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"One-size-does-not-fit-all": teaching MBA students different ERP implementation strategies.

1. INTRODUCTION AND OBJECTIVE

The introduction of information technology(IT), especially enterprise systems such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, is a common way of implementing organizational change today(see Markus, 2004). Such enterprise system implementations frequently comes with new software systems and business processes that substantially alter workflow and jobs(Boudreau and Robey, 2005; Markus and Tanis, 2000; Soh and Sia, 2005). While the annual investment of several billion dollars in ERP systems is staggering, estimates indicate that more than half of all implemented systems fail(Soh and Sia, 2004, 2005) and such failures have been observed even in highly successful organizations, such as Hershey and Nike(Koch, 2002, 2004). Organizations that successfully implement ERP systems, including new software and business processes, have reported enormous benefits, such as greater efficiency and effectiveness at the individual employee and organizational levels. One of the primary causes of failure is the inability of managers to effectively manage the change process(Cohen, 2005; Markus, 2004). Managers frequently fail to consider the organizational environment and culture relying, instead, on success stories of organizations like Cisco that used a big-bang strategy, an implementation strategy in which all modules of an ERP system are implemented simultaneously and in a short period time, to manage their own change. The result can be catastrophic for firms, with consequences up to and including going out of business as a result of a failed ERP implementation(e.g., Rich-Con Steel).

Given this backdrop, it is important to teach diverse aspects of ERP implementations to make today's information systems and business management curricula relevant to organizational practice(see Antonucci et al., 2004; Johnson et al., 2004; Strong, Johnson, and Mistry, 2004). Yet, the effective integration of ERP related knowledge into curricula continues to be a challenge(Hawking, McCarthy, and Stein, 2004; Fedorowicz et al., 2004), with some suggesting that relevant knowledge should be imparted in a wide range of classes(Grenci and Hull, 2004). Of the many areas related to ERP systems, the ability of students to understand that different strategies of ERP implementation may be necessary in different scenarios is an important one, especially for those who may go on to manage such implementations.

A "one-size-does-not-fit-all" argument when it comes to ERP implementation strategies is frequently made in the popular press(see Jacobs and Whybark, 2000). Yet, mistakes and failures continue at an alarming rate. Sorely needed is a teaching approach that can open the eyes of managers, present and future, to the different strategies to ERP success, and when a particular strategy is appropriate. I discuss my teaching approach wherein I combine and discuss three cases in 2 1/4 hours of class time. The cases are from Cisco,

Tektronix, and Harley-Davidson, companies that faced the need to implement ERP systems but went about it in very different ways. The use of cases for ERP education is particularly important(see Seethamraju, 2007). Each student is assigned to read only one of the three cases, lessening the total workload, but the students understand the differences in approaches and successes of ERP implementations related to all three cases.

2. OVERVIEW OF THE THREE CASES The three ERP cases that I assign are: Cisco, Tektronix, and Harley-Davidson, with the following Harvard Business School case numbers: 9-301-099, 9-699-043, and 9-600-006.

While Cisco used a big-bang approach to the implementation, Tektronix primarily used a waves(or phased) strategy, in which modules of an ERP system were implemented one after another, whereas Harley-Davidson was highly circumspect and cautious and the case discusses only their selection strategy that took over 2 years just to narrow down the potential set of vendors. Cisco's big-bang implementation took only 9 months and was an enormous success. Tektronix's phased implementation in its offices in several countries was also a success but one that took quite a bit longer. While on the surface, Harley-Davidson's outcome might seem like a failure, a discussion of the case helps students understand that any other approach would have most certainly been doomed given the culture of the organization. The teaching notes present excellent information on how to teach each of the cases and what issues to emphasize. I will not repeat those here, but will provide more information on how to teach the cases in tandem and the associated benefits.

3. TEACHING APPROACH

Here, I discuss my group organization and present the two different execution approaches.

