A systemic evaluation of the implementation implications of an integrated, standard information system : the SAP implementation project as a viable system

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

Real-time, on-line, integrated software systems are a part of the latest technologies for large concerns as enablers for viability in an ever increasing competitive business environment. The SAP (R/3 and R/2) standard software is widely considered as one of the leading solutions and implementation projects have taken the world by storm. The software, which runs on client server systems since 1992, is expensive and takes time to install. Complete systems can run into the tens of millions of dollars and take from one to over three years to implement. The application of the software spans most of the processes of a business, logistics, finance, workflow and human resources as a real time, on-line and integrated information system enabler. Much of the data capture and some of the control aspects of the business are automated. With this sophistication comes a new level of complexity. An initial argument of the thesis is that the success of an investigation into the problems associated with SAP implementations will be dependent on the thorough development of the inquiry system as a framework for appreciating the implications of such projects. Question Which management research approach will provide useful knowledge of the situation, with challenges including variety of human interpretations and interests, the complexity of organisational regulation and the technical options of the software? A framework was developed by considering three levels for paradigms; philosophy, methodology and the application of the methodology. As a choice for the philosophical level, phenomenology was chosen with its regard for the importance of the mental models of an observer. Pragmatism, with its basis for attributing meaning on the consequences of holding a belief or assumption, is enabled by a bias towards systems thinking as an adequate way of determining an appropriate level of knowledge of possible consequences of a decision. The scientific method is the underlying guide for the inquiry process with its abductive, deductive and inductive stages. The base strength of the method, as presented by Peirce (Smith, 1995), was experienced as the rigorous attention to the development and testing of an hypothesis. Due to the variety and importance of human mterpretation regarding purposes and methods of information system implementations, the approach by Soft Systems Methodology was adopted as an enabler for an immersion into the problems of a project. As such it was the basis for the abductive stage of the inquiry. The result of this immersion determined the requirements for the choice of further methodologies. The application of the SSM inquiry is guided by seven stages of sets of questions, as the 'technical' aspect of the inquiry framework.

Bibliography: leaves 107-108.