What is IT?. SAP, accounting, and visibility in a multinational organisation

Paolo Quattrone, Trevor Hopper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent work on Information Systems tries to reconcile the apparent homogeneity of Information Technologies (IT) with the heterogeneity of their use by recognising that users can render IT systems flexible and malleable. This paper advances theorisation of this apparent paradox by reflecting on the nature of IT, i.e. its ontology. Observations of an ERP (SAP) implementation in a large USA multi-national cast within Actor-Network Theory and Science and Technology Studies approaches help illustrate how an object like IT can possess diversity and heterogeneity whilst being a homogeneous and operative technology. The paper argues that IT appears homogeneous for it attracts and generates heterogeneous uses. This paradox is labelled 'heteromogeneous'. An IT system is theorised as an absence which establishes a presence by mobilising and attracting other actors and technologies, in this instance accounting, seeking visibility in organisations. IT emerges from multiple and continuous translations involving customisations of SAP. Thus the definition of IT is neither stable nor singular across time and space, which enables IT and SAP to travel across organisations. © 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)212-250
Number of pages38
JournalInformation and Organization
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2006


  • Accounting
  • Actor-network theory
  • Enterprise resource planning system (ERP)
  • IT
  • Multinational organisation
  • Objects
  • SAP
  • Science and technology studies
  • Space
  • Time
  • Visibility


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