Module 4 SLP, we return our focus from the specifics of information technologies and the formulation of ideal strategies to the wider world of real corporate behavior. Our emphasis now shifts to the actual implementation of information technologies and the sociotechnical dynamics that implementation not infrequently founders upon. No technical solution—however brilliantly designed or competently backstopped or elegantly integrated with other corporate plans—is any better than its implementation at the lowest levels of the system to which it is addressed. All too frequently, plans and solutions are developed in a vacuum apart from the context within which they are to be deployed and used. It is hard to overestimate the quantity of corporate resources that have been squandered on poor IT implementations over the years—to say that it would exceed the GNP of many third world countries would probably not be an exaggeration. Implementation is by no means an all-or-nothing proposition; even though the full measure of system changes may not be as successful as desired, there can often be positive local results, particularly if the implementation process is oriented toward learning as well as doing, or even more so, doing unto others. The one sure way to implementation failure is to assume that all knowledge resides in IT management—or even in management generally. Success is inevitably based on user involvement in varying degrees, generally more rather than less.
All modules in the course draw on everything that you have learned in the program; however, this module most specifically draws on your courses in computer-human interaction, systems development, and project management as well as on your general introductory courses. Implementation is a drawn-out process requiring effective collaboration among many different kinds of specialists and generalists, extended over time and across space, and requiring explicit attention to both the social and technical systems of the organizational units affected. Above all, implementation must be sensitive to feedback, resilient enough to deal with changing circumstances, personnel, and goals, and focused much more on the users than on the technologists. Effective implementation always embraces the fundamental sociotechnical criterion of “incompletion”—that is, the idea that no change process is ever “finished” as such, but that change is an ever-flowing river in which one set of adjustments is merely the prelude to another set. Sociotechnical life in organizations is a soap opera, not a novel. There is never a “happily ever after,” just an ever-evolving and constantly reconfiguring cast of players and problems. Sometimes things get better; sometimes they get worse—but they will always be different.
Videos of Interest… Something to Think About…
Andrew McAfee discusses an array of revolutionary technologies that are replacing routine jobs with machines that can speak, understand, translate, and hear. McAfee believes that this kind of innovation will lead to creating new jobs that involve more than enhancing creativity. He refers to this cycle of innovation as “The New Machine Age.” Think in terms how technology-driven changes could impact the ERP implementation for Aux Bons Soins’ case study below.
TED Ideas Worth Spreading. (2012, September). Andrew McAfee: Are droids taking our jobs? Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/andrew_mcafee_are_droids_taking_our_jobs.html
For the last assignment, we will be introducing a new case, the real-world story of an ERP implementation for Aux Bons Soins. This case details the rather frustrating experiences that the company encountered in trying to implement an integrated management system after an acquisition and merger, and the range of circumstances that affected the process. Not every implementation is this sticky, but in varying ways most partake of greater or lesser parts of this experience. Please note that there is nothing particularly pathological about the experience described here, despite the frustrations experienced. There are no great villains, but neither are there any great heroes; implementation seldom turns up either. This may seem a rather inconclusive note on which to conclude both this course and your IT management program, but it is how things are. For better or worse, this is what real IT management is all about—the good, the bad, the ugly, and above all the reasonably acceptable. Over the next decades, the profession is likely to evolve far beyond any ways that can be reasonably forecast today; after all, 20 years ago there was not any such thing as the Internet, and today’s information environment was ranked science fiction. You are entering the profession at a most exciting and dynamic time; always remember how much you do not know, but also remember that you do know how to learn.
Please read the following parts of the case:
Bernier, C., Roy, V., & Brunelle, E. (2006) An ERP Story: Background (A). International Journal of Case Studies in Management. 4(1):March.
Bernier, C., Roy, V., & Brunelle, E. (2006) An ERP Story: Troubles Ahead (C). International Journal of Case Studies in Management. 4(1):March.
Bernier, C., Roy, V., & Brunelle, E. (2006) An ERP Story: Epilogue (D). International Journal of Case Studies in Management. 4(1):March.
Use information from the course background readings as well as any good quality resource you can find. Please cite all sources and provide a reference list (use APA format) at the end of your paper.
Your answer to the following will be assessed:
- What were the main causes of the difficulties with the project at Aux Bons Soins?
- What were the key elements that led to the success of the project at Aux Bons Soins?