A shock to the system : the structural implications of enterprise system technology
Murphy, Glen Desson (2006) A shock to the system : the structural implications of enterprise system technology. .
The last two decades have seen an increasing sophistication in the type of information systems employed by organizations. In particular we have seen the emergence of enterprise systems technology - advanced information technology specifically designed
to integrate the vast majority of an organization's processes and data flows. As the
characteristics of ES technology have encroached beyond individual user domains
and have become integrated throughout organizations, user acceptance issues have
also broadened beyond the individual unit of analysis. At the same time numerous
examples can be found both in the trade press and academic literature of organizations
wishing to use enterprise systems as a primary driver of widespread organizational
change and restructuring.
A fundamental premise of this study is that while it may be intuitively appealing to
consider technology as a primary catalyst for organizational change, it neglects to
acknowledge the presence of what is referred to as the "eduality of structure"e (Giddens,
1993). Duality of structure proponents contend that while IT system protocols may
to a certain extent determine individual action, human agency can also determine the
extent to which the technology is incorporated into everyday operations. The failure
of past research to acknowledge the role of individual action and the influence of social
context in determining IT usage is considered to be a significant oversight (DeSanctis
& Poole, 1994).
Underpinned by the theory of structuration and its notion of duality, a theory of user
acceptance is put forward capable of clarifying the process by which users evaluate
and react to enterprise systems technology. The thesis reports on an empirical
investigation into the relationship between three representations of structure within an
organization: the characteristics of ES technology; job design; and social networks.
The capacity of ES technology to alter the structural elements of both job design and
social networks, and hence form user's attitudes and behavior towards the system,
is the fundamental theoretical premise of the thesis. As such this represents a clear
step forward in understanding the implications of ES technology for both users and
Using a longitudinal embedded single case design, this study examines the user
acceptance and structural implications of introducing an ES into a large public sector
educational institution. A social network and job design perspective was adopted to
offer fresh insight into the dynamics of employee reaction to the introduction of ES
technology. Five hypotheses support the job design component of the thesis. It was argued that given the inherent design elements of ES technology, along with the specific
intent of the system's introduction, that users would both anticipate and perceive a
decrease in job characteristics following an ES implementation. Further, that the
positive relationship between job change and user acceptance would be moderated
by the amount of system usage reported by users. Users with a greater exposure to
the system were hypothesized to have a far stronger relationship between job change
and acceptance than low users. The ramifications of perceived or actual changes to
embedded resource exchange networks and subsequent employee reactions to those
changes were also considered. Essentially social networks were argued to play a
dual role in the user acceptance process, one being a conduit for the facilitation and
transfer of user attitudes towards new systems, the other acting as a catalyst for attitude
formation towards new systems.
Overall the findings only partially supported four of the eight hypotheses put forward.
While users were seen to anticipate an "eacross the board"e decrease in job characteristics
at Time 1 following the introduction of an ES, perceived changes in job characteristics
at Time 2 were dependant on user hierarchy and the extent of system usage. Those
high in formal authority reported an increase in job enrichment following the system's
introduction, while those low in formal authority reported a decrease in overall job
enrichment. Usage was also seen to moderate the relationship between job change
and user acceptance. At Time 1 low users reported a positive relationship between
anticipated changes in meaningfulness and user acceptance. Conversely at Time 1 high
users reported a negative relationship between anticipated skill variety levels at Time 2
and user acceptance. Only one job characteristic reported a relationship between usage
and user acceptance. Low users reported a positive relationship between changes in
task identity and user acceptance. A post-hoc profile of the usage categories indicated
that high users were more likely to be a lower hierarchical position than low users.
The positive relationship reported by low users at Time 1 and Time 2 was explained by
both the nature of the system, as well as the type and quantity of information received
by low users. As senior members of the organization they were considered more likely
to receive information that highlighted its attributes in the context of their job roles. The
inherent design of ES technology, along with the specific intent it was being introduced,
facilitated largely management orientated objectives. Therefore it is unsurprising
that low users anticipating an increase in experienced meaningfulness following the
introduction of a system that enhanced their job role reported corresponding acceptance
levels. In contrast, the negative relationship between anticipated levels of skill variety
at Time 2 and perceived ease of use was explained by the affinity that high users were likely to have with the old system. To high users with a high degree of proficiency
associated with a redundant skill set, increased skill variety only represented a steeper
learning curve and an increased pressure to adapt to the new system.
The network component of the study also produced mixed results. Of the two networks
that were measured over time, only one supported the hypothesized increase in both
advice and resource exchange networks over time. Post-hoc analyses indicated that
two of the four groups exhibited network change consistent with the hypothesized
relationship. Anecdotal reports suggested that contextual elements such as geographical
location and managerial policy at a localized level determined the nature of the change
for the remaining two groups. The results failed to support the relationship between
network change and user acceptance. However, a weak but significant negative
relationship between the measure of network efficiency and user acceptance was
found. In simple terms users developing an increasingly redundant set of contacts
reported higher levels of user acceptance.
In sum, the thesis represents a contribution to enterprise systems, user acceptance
and social network literatures. In the first instance the research validates the call by
Orlikowski & Iacono (2001) to readily acknowledge the specific nature of the technology
under investigation. Despite the growth and saturation of enterprise system types,
comparatively little research has been undertaken to examine the user and organizational
issues surrounding their implementation. This research has demonstrated the capacity
for the inherent design elements of ES technology to have differential effects in terms
of job design for different user classifications. This and other findings represent a
step forward in understanding the structural and user acceptance implications of this
technology, while sign-pointing a number of promising future research avenues.
The job design results, and to a lesser extent the network efficiency results, demonstrate
the effect of social context on user acceptance. As such they provide further insight
regarding the potential determinants of user acceptance beyond the individual unit of
analysis. The findings also indicate an increasing need for user acceptance research to
stretch beyond the transitory, short term measures of user acceptance such as perceived
ease of use, usefulness, training and computer efficacy.
Finally the thesis contributes to a small, but growing literature examining the role of
social networks in the process of organizational change. In particular this thesis has
considered in detail, the attitudinal and behavioral consequences of artificially altering
established patterns of interaction. As such the study highlights the need to better
understand the role of networks not only in the case of facilitating change, but the
effect of network change in terms of change intervention success.
Impact and interest:
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|Item Type:||QUT Thesis (PhD)|
|Supervisor:||Chang, Artemis& Unsworth, Kerrie|
|Keywords:||enterprise systems, job design, job characteristics model, social network analysis, organisational change, user acceptance|
|Divisions:||Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > QUT Business School|
Current > Schools > School of Management
|Department:||Faculty of Business|
|Institution:||Queensland University of Technology|
|Copyright Owner:||Copyright Glen Desson Murphy|
|Deposited On:||03 Dec 2008 14:02|
|Last Modified:||22 Feb 2013 12:59|
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