Symbolic Transformation for ERP appropriation



Despite research showing the transformational nature of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), developers and implementers tend to impose “best way":  a standard ERP based on best practices, top-down approach, and implementation in a “vanilla". These practices convey different myths: the "myth of the standard", the "leadership of the information technology staff", or the resistance to be eradicated. Users may interpret these practices as a "symbol", a means of imposing new ways of working removed from their local practices, which provoke resistance and conflicts that generally lead to low appropriation of the ERP, or even to failure. Hirschheim and Newman’s research on the symbolic of information systems (IS) is little mobilized in ERP literature and more generally IS, while their concept of “enabling symbolic” opens perspectives to support ERP appropriation. The action research conducted for two years by one of the researchers, an ERP project manager in charge of the ERP deployment within a European group of small subsidiaries, constitutes an opportunity to try to fill this void or theoretical gap. The results help to deepen the various re/shaping symbolic devices necessary to evolve towards an enabling symbolic and support ERP appropriation. The research also highlights conditions unidentified in the literature for symbolic transformation, such as structured autonomy, and the role of the project manager as a boundary actor.


Information systems; ERP; Symbolic; Appropriation; Re/shaping symbolic devices

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