3.1 Group Organization and Student Guidance

I have had MBA classrooms varying in size from about 20 to over 70. I have found six to be the optimal group size, give or take a person here or there to make the numbers work. I have found that the ideal case in terms of effectiveness and fostering inter-group competition is when there are 6 groups.

As always, it is important to balance the groups in terms of functional backgrounds and/or work experience. Prior experience with an ERP implementation is common in part-time and executive MBA classes--it is important to balance this across groups.

3.2 Execution Approach #1: Part-time and Executive MBA Classrooms

The success of this execution approach hinges on students' familiarity with ERP systems and business process change (either based on students' backgrounds or focus of the course). If this is the focus of your course, you could also use this execution approach in a full-time MBA class(even if some students have no work experience). In the case of the part-time and executive MBA classrooms, at least one group member in every group would likely have been part of an ERP implementation; also, it does not matter as to whether those students who have the experience with an ERP implementation were part of the implementation team or were just users(of course, the ideal case would be where each group would have at least one student who was involved in the implementation per se and at least one student who was just a user).

I tell the students that because other students have not read all three cases, their aim should be to educate others about the facts of their case. Specifically, I use the hand-out shown in Table 1 to guide the students on which areas to focus in their presentations. I also tell the students that they should defend the organization's implementation approach.

Students are informed that I will pick the presenting groups randomly. Each group is given 15 + 5 minutes for the presentation and a Q&A session. I usually start the presentation schedule with a Cisco group, followed by a Tektronix group, and finally, a Harley-Davidson group.

During the Cisco presentation, you will see the Harley-Davidson groups get a bit wide-eyed at the dramatic implementation approach of Cisco. In contrast, when the last group presents, the Cisco groups have a hard time hiding their chuckles regarding how deliberate Harley-Davidson was. However, they start to see the point as each group defends the position of their focal organization.

In the second half of the class after a break(or in the second meeting of the week if it is two 1 1/2 hour sessions per week), I use the hand-out in Table 1 to discuss the issues outlined therein. I typically push the groups that did not present for answers. The discussion is lively with my goal being to ask the groups to contrast the different cases. This enables the students to see the stark contrasts in industry, innovation climate, organizational culture, leadership style, resource constraints, etc. I also call on the students who have had experience with ERP implementations to discuss their own organization in terms of the organizational environment and the organizational actions taken. The discussion has always yielded several mismatches that become obvious that can often help explain sub-par outcomes that the organization experienced, or the longer duration it took to get to the desired outcomes or the complete failure. Of course, on rare occasions, I have had students share very interesting stories, including those where ERP implementations have been smashing successes.

3.3 Execution Approach #2: Full-time MBA Students

The full-time MBA students I have taught vary in terms of work experience, ranging from those with a few tens of years to those who have none. The primary difference between this approach and the previous approach is that with full-time MBA students I do not have students presenting. Instead, we have a class discussion of the cases. Here, my rationale is that a group presentation might inhibit the learning of those who lack work experience. However, in a class discussion, with the benefit of the student background information, I can call upon specific students, especially those with little or no work experience, to answer questions. In this approach, I do not assign any questions up-front for discussion but tell the groups to know the facts of the case and come prepared to defend "their" organization's implementation approach. The idea of defending a focal organization's position is important as it forces students to think critically about all the things (leadership style, approach to change, etc.) that were right about the approach and all the circumstances(organizational culture, industry, etc.) that made these things work. I begin the class by giving students the hand-out in Table 1 and discuss the cases in parallel as outlined in the previous execution approach, but I also cold-call students(not groups) for more detail regarding each case to ensure everyone gets all the factors about all cases.

TABLE 1 OMITTED]

3.3 Execution Approach #2: Full-time MBA Students

The full-time MBA students I have typically taught vary in terms of work experience, ranging from those with a few tens of years to those who have none. The primary difference between this approach and the previous approach is that with full-time MBA students I do not have students presenting.

