Academic journal article Journal of Information Systems Education

"One-Size-Does-Not-Fit-All": Teaching MBA Students Different ERP Implementation Strategies

Academic journal article Journal of Information Systems Education

"One-Size-Does-Not-Fit-All": Teaching MBA Students Different ERP Implementation Strategies

Article excerpt


The introduction of information technology(IT), especially enterprise systems such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, is a common way of implementing organizational change today(see Markus, 2004). Such enterprise system implementations frequently comes with new software systems and business processes that substantially alter workflow and jobs(Boudreau and Robey, 2005; Markus and Tanis, 2000; Soh and Sia, 2005). While the annual investment of several billion dollars in ERP systems is staggering, estimates indicate that more than half of all implemented systems fail(Soh and Sia, 2004, 2005) and such failures have been observed even in highly successful organizations, such as Hershey and Nike(Koch, 2002, 2004). Organizations that successfully implement ERP systems, including new software and business processes, have reported enormous benefits, such as greater efficiency and effectiveness at the individual employee and organizational levels. One of the primary causes of failure is the inability of managers to effectively manage the change process(Cohen, 2005; Markus, 2004). Managers frequently fail to consider the organizational environment and culture relying, instead, on success stories of organizations like Cisco that used a big-bang strategy, an implementation strategy in which all modules of an ERP system are implemented simultaneously and in a short period time, to manage their own change. The result can be catastrophic for firms, with consequences up to and including going out of business as a result of a failed ERP implementation(e.g., Rich-Con Steel).

Given this backdrop, it is important to teach diverse aspects of ERP implementations to make today's information systems and business management curricula relevant to organizational practice(see Antonucci et al., 2004; Johnson et al., 2004; Strong, Johnson, and Mistry, 2004). Yet, the effective integration of ERP related knowledge into curricula continues to be a challenge(Hawking, McCarthy, and Stein, 2004; Fedorowicz et al., 2004), with some suggesting that relevant knowledge should be imparted in a wide range of classes(Grenci and Hull, 2004). Of the many areas related to ERP systems, the ability of students to understand that different strategies of ERP implementation may be necessary in different scenarios is an important one, especially for those who may go on to manage such implementations.

A "one-size-does-not-fit-all" argument when it comes to ERP implementation strategies is frequently made in the popular press(see Jacobs and Whybark, 2000). Yet, mistakes and failures continue at an alarming rate. Sorely needed is a teaching approach that can open the eyes of managers, present and future, to the different strategies to ERP success, and when a particular strategy is appropriate. I discuss my teaching approach wherein I combine and discuss three cases in 2 1/4 hours of class time. The cases are from Cisco,

Tektronix, and Harley-Davidson, companies that faced the need to implement ERP systems but went about it in very different ways. The use of cases for ERP education is particularly important(see Seethamraju, 2007). Each student is assigned to read only one of the three cases, lessening the total workload, but the students understand the differences in approaches and successes of ERP implementations related to all three cases.

2. OVERVIEW OF THE THREE CASES The three ERP cases that I assign are: Cisco, Tektronix, and Harley-Davidson, with the following Harvard Business School case numbers: 9-301-099, 9-699-043, and 9-600-006.

While Cisco used a big-bang approach to the implementation, Tektronix primarily used a waves(or phased) strategy, in which modules of an ERP system were implemented one after another, whereas Harley-Davidson was highly circumspect and cautious and the case discusses only their selection strategy that took over 2 years just to narrow down the potential set of vendors. …

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