Enterprise Resource Planning Software as an Organizing Theme for MBA Curricula

By Rivetti, Daniel A.; Schneider, Gary P. et al. | Academy of Information and Management Sciences Journal, January 1999 | Go to article overview

Enterprise Resource Planning Software as an Organizing Theme for MBA Curricula


Rivetti, Daniel A., Schneider, Gary P., Bruton, Carol M., Academy of Information and Management Sciences Journal


INTRODUCTION

Business education has been largely function-centric since it emerged from its origins in Schools of Economics. The science of wealth became a practical apprenticeship in general business commerce. Curricula were based on a core of fundamentals; studies in such areas as Accounting, Economics, Finance, Information Systems, Management, Marketing, and Operations Research. Beyond the fundamentals core, graduate business programs offered breadth courses and electives in such areas as New Product Development, Entrepreneurship, Business and Society, International Business, Real Estate, and Banking. Most programs offered an end-of-program capstone course in business or management strategy. Economists' theory of the firm often became lost amidst disconnected and unrelated course offerings. Meanwhile, the radical downsizing of corporate America and innovations such as business process reengineering led function-centric business organizations into the post industrial information age. Porter's (1985) Value Chain principles have been widely discussed in the business research literature and have been applied in many businesses.

Originally, computers were used to automate existing business systems. Breakthroughs in client-server architectures have led to the creation of enterprise-wide solutions in commerce and industry that have approached being, for the first time, a unifying business technology. A German software firm, SAP AG, is the leading enterprise resource planning software (ERP) firm today (Curran, et al., 1998). Founded in 1972, SAP has defined over 800 business practices and modeled them using graphical representations of events and tasks (Blain, 1997). Many leading firms have adopted SAP or other ERP software implementations. This paper recommends that business schools grappling with curricular revision issues consider using the ERP structure of these software packages.

For many firms, these software packages have allowed firms to do many things that were impossible with earlier, non-integrated software (Atre & Storer, 1995; Borthick, 1992, 1993; Elliot, 1996). Online analytical processing (OLAP) software (Callaway, 1995; Fairhead, 1995; Ricciute, 1994) has enabled managers to compile and analyze their planned and actual results in a variety of ways. Hammer (1999), notes that ERP software is an integrating tool. As such, it combines with OLAP and data mining technologies to give managers integrated enterprises.

In the next section of this paper, we will present a brief history of MBA curriculum revision in U.S. business schools. The two following sections will provide a description of ERP software and present arguments for using ERP software as an organizing theme for MBA curriculum revision today.

THE CALL FOR MBA CURRICULUM REVISION

In 1908, Harvard offered the first MBA program. Growth in MBA programs was slow until the GI-Bill induced an increase in students in the years following World War II. As the practice of business administration became more regimented and "scientific" by use of mathematical models, return on investment formulae, and engineering-like behavioral control of human resources in the first half of the twentieth century, business schools gradually adapted to the trend. In some cases, business schools even led the trend.

The launch of the Soviet Union's Sputnik satellite spurred a resurgence of interest in mathematics and science education throughout the U.S. in the late 1950s. This trend pressured business schools to become more quantitative in their courses and to follow the sciences' publishing model for empirical research (Gordon & Howell, 1959). A Carnegie report on higher education in business (Pierson, 1959) that was highly critical of the business educational practices of that time increased the pressure substantially. These changes dominated the curricular designs of business schools for almost thirty years. …

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