Getting user buy-in to new IT systems

For organizations implementing new, large-scale information systems, such as enterprise resource planning (ERP), a primary concern is the degree of post-implementation use. There is no certainty regarding a user’s acceptance of new IT-supported procedures. Moreover, short-term usage in line with expectations may disguise an underlying discomfort with the system. It may mask a desire to seek out system circumvention tactics (i.e., ways of getting round the system) down the road.

Managers overseeing new IT implementations would do well to understand the perceptions of their users, manage them, if possible, and address remaining issues that give rise to discomfort.

Both case studies and experimental studies have shown how the process of IT implementation is affected by issues such as the ease with which the new IT implementations can be introduced, the intentions to implement and the perceived levels of system misfit (i.e., mismatch between operating processes and information system protocols). Such perceptions can have not only short-term manifestations, but may also have long-term impacts on the successful use of new systems.

If a rule structure established by the IT is relatively non-binding, it is expected that, as users become more uncomfortable with the way the system works, the more they will increase the range or practice used to execute that process. This is a natural response, especially when the guidelines are not strictly enforced, or are not intended to be followed word for word. If the freedom is readily available to depart from the newly instated guidelines, workers will feel free to go down the route that works best for them in the tasks that they are performing. The article on which this abstract is based draws a comparison between two companies that provides an excellent example of sustained versus non-sustained compliance with IT-supported protocols. The same ERP package was implemented in both companies, but the results in terms of compliance and circumvention differed.

The results drive home the point that it can be misleading to view any single time reference as indicative of stable appropriation when appropriation equilibria both evolve over time and may not be accurately described as “faithful.” Managers overseeing new IT implementations would do well to understand the perceptions of their users, manage them, if possible, and address remaining issues that give rise to discomfort. A clear understanding of circumvention paths is, of course, critical. However, where many such paths may not be immediately obvious, those workers with strong long-term intentions to find them, will.

The complete article was written by:

  • Dr. Elliot Bendoly
    Associate Professor, Goizueta Business School, Emory University, US
  • Dr. Mark Cotteleer
    Associate Professor, Marquette University, US
  • Amanda Kline
    Student, Emory University, US

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