of stakeholders and structures within organisations. The findings suggest that alignment is facilitated when stakeholders reach a shared mental model that supports the overall decision making process during ES implementation. This study therefore expands the theory of mental model convergence by integrating the role of boundary objects and spanners when stakeholders engage in complex knowledge related tasks during ES implementation.

This study operationalises the claims of several researchers that CR offers an appropriate alternative lens for investigating the organisation-technology relationship by facilitating the explicit study of the role of technology. It further suggests that complexity theory and GT are appropriate meta-theory and methodology for conducting empirical CR studies. The findings also offers a more detailed view of the alignment process and consequently situate client organisations in a better position to achieve expected business benefits and reduce the incidence of problematic ES implementations.

Bio: Corina's research focuses on investigating the organisation-technology relationship through the lens of critical realism and complexity theory. Corina is currently completing her PhD and her thesis explores the process by which organisations implementing large scale enterprise systems align their business requirements to the capabilities of such systems.
Corina brings together a novel approach to conducting research in business information systems by using complexity theory and critical realism as theoretical and philosophical foundations. This approach, she argues, offers a holistic explanatory account of the interaction between people and technology, and the ability to understand how people acquire and enhance their domain-specific knowledge through interactions with technological artefacts.

Her thesis findings suggest that organisations implementing systems engage in learning and adaptation processes with the main aim of reaching shared knowledge of both their business processes and systems capabilities, knowledge that is represented in both peoples' shared mental models and technological artefacts. She argues that her research is relevant because it offers another view on what organisations' focus should be during systems implementation, given that a high number of organisations still fail to achieve the expected business benefits from their systems investments.

Corina's approach to information systems research is well received by the academic community leading to two Doctoral Consortia invitations in recent years: ICIS 2007, Montreal, Canada and ACIS 2006, Adelaide, Australia. Recent conference presentations such as "Methodology in Critical Realist Research: The Mediating Role of Domain-Specific Theory" in Proceedings of the 15th Americas Conference on Information Systems, 2009 and "Aligning Organizational Requirements with Enterprise Systems Capabilities: The Role of Domain-specific Knowledge," in Proceedings of the 13th Americas Conference on Information Systems, 2007, also reflect the recognition of Corina's research relevance in the field. 

The relevance of her PhD study to industry is highlighted by the fact that her study was part of the ARC Linkage Project "Using Measures of Ontological Distance to Evaluate the Alignment between Organisational Needs and Enterprise Systems Capabilities."