ERP Systems and the University as an 'Unique' Organisation
Cornford, J. (external)
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Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems are widely used by large corporations around the world. Recently universities have turned to ERP as a means of replacing existing management and administration computer systems. In this article we provide analysis of the rollout of an ERP system in one particular institution in the UK, the particular focus being on how the development, implementation and use of both generic and university specific functionality is mediated and shaped by a fundamental and long standing tension within universities: this is the extent to which higher education institutions are organisations much like any other and the extent to which they are ‘unique’. The aim of this article is not to attempt to settle this issue of similarity/difference in one way or another. Rather, it seeks to illustrate the value of taking discussions of similarity relationships surrounding the university and other organisations as the topic of analysis. One way of working with these kinds of issues without resolving them is to consider their ‘distribution’ and where ERP shifts the responsibility for their final resolution. This is a novel and insightful way of understanding how ERP systems are refashioning the identity of universities. We suggest, moreover, that ERP software is ‘accompanied’ by such tensions in which ever site it is implemented. The research presented here is based on a participant observation study carried over the period of three years.