Repairing routines in enterprise system transformations : a sociomaterial perspective

Kahrau, Felix

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URN: urn:nbn:de:bsz:180-madoc-388140
Document Type: Doctoral dissertation
Year of publication: 2015
Place of publication: Mannheim
University: Universität Mannheim
Evaluator: Mädche, Alexander
Date of oral examination: 27 April 2015
Publication language: English
Institution: Business School > Wirtschaftsinformatik IV (Mädche 2009-2015)
Subject: 650 Management
Subject headings (SWD): Organisationswandel , Integriertes Informationssystem
Keywords (English): Organizational Routines , Sociomateriality , Enterprise Systems , ES Transformations , Organizational Change
Abstract: Today, large implementation projects introducing Enterprise System (ES) technology in organizations are a very common phenomenon, typically driven by the idea that a myriad of benefits can be realized. Yet, after implementation, organizations often face challenging problems due to misalignments between “best practices” embedded in ES technology and existing work practices. For the individual user implementation of new technology thus implies considerable effort in terms of cognitively accomplishing appropriation. This complex process of appropriation was found to result in very strong links between technology and individuals that is described as a sociomaterial entanglement by some scholars. In addition, ES technology implementations do often not ‘simply’ introduce a new technology into an organization, but will likely replace a similarly complex, integrated legacy system. Given the strong link between individuals and technology, established while appropriating the legacy system, replacing old technology will imply the breaking of old associations as much as the building of new ones. Consequently, the point of departure is as much characterized by an achieved sociomaterial entanglement with the old technology as it is by the need to integrate new technology into work practices. It has long been argued that organizational routines are key to understanding changes of work practices in organizations as well as the associated process of organizational learning. While the question how organizational routines emerge and evolve over time is extensively studied, little is known about what happens when routines are disrupted. In addition, the substitution of a legacy system raises the question, how exiting entanglements influence changes in routines triggered by ES technology implementation. Addressing this gap in the literature, this thesis aims to understand how sociomaterial routines are repaired after the implementation of ES technology. To answer this question, a longitudinal interpretive case study of an ES technology implementation project in the retail banking division of a large German bank was conducted. The custom-built legacy system to be replaced by new ES technology due to technical and regulatory requirements had been in place for over thirty years before. Within the retail banking division the study focuses on the credit service unit, which offers back-office services to the bank’s customers and advisors. The case material consists of 57 semi-structured interviews and observation of 38 participants, collected at three different stages during the project (before go-live, immediately after go-live, and 6 month later). Using narrative networks as an analytical device helped capturing the complexity of routine changes related to ES technology implementation and provided the conceptual link between organizational routines and sociomaterial entanglements. Based on a comparison of relevant routines at different points in time during (post-) implementation, five categories of practices individuals (in different positions/at different organizational levels) employed to repair routine performances were identified. Two of the practices aimed directly at adapting routines. But, individuals also developed additional support practices (i.e., work practices, which are performed in addition to, but share common fragments with, the supported routine). Two more repair practices targeted the sociomaterial background based on which routines are established, that is they changed the basis on which those actants are delineated, which are subsequently forming routine fragments. Thus, in line with other studies of post-implementation behavior, the findings show that repairing routines is a collaborative achievement of many, if not all, individuals directly and indirectly affected by the technological change. Yet, the repair practices employed at different levels do not operate independently, but are highly interrelated. Like researchers studying other phenomena using a sociomaterial lens, both physical (e.g., use of printouts) as well as digital (e.g., functionality of new ES technology) materiality were found to be important constituents of problems and repair practice. Furthermore, time was similarly important for repairing routines as both the timing of routine executions as well as the unfolding of repair practices over time had major effects on the final success of recreating routines. The findings also highlight that repair practices are different with respect to their persistence. While those practices employed to handle the situation of change were more likely to disappear again (yet did not necessarily do so), those required for adapting routines and accommodating the new system most likely persist. In conclusion, repairing routines after ES technology implementation does not only involve replacing one routine fragment (related to the old technology) with a new fragment (based on new technology) and appropriately reincorporating this new fragment into an otherwise stable routine. To the contrary, repairing routines implicates far more profound changes to routines, which have to be negotiated both with the social and material environment, and further requires adjusting the sociomaterial background based on which routines are established. In addition, repair practices evolve over time and differ with respect to their persistence. Thus, repairing a routine has a social, material, and temporal dimension, which jointly have to be considered. This doctoral thesis contributes to theory by providing a conceptual account of ES Transformation, which offers an explanation of how a working ES is reestablished by repairing routines after the implementation of ES technology. These findings are also valuable for practitioners as they allow them to better understand and consequently better plan and manage ES Transformations.

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