Instead, we have a class discussion of the cases. Here, my rationale is that a group presentation might inhibit the learning of those who lack work experience. However, in a class discussion, with the benefit of the student background information, I can call upon specific students, especially those with little or no work experience, to answer questions.

In this approach, I do not assign any questions up-front for discussion but tell the groups to know the facts of the case and come prepared to defend "their" organization's implementation approach. The idea of defending a focal organization's position is important as it forces students to think critically about all the things(leadership style, approach to change, etc.) that were right about the approach and all the circumstances(organizational culture, industry, etc.) that made these things work. I begin the class by giving students the hand-out in Table 1 and discuss the cases in parallel as outlined in the previous execution approach, but I also cold-call students(not groups) for more detail regarding each case to ensure everyone gets all the factors about all cases.

4. EVIDENCE OF SUCCESS AND SUMMARY

Students start with the goal of informing other students and also, as required, defend the focal organization's approach. By the end of the discussion, they develop a deep appreciation for the different types of challenges that will be encountered in different organizational environments--after all, unlike the "born-to-ride" tattoo, there is no "born-toroute" Cisco tattoo! The students appreciate that each of the cases is a success in its own right given the organization, thus helping them to think about success differently. I view the primary gain as being the better education of future managers. In particular, the teaching approach recommended here strengthens students' skills related to technology management, a key skill area in the context of ERP implementation(see Boyle and Strong, 2006). The dialog, exchange of ideas, and classroom environment that the combination of cases creates is a very favorable one for learning(see Leong, 2005). This approach is not only effective in terms of imparting lessons that are seldom evident in only one case, but is also time efficient in terms of student time and class-room time given that students spend time reading only one case but get a "three-for-the-price-ofone" deal on learning ERP implementation strategies; also, the approach outlined here uses only one week of class time.

Table 2 shows the favorable student reactions on questions related to the effectiveness, hand-out, efficiency, and enjoyment based on my short anonymous post-class survey in different contexts. Table 3 presents the highlights of this teaching tip.

5. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I would like to thank Dr. Susan Brown, University of Arizona for her many insightful comments and guidance in the development of this article. I would also like to thank my PhD students, Hillol Bala, Tracy Sykes, and Xiaojun Zhang at the University of Arkansas for their assistance in compiling the data and also their editorial work in support of this article.

6. REFERENCES

Antonucci, Y. L., Corbitt, G., Stewart, G., and Harris, A. L. (2004) "Enterprise Systems Education: Where Are We? Where Are We Going." Journal of Information Systems Education, Vol. 15, No. 3, pp. 227-234.

Boudreau, M. and Robey, D.(2005) "Enacting Integrated Information Technology: A Human Agency Perspective." Organization Science, Vol. 16, No. 1, pp. 3-18.

Boyle, T. A. and Strong, S. E.(2006) "Skill Requirements of ERP Graduates." Journal of Information Systems Education, Vol. 17, No. 4, pp. 403-412.

Cohen, D. S.(2005) "Why Change is An Affair of the Heart." CIO Magazine, December 1.

Fedorowicz, J., Gelinas Jr, U. J., Usoff, C., and Hachey, G. (2004) "Twelve Tips for Successfully Integrating Enterprise Systems Across the Curriculum." Journal of Information Systems Education, Vol. 15, No. 3, pp. 235244.Grenci, R. T. and Hull, B. Z.(2004) "New Dog, Old Tricks: ERP and the Systems Development Life Cycle." Journal of Information Systems Education, Vol. 15, No. 3, pp. 277-286.

Hawking, P., McCarthy, B., and Stein, A.(2004) "Second Wave ERP Education." Journal of Information Systems Education, Vol. 15, No. 3, pp. 327-332.

Jacobs, F. R. and Whybark, D. C.(2000) Why ERP? A Primer on SAP Implementation, McGraw-Hill Higher Education, New York.

