An Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system is a packaged standard software, which integrates various business functions, like purchasing, production, sales, financials; along the value chain, and across geographic boundaries. All the data is stored in a common database, and allows holistic reporting in real time. ERP software was originally designed for large companies, although the major ERP software providers (SAP, Oracle etc.) spend considerably more effort in also making similar products available for SME. Nevertheless, an ERP implementation is always a risky, costly endeavor for companies of any size. Thus, ERP research warrants to mitigate those risks.
Although considerable effort was spent during the last two decades to investigate critical success factors in order to increase the likelihood of a successful implementation, the research efforts mostly investigated solely isolated projects. As interderdependecies between related projects and the project environments increase steadily a more holistic view is necessary. Project management associations, such as the PMI (Project Management Institute) and the Cabinet Office (previously OGC, Office of Government Commerce, PRINCE 2) increasingly pay attention to this phenomenon and published standard works as the “The Standard for Program Management” or “Managing Successful Programmes”. However, the use of programs during ERP implementations is insufficiently considered in this kind of literature, and ERP research is also still in its infancy. Consequently, we aim to shed light on this contemporary phenomenon, and investigate the critical success factors within ERP programs.
The Dynamics of Critical Success Factors of Enterprise Resource Planning Programs
Research on Critical Success Factors (CSFs) for Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) implementations has been carried out since the late 1990s, identifying various CSFs, empirically testing them and summarizing them in taxonomies. Little attention has been paid so far to ERP programs, which are employed frequently in practice. In this context, a program is an additional entity which supervises and monitors the single projects within an ERP implementation, and during all phases of the ERP life cycle. It is important to note that research barely considers the notion of programs explicitly and often abstracts from challenges stemming from interdependent, related projects and the dynamics over the implementation life cycle.
This research approaches this gap from the perspective of phases by investigating the CSFs of two large ERP programs in-depth over the course of their life cycles. We employ a variant of the "Straussian" grounded theory approach for our interpretive case studies. The structures and the contexts of the two programs were significantly different. Consequently, as we deem the contextual information particularly important, we (1) perform two independent analyses of the programs. In this step we present two models which give us further insights into the dynamics of CSFs in ERP programs. The first model (a) attributes different perceptions of salient groups in relation to a CSF as determinants for IS-success. The second model (b) presents the program construct as a means of organizational learning to impact CSFs over the life cycle of an ERP program. In a second analysis step (2), we continue with a comparative cross-case analysis and discuss differences and commonalities. Furthermore, a common set of CSFs and the benefits of ERP programs are presented.
The results show us that CSFs can change over the program life cycle and a more dynamic view is warranted. Furthermore, we illustrate programs as powerful tools that increase the likelihood of successful implementation efforts. We present two models highlighting the roles of perceptions (a) and organizational learning (b) and how they can shape their underlying CSFs. These parsimonious, easily applicable models provide the basis for empirical research in this area, and can be used by practitioners
as a point of reference, increasing the likelihood of a successful implementation. Lastly, we demonstrate that an ERP program as an additional entity is most beneficial in contexts with a high degree of integration, dependencies and interrelations between the projects, where the resources need to be allocated and prioritized efficiently.
Keywords: Program, Program Management, Enterprise Resource Planning, ERP, ERP Implementation, Enterprise Systems, ES, Critical Success Factors, CSFs, ERP Governance, Benefits
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