Sociotechnical System Theory Contributions of Research Paper

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From that vantage point it is clear that ERP systems may not be able to provide the depth and breath of unification that is possible with more advanced approaches to using it systems.

Another drawback or con of using ERP systems has the catalyst of creating a more unified socio-technical system is the fact that they are often implemented and measured on a department or functional basis first. Interpolating their performance to strategic initiatives has never been particularly easy; using them to unify a sociotechnical system could be daunting. Underscoring these aspects is the need for creating a more effective approach to change management so that equilibrium is attained in each subsystem of a socio-technical system (Manz, Stewart, 1997). Finally, ERP systems are often extremely difficult to customize and upgrade over time, which has made many obsolete, delivering just 60% of the total value of information they are capable of. This is a serious limitation to using them as a means to create greater synchronization and balance between all aspects of a sociotechnical system. Being able to create a more effective strategy for keeping ERP systems relevant is one of the greatest challenges enterprise software companies have today. Increasingly however ERP systems are taking into account the need for business process management (BPM) workflows and designing in technical flexibility to allow for greater change management success levels than had been the case in the past (Taylor, 1998).

Evaluating the Need for a Socio-Technical Equilibrium Model for Enterprise Systems

Intermediating between the pros and cons of ERP systems as the catalyst for unifying socio-technical systems is the need for seeing change management as a core part of an organizational culture, not simply another element on an implementation project plan (Taylor, 1998). For an ERP system to act as the catalyst of unification in any social-technical system, change management must become the priority, not an afterthought. It must become an essential element of the DNA of any business down to the enterprise systems, information and knowledge sharing level.

What all of these factors point to is the need for an equilibrium-based model to ensure change management always stays a priority across social and technical subsystems. The proposed Socio-Technical Equilibrium Model for Enterprise Systems shown in Figure 1 illustrates how the level of consistency across technical and social systems must be present predicated on a cooperative advantage throughout an organization. Technical systems and norms are driven by transaction and process efficiency., Communications velocity drives social subsystem performance and contributes to validation of trust over time. This becomes a recursive model that continually reinforces itself over time, leading to a high level of trust that accelerates change management. Change management accelerates the integration of social and technical subsystems, creating a more unified organization in the process. All of these factors are taken into account in the following proposed equilibrium model.

Figure 1: Proposed Socio-Technical Equilibrium Model for Enterprise Systems


This study has shown over the last decade and a half of research on social-technical systems that has been a strong focus on the joint optimization of enterprise technologies and radical shifts in how work is designed and completed. Throughout this analysis of social-technical systems it has become apparent that ERP systems have the potential to be catalysts of unifying technical and social subsystems. At the center of this potential is the potential they have to create a balanced or equilibrium-based structure that allows for change management to become a core part of the continual improvement as systems, just as much as transactions and pure process efficiency are (Taylor, 1998). The proposed Socio-Technical Equilibrium Model for Enterprise Systems is a first step towards defining these dynamics in the context of organizational effectiveness on change management while ensuring technical systems stay agile and relevant enough to current organizational needs.


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