Master Thesis – University of Groningen 2013

Changeability of ERP Systems – Literature Research


Conventional wisdom shows, that Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems should not be changed, because in general change is a risk factor, contributing to project failure (Brehm and Heinzl – 2001). However, some amendments in the ERP are always needed, thus providing possibilities for great success and failure stories. In the current paper, the researcher defines the term “changeability” in relation to ERP and carries out a literature review of ERP changeability papers. The goal of the literature review is to test the usability of an existing ERP changeability framework. A second deliverable of the paper is a list of organizational impacts from the ERP changeability projects. These organizational impacts are gathered through content analysis from the reviewed articles and point out important issues resulting from ERP changeability projects, which should be taken into account by ERP professionals.

Research Questions:

Research Question 1: What is ERP changeability? How is it defined in the literature?
Research Question 2: What framework for ERP changeability can be used in order to analyze ERP changeability results?
Research Question 3: What recommendations and applications for ERP practitioners can be derived from the analysis of the results?

Answer of the research questions:

In order to define ERP changeability, we have made use of the core concept of “Changeability”, defined by Ross et al. (2008), which is described with three main aspects: change agents as forces instigating the change to occur, change mechanisms as particular path a system must take in order to transition from one state to another and change effect, as the difference in state before and after the change takes place. The concept of Ross et al. (2008) possesses five system parameters,describing changeability – Flexibility, Adaptability, Scalability, Modifiability and Robustness. These five parameters were embedded in a changeability framework from Wortmann and Maruster (2013), predicting their change after a specific type of ERP changeability project is carried out. With the current paper we have looked into 18 case studies, with ERP changeability, found in 10 articles. For each of these case studies we have collected information regarding their change effect after the project and the mechanism of change. Then, we have compared the real change, reported in the case studies to the change expected by the changeability framework, in order to prove that the framework is a trustworthy one and may predict the effects of change in an ERP changeability project.

The third research question, concerning recommendations and applications for ERP practitioners was answered with analysis of the results. We have collected 12 organizational impacts of the changeability projects from the selected 18 case studies through content analysis. Then they were divided into three groups – positive, negative and neutral. Each impact is explained and a possible reason for its appearance was provided. It is interesting to see, that in 44% of the researched cases, unpleasant organizational impacts related to tension were found. In some cases, the tension escalated to chaos and production stops, which is definitely an unwanted result from an ERP changeability project. Thus, the third question, concerning recommendations and applications for ERP practitioners is answered with a list of organizational impacts, following an ERP changeability project. Furthermore, a flag is raised, considering the high risk of tension related organizational impacts, coming from an ERP changeability project.


This paper has two main deliverables – it presents and tests an ERP changeability framework and it collects and summarizes organizational impacts from ERP changeability projects. Regarding the first deliverable – the test of the ERP changeability framework, the results concerning the change in the five system parameters, describing changeability were expected. However, in order to validate the framework completely, further research with more samples is needed. Concerning the second deliverable – the summary of the organizational impacts – to the author’s knowledge this is the first time organizational impacts of ERP changeability project are summarized. Although, until now in the literature similar impacts were reported in separate studies (Candra – 2012; Ehie and Madsen – 2005), this is the first literature research to take a look at them as a whole and to summarize them together.

You may download the complete thesis from here.
A presentation for the master thesis is available here.