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Practice vs Research vs Applied Research

by Jack Nestell 

erp applied research“Not only is each and every organization different, but each specific organizational context also changes all the time and is very dynamic. The people, culture, technology, processes, issues, challenges, and solutions depend upon context and vary with time. But, what does not really change is a theory based on general principle, this is one reason why research is so relevant, practical, powerful, useful, and valuable in the “real world”.”  

One of the goals of ERP organizational change practitioners should be to bridge the gap between practice and the application of all the great ERP organizational change research.

Research can be from any combination of collaboration from practitioners, academic researchers, or ERP vendors. First, and clearly, there is a lot to learn from in terms of one’s own, as well as other’s experiences, as long as that experience is reflected upon and in context. Second, a case study (informal or formal academic research-based) can help provide significant insight. Third, organizational learning and evaluation programs also provide significant insight and opportunity for reflection. Fourth, informal and formal surveys (quantitative and/or qualitative) and other evaluation methods provide insight as well (Note that some surveys may be grounded by research, theory, and principles and some…well, not so much so…but still may provide some value). Fifth is academically approached and scientific-based research that I will discuss more below. All of these methods and resources provide opportunities for organizations, and individual practitioners, for self-reflection and for contributing to our field: ERP organizational change success.

As mentioned in a previous post, ERP practitioners, ERP vendors, and ERP scholars (with private and University funding) don’t spend significant time, money, and effort on a problem that doesn’t exist. But, if any level of good research and evaluative learning is to bring real value to your organization then it first needs to be successfully applied across contexts (i.e. to your context). The idea and point here are simply that if as practitioners, we are going to successfully be able to apply sound academic research, then the study should be approached from a high objective standard that allows practitioners to 1) gain accurate insight in a way that allows practitioners to 2) consider the application of research results within other contexts. And trust me, there is lots of great research that meets these criteria. Even if research is based on a specific context, it can prove to be very valuable and applicable to other contexts. This holds true especially if research results are supported by fundamental theory and principle.

When I speak of “ERP organizational change”, I am primarily speaking of both the field of ERP research as well as the field of organizational culture and change research. But, the field of “ERP organizational change” considers (or should) many fields and disciplines.  (Practitioners understand, and research demonstrates, that successful ERP organizational change requires not just technology, business process, and project management methods, but also organizational culture as well as education and learning principles). This high-quality ERP organizational change research that I speak of is based on an objective, vendor-neutral, non-bias approach to study and its application. Moreover, this research is often supported by proven theory and solid principles, hence making the findings or results applicable across contexts. These are theories and principles that ought to support the latest practitioner fads, practitioner approaches, and practitioner and ERP vendor “selling points”. If not, what are these practitioner fads, approaches, and  “selling points” really based on? And will they be effective?

From shared experiences and based on research, it is pretty safe to say that ERP organizational change agents would benefit from this sound research founded in principle.

Perhaps, generally speaking, organizational stakeholders know very little about “ERP organizational change” research. And perhaps, they shouldn’t care or have to spend time, money, and effort to know and learn about ERP organizational change. However, for ERP organizational change practitioners (i.e. change agents), it is our job to take advantage of this great ERP research that provides opportunities for insight and reflection (that is founded in non-bias, vendor-neutral, and fundamental principles.) Why? Because we owe it to the organizational stakeholders. 

Not only is each and every organization different, but each specific organizational context also changes all the time and is very dynamic. The people, culture, technology, processes, issues, challenges, and solutions depend upon context and vary with time. But, what does not really change is a theory based on general principle, this is why research is so relevant, practical, powerful, useful, and valuable in the “real world”.

For practitioners, this research can be very powerful knowledge. And, I personally think that this is where many organizations and practitioners “miss the boat”. Point is, there is some great ERP and organizational research that as ERP practitioners, is a significant tool and source of information.

 


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