Thursday, March 08, 2007

Culture issues - lessons Day 3 + 4


as yesterday my day was unfortunately way to busy, I also will have to summarize the "lessons learned" part in one post for two days.

In both days we discussed the impact of culture on the implementatinon of ERP systems. Even if I am aware, that quoting wikipedia might be scientifically doubtatif, I'd really like to use a sentence I found there to define the term culture I'll use:
[...]The term culture denotes whole product of an individual, group or society of intelligent beings. It includes, technology, art, science, as well as moral systems and characteristic behaviours and habits of the selected intelligent entities.
Whereas on day 3 we focussed on national cultures and their impact on possible implementation projects of ERP, day 4 was more about organizational culture.

Regional culutres can have a deep impact on the implementation of ERP systems. As the implementation of an ERP is not only simply "buying a new software system" but more or less changing the way business has to be done, the attitudes of the people involved play an important role, one of them being the willingness to change. Different cultures have different ways to cope with that. Geert Hofstede (Bio), a Dutch scientific that did a lot of research about both types of culture, has some publishes some interesting values and their definitions one one of his websites. Taking this kind of information is crucial to develop an implementation strategy. Taking some articles to account, we learned, that ERPs tended to fail in chinese State Owned Enterprises (SOE) because of some social aspects; as a loss of authority would be involved in case the senior executives of those enterprises would actually spend a lot of time on insalling a "software system", they tend to declare it a usual IT project, which is - as research shows - not a very successful strategy.

We also discussed different ways to build a team as well for planning, implementing and training users for a new system. Not wanting to repeat my fellow's posts I summarize that involvement from all parts of the organizational structure is important; involvment from descision makers as well as from lowest-level end-users. An ERP might radically change the way people think: Employees have to get rid of thinking strictly functionally for the sake of understanding procedural aspects of their work to enable the system to streamline production (or service) proceses.

Even inside a corporate culture there are - of course - different characters of persons. The implementation and the coaching/teaching/training team have to be well-selected, so that they are able to understand, accept, influence and teach the new procedures the system imposes. This is especially critical as we have talked about that number one reason of IT project failure is not out of technical issues, but accesptance and usage of the concernd company members.

Today's lesson was more focussed on the corporate culture. Stuying a Harvard businnes case about Harley-Davidson's choise of an ERP system, we addressed the issues that can emergie if there is an incompatibility between ERP provieder, client enterprise and extended the discussion to consulting firms. I personally figured that "soft factors" like corporate culture may be as important as "hard facts" like the functionalities of the provided software system. Finally in the Harley case there were huge problems because of a cultural misfit.

The last part consited of building groups of diverse nationalities and cultures. Whereas we were initially supposed to finish on the same day, describing and debating out cultures (in my personal case China, Germany, France and Poland) took way to long; I think everyone of us had partially to confirm but also to moderate clichés about our nations, whereas we all were aware that we could only give kind of a subjective point of view.

So... tomorrow's exam is getting closer! I am pretty courious what task we are going to discuss, but after restructuring the knowledge we gained in the mindmap I feel more or less prepared for this challenge.

Everyone: Good luck for tomorrow.


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