Exposing Best Practices Through Narrative: The ERP Example

Publication Type:

IFIP Paper


Information Systems Research, p.433 - 451 (2004)




The phrase best practice has entered into common parlance in contemporary business discourse, yet recent research has shown that the construction of industry standards and their inscription into software packages is not straightforward. Organizations increasingly find they are bound to accept project outcomes that have emerged as a consequence of negotiations between an installed base of consultancy or software vendor solutions and local context. We adopt a narrative approach to analyze the negotiation of a best practice design during the implementation of an ERP system. Having adopted the position that the IT artifact is part of an ensemble of networked agencies that shift over time, we then use an actor-network perspective to trace the different sources, agencies, and affects of inscription during the ERP project. Doing so highlights the politics involved in localizing an IT artifact and the issues raised when software vendors and sector specific partners collaborate with the intention of manufacturing a commercially viable ERP package intended to represent the embodiment of best practice. The paper contributes to IS research discourse by demonstrating the application of narrative analysis in longitudinal interpretive field studies.

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