Business Information Systems
Stabilized Materiality: NASA's Enterprise System and the Loosely Coupled Equilibrium of Practice
Nicholas Berente, Terry College of Business, University of Georgia
28th Nov 2012 10:00 am - New Law Seminar Room 022
In this paper we present a study of NASA's enterprise system implementation and the subsequent four years of its adaptation. Through a grounded analysis of loosely coupled misalignments associated with this implementation over time, we document the complex relationship between the enterprise system and its objectives of integration and control at two levels: the level of local practices and the level of the organization overall. In contrast to many of the prevailing studies on enterprise systems that emphasize the idiosyncratic appropriation of such systems immediately after implementation, through our multi-year analysis we found material effects of a stabilized enterprise system at the organizational level. First, while certainly the system does not have deterministic effects at the level of practice, this particular form information system that spans an entire organization can have somewhat deterministic effects on the overall organization. We refer to this as the effects of the "stabilized materiality" of such a system that spans an entire organization. Second, although the system itself is tightly coupled and is intended to integrate and control certain processes in the organization, we find that it is through a "dynamic loosely coupled equilibrium" on the local level that that this stability is enabled. Based on these findings, we conclude that the stabilized materiality of a tightly coupled enterprise system can simultaneously enable legitimatization and tight integration on an organizational level, while allowing for locally situated actions subject to less-than-complete levels of integration and control.