Negotiating Technology Frames: Constructing A Cross-Cultural Enterprise Resource Planning Technology In South Indian Manufacturing Organizations

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Within the present context of globalization, implementations of Western originated and designed information systems (IS) in non-Western contexts are commonplace. This can create a cross-cultural context, given the IS are embedded with the culture of the social context in which they originate and are designed. An exemplar of such cross-cultural implementation is the global implementation of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software, a packaged business information system. I investigate an under-researched topic in organizational studies: In a cross-cultural context, how do organizations create a working ERP system through the exercise of power? I use grounded theory to analyze eight month-long qualitative case studies of two contrasting manufacturing organizations in South India—a local public organization and a Western private multinational organization. I identify two cyclical processes that actors employ to create a working ERP system: negotiating technology frames and enacting technology frames. A technology frame, a widely used notion in the IS literature and the Social Construction Of Technology (SCOT) literature, is a cognitive structure that actors use to make sense of technology. I focus on the process of negotiating technology frames to show that cross-cultural ERP software—an embodiment of contrasting norms—is a result of multiple actors shifting technology frames over time in their attempts to impose the frames that embody their interests over others. Thus, in use, a technology frame becomes a sensegiving discursive resource to mobilize and consolidate actors’ interests. Actors combine the exercise of discursive power with the use of coercive means to manufacture a seemingly shared consensus on the sensemaking of ERP software and its modifications. I call this “consensus” institutional closure. The “consensual” technology frames are translated into software codes and enacted resulting in organizational changes that lead to the next cycle. In this process, the decisions on ERP modifications are more significantly explainable by negotiators’ political interests than by other factors. Highlighting institutional closures, I question the breadth of sharedness of sensemaking, an assumption in organizational sensemaking literature, and contribute to both the SCOT literature and the IS studies. I also develop another novel concept, technology non-affordance.

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