Johnson, T., Lorents, A. C., Morgan, J., and Ozmun, J. (2004) "A Customized ERP/SAP Model for Business Curriculum Integration." Journal of Information Systems Education, Vol. 15, No. 3, pp. 245-253.

Koch, C.(2002) "Hershey's Bittersweet Lesson." CIO Magazine, November 15.

Koch, C.(2004) "Nike Rebounds: How(and Why) Nike Recovered From its Supply Chain Disaster." CIO Magazine, July 15.

Leong, L.(2005) "Improving Students' Interest in Learning: Some Positive Techniques." Journal of Information Systems Education, Vol. 16, No. 2, pp. 129-132.

Markus, M. L.(2004) "Technochange Management: Using IT to Drive Organizational Change." Journal of Information Technology, Vol. 19, No. 1, pp. 4-20.

Markus, M. L. and Tanis, C.(2000) "The Enterprise System Experience: From Adoption to Success." in R. W. Zmud (ed.), Framing the Domains of IT Management, Cincinnati, OH: Pinnaflex Educational Resources, pp. 173-207.

Seethamraju, R.(2007) "Enterprise Systems(ES) Software in Business School Curriculum: Evaluation of Design and Delivery." Journal of Information Systems Education, Vol. 18, No. 1, pp. 69-83.

Soh, C. and Sia, S. K.(2005) "The Challenges of Implementing 'Vanilla' Versions of Enterprise Systems." MIS Quarterly Executive, Vol. 4, No. 3, pp. 373-384.

Soh, C. and Sia, S. K.(2004) "An Institutional Perspective on Sources of ERP Package-Organisation Misalignments." Journal of Strategic Information Systems, Vol. 13, No. 4, pp. 375-397.

Strong, D. M., Johnson, S. A., and Mistry, J. J.(2004) "Integrating Enterprise Decision-Making Modules into Undergraduate Management and Industrial Engineering Curricula." Journal of Information Systems Education, Vol. 15, No. 3, pp. 301-313.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY

Viswanath Venkatesh is a Professor and the first holder of the George and Boyce Billingsley Chair in Information Systems at the Walton College of Business, University of Arkansas. His research focuses on understanding technology diffusion in organizations and homes by focusing on end-user training, user acceptance, and gender and age differences, usability, ERP, and electronic commerce. He has taught undergraduate, MBA, executive MBA, PhD, and executive seminars since 1996 at the University of Arkansas, University of Maryland, University of Minnesota, Indian School of Business, Helsinki School of Economics, and several organizations. He has taught courses on various topics including telecommunications, business application development, programming, e-commerce, and business problem solving. Student evaluations of his teaching have always rated him to be among the very best instructors at the various colleges that he has taught. He has receiving teaching awards at the school and university levels. His current leadership role at the Walton College includes serving as the director of the information systems PhD program. His leadership roles at the Smith School included being the Director of the MBA Consulting Program and leading undergraduate curricular development for the information systems major.

Viswanath Venkatesh

Department of Information Systems

University of Arkansas

Walton College of Business

Fayetteville, AR 72701, U.S.A.

vvenkatesh@vvenkatesh.us
Table 2: Student Reactions

 U.S. PT * U.S. FT *
 5s ** Mean 5s ** Mean
 and SD and SD

I felt like I learned a lot by 100% 5.0 and 93% 4.91
combining all three cases in 0 and .11
one class.

I felt like I learned a lot by 100% 5.0 and 94% 4.93
combining all three cases in 0 and .07
one class.

I felt like I learned a lot by 100% 5.0 and 100 5.0 and
combining all three cases in 0 % 0
one class.

I felt like I learned a lot by 100% 5.0 and 93% 4.9
combining all three cases in 0 and .11
one class.

I felt like I learned a lot by 100% 5.0 and 100 5.0 and
combining all three cases in 0 % 0

 Finland PT Finland FT
 5s ** Mean 5s ** Mean
 and SD and SD

I felt like I learned a lot by 87% 4.77 100% 5.0 and
combining all three cases in and .21 0
one class.

