Enterprise Systems Enabled Organisational Change; A Qualitative Critical Realist Approach on Organisational Routines Dynamics

  • Sohrab Moshiri

Student thesis: Phd


The pace of IT-driven change and innovation and its increasing contribution to business transformation has been a major source of attention and spending in many industries and according to Gartner (2016), total worldwide IT expenditure is estimated $3.5 Trillion in 2016 which is around 5 percent of the worldwide GDP. Enterprise System application is considered as one of the main business solution which companies adopt for process efficiency and the whole supply chain effectiveness. Enterprise Systems (ES) improve organisational dynamic capabilities and change the way organisations do business by transforming organisational routines. According to Volkoff et al (2007), various researches on ES organisational change has taken deterministic approaches (Institutional Theory) to explain such changes and it is suggested that greater value should be derived from studying the process of change rather than the idiosyncratic outcomes. Adopting variety of social constructivist approaches such as structuration theory (Giddens 1984), tend to focus on the action of agents, ignoring the technology, or in Actor Network Theory (ANT) (Latour 2005), technology is often treated as a concrete object, ignoring each technology's distinctive characteristics. In order to analyse how change, unfold in organisations considering ES applications, this research, developed a conceptual theoretical framework which maps ES application/technology and organisational routines dimensions on the stratified ontology of Critical Realism. In this regard, the theoretical consideration for this research is methodologically and philosophically driven. From epistemological dimension this research through a narrative research strategy on organisational change and stability (Vaara et al 2016; Saunders et al 2016) explores the relationship between various organisational routine dimensions through identifying generative mechanisms. Generative mechanisms are considered as important elements in Critical Realism philosophy and consequently in CR driven field studies. This research aligned the concept of Affordances (Gibson 1977, 1979) with generative mechanisms (Volkoff & Strong 2013) and explores the dynamic of organisational routines through the logic of retroduction (Sudabby 2006). The empirical data has been collected from ES vendors and particularly ES Designers, System Analysts, ES Architects and Business Developments, which design, architect and facilitate ES adoption by organisations. A relational approach (Stoffregen 2003; Sayer 2010; Leonardi 2011; Kane et al. 2011) towards ES Affordances and Organisational Routines has been considered and justified. The analysis and findings are centred to enhance understanding on the nature of ES from relational affordances and explore systemic view on change and stability which is considered as a postmodern approach towards change, through influence and interplay of ES in organisational routines dynamics. This research has attempted to contribute to three main domains of knowledge which are overlapped and intertwined (Bakerville & Wood-Harper 1998). The development of conceptual theoretical framework is the main theoretical contribution of this research. Methodologically this research has been done with a lens of CR and Narrative Inquiry (as a solid research strategy) and Retroduction as a logic and mode of inquiry and analysis in an epistemological sense. The combination of different components of methodology is unique in theorising ES enabled Change. From a practical contribution point of view, this research could potentially inform industry practitioners (both ES vendors and Organisations) on level of change and stability regarding the chosen ES [features] and can facilitate the decision-making process accordingly.
Date of Award1 Aug 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorDong Xu (Supervisor) & Wood-Harper (Supervisor)


  • Enterprise System Artefact, Organisational Routines, Relational Affordances, Sociomateriality
  • Organisational Change, Socio-Technical System Design

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