Academic journal article International Journal of Business

ERP Diffusion and Mimetic Behaviors

Academic journal article International Journal of Business

ERP Diffusion and Mimetic Behaviors

Article excerpt

I. INTRODUCTION

The emergence of enterprise resource planning systems (ERP) has often been presented as one of the main factors of organizational change within companies in the course of the last few years (Robey, 2002). It presents companies with new opportunities and new challenges as ERP systems are configurable, modular and integrated computer applications whose aim is to optimize a firm's business process via a single referential and standardized business rules. Prior research has mainly addressed the conditions for successful ERP implementations. In our opinion, it has tended to ignore the fundamental issue of the conditions surrounding ERP adoption and diffusion. ERP systems are generally considered as major innovations. Taking innovation to be an idea, a practice or an object perceived as new by an individual or an organization (Rogers, 1995), its diffusion within large and midsize French companies consequently needs to be accounted for. In its simplest sense, diffusion can be defined as "the process whereby an innovation spreads itself' (Morvan, 1991). Some scholars differentiate between studies on the "adoption" of innovation and those on its "diffusion". Whereas adoption theories evaluate the characteristics that make an organization receptive to innovation, diffusion theories seek to comprehend why and how innovation is taken up and spreads (Kimberly, 1981). However, following Chatterjee's and Eliasshberg's analyses (1990), we surmise that, for a given population, diffusion implies the adoption of an innovation by the individuals affiliated to it. The most common definition of diffusion is that of Rogers (1995) who regards it as "a process whereby an innovation is going to be progressively communicated through certain channels to the members of a social system." As Mahajan (1990) points out, this definition emphasizes four critical elements: the innovation, channels of communication, a time element, and a social system. The innovation diffusion process cannot therefore be regarded as an isolated phenomenon operating at the level of one individual, but rather as a social event that involves a whole array of actors belonging to a specific community. While Rogers identifies the various influences in the diffusion process among members of the social system in question, he still follows a socio-rational approach as his main focus is on the objective characteristics of the innovation to account for its adoption. Most of the work on the adoption and diffusion of innovation revolves around the characteristics that would ease or slow down its adoption. Yet, it could be assumed, as Alter suggests (1996), that "the diffusion of an innovation does not represent any economic logic but more of a series of decisions made in a situation of high uncertainty. " In a context of uncertainty, imitation should be given a central role. The mimetic chains theory points to a path that ascribes a central role to informational imitation, as individuals seek to evaluate their opinion on the net benefits of innovation by comparing them with the positions taken by others.

The remainder of this paper is organized as follows. Section 1 will introduce the various diffusion analyses that depart from the traditional concept of a purely rational choice in an effort to integrate the influences occurring among members of the social system and the effects of imitation. In Section II, a statistical study based on a survey of large and midsize French companies will demonstrate that EPR adoption does not occur solely as the result of a rational calculation but is indeed the result of the influence of the social system on an agent, the latter being at times under the pull of mimetic behaviors.

II. THEORITICAL ANALYSIS OF THE DIFFUSION PROCESS: FROM RATIONAL TO MIMETIC ADOPTION

Synthetically taking up the theoretical frameworks of the neoclassical and socio-rational analyses as well as of those on mimetic chains and adoption, we make a number of hypotheses on ERP adoption and diffusion. …

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