I felt like I learned a lot by 94% 4.31 90% 4.87
combining all three cases in and .07 and .09
one class.

I felt like I learned a lot by 100% 5.0 and 100% 5.0 and
combining all three cases in 0 0
one class.

I felt like I learned a lot by 93% 4.9 92% 4.88
combining all three cases in and .11 and .09
one class.

I felt like I learned a lot by 100% 5.0 and 100% 5.0 and
combining all three cases in 0 0

 China PT India FT
 5s ** Mean 5s ** Mean
 and SD and SD

I felt like I learned a lot by 85% 4.79 90% 4.8
combining all three cases in and .15 and .14
one class.

I felt like I learned a lot by 90% 4.87 90% 4.8
combining all three cases in and .08 and .14
one class.

I felt like I learned a lot by 100% 5.0 and 90% 4.8
combining all three cases in 0 and .14
one class.

I felt like I learned a lot by 92% 4.85 90% 4.8
combining all three cases in and .09 and .14
one class.

I felt like I learned a lot by 80% 4.7 90% 4.8
combining all three cases in and .25 and .14

 Organization
 5s ** Mean
 and SD

I felt like I learned a lot by 100% 5.0 and
combining all three cases in 0
one class.

I felt like I learned a lot by 100% 5.0 and
combining all three cases in 0
one class.

I felt like I learned a lot by 100% 5.0 and
combining all three cases in 0
one class.

I felt like I learned a lot by 100% 5.0 and
combining all three cases in 0
one class.

I felt like I learned a lot by 100% 5.0 and
combining all three cases in 0
one class.

* PT = Part-Time; FT = Full-time.

** With tow exception (in China), 100% of the respondent answered all
questions with a 4 or 5.

Table 3: Summary

Objective Help students gain an appreciation of the
 different approaches to success in an ERP
 implementation--i.e., one size does not fit
 all.

Cases Harvard Business School cases: Cisco ( 9-301-099),
 Tektronix (9-699-043), Harley-Davidson (9-
 600-006)

Group * Approximately 6 students per group--distribute
organization by functional area and prior ERP experience.

 * Each group is assigned one of the three cases.

Execution Part-time and executive MBA students:
approach
 * Use hand-out in Table 1 as the guide to help
 students focus their presentation on
 relevant issues (do not distribute hand-
 out). Students are also told to defend their
 organization's implementation approach.

 * One group per case, chosen randomly in class,
 will present--15+5 minutes for presentation
 plus Q&A (this will be the first session of
 the week if the class meets twice a week).

 * Distribute the hand-out in Table 1 after the
 break (or at the start of the second meeting
 of the week) and discuss the cases with an
 emphasis on the comparison.

 * Ask students with prior ERP experience
 (implementation or user) to share their
 organization's particular situation, both in
 terms of organizational environment and
 organizational actions.

 Full-time MBA students:

 * Students are asked to know the facts of the
 case and come prepared to defend the
 organization's implementation approach.

 * No presentation.

 * Use the hand-out in Table 1 to discuss
 details of the cases and the contrast across
 the approaches.

 * Cold-call specific students (especially those
 with minimal work experience).

Evidence of Instructor reports:
success
 * Effectiveness gains---appreciation for "one-
 size-does-not-fit-all."

 * Appreciation for what success means in
 different organizational contexts.

 * Efficiency--student workload is 1 case;
 classroom time is 2 1/2 hours.

 Student ratings of learning effectiveness,
 efficiency of time use, and enjoyment:

 * Very high ratings in various contexts and
 different countries.

 * Almost always over 4.80 on a 5-point scale.
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Title Annotation:Teaching Tip
Author:Venkatesh, Viswanath
Publication:Journal of Information Systems Education
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 22, 2008
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