From global template to local enactments : a longitudinal account of ERP practice diffusion in chinese subsidiaries of a french multinational corporation

par Julien Malaurent

Thèse de doctorat en Sciences de gestion

Sous la direction de D. E. Avison.


  • Résumé

    Cette thèse de doctorat explore les stratégies et modes opératoires des acteurs chinois d'une société multinationale française qui ont adapté une ressource globale, à savoir un progiciel de gestion intégré (PGI), de façon singulière et officieuse, dans le but de répondre à des logiques contradictoires, voire rivalisantes, entre les entités chinoises et le siège social français. Pour cela, nous utilisons des données qualitatives composées d'entretiens ouverts et semi-ouverts, d’observations participatives, et d’observations des pratiques et des usages logiciels. Notre recherche s’appuie sur deux études empiriques. A - Une étude de cas longitudinale de quatre ans (2006-2010) analyse l’utilisation du PGI mondial d’une multinationale française déployé dans ses filiales chinoises. B - Un projet de recherche-action d'un an (2010-2011) présente le suivi d’un programme d'actions correctives visant à formaliser ou non ces pratiques. Ces deux études constituent la base empirique des trois papiers de recherche qui structurent notre thèse, respectivement intitulés : . I- “Enterprise systems in use: From global control to local enacted workarounds” . II- “A canonical action research project of ERP in use: From French HQ to the formalization of Chinese workarounds”. III- “A theory-free framework : An alternative born from a difficult journey to put ‘theory’ into an empirical dataset”. L’étude des usages et pratiques des utilisateurs chinois a révélé de nombreux conflits entre les processus institutionnalisés et standardisés, retranscrits dans le PGI mondial de la multinationale, et les besoins locaux des entités chinoises. L’uniformisation des processus à l’échelle mondiale ne s’est donc pas déroulée comme cela était initialement prévu par le siège social français. Face à cette situation, notre thèse examine les logiques et les effets de ce non-alignement.


  • Résumé

    This dissertation explores the mechanisms of global information systems (IS) diffusion and adoption of a French multinational corporation (MNC) within Chinese settings. By using an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system as exemplar, it aims to explain why and how users of remote subsidiaries enact the system in different ways than the prescribed approach suggested by the headquarters. This study also measures the impacts of these local informal and unexpected practices on the global ERP system. It is based on a four-year (2006-2010) longitudinal case study and one-year action research project both realized at French headquarters and Chinese subsidiaries of an MNC. Research methods rely on interpretive qualitative methods and combine participative observation, interviews and documentary evidence. Along with an introductory chapter, the dissertation comprises three related papers. The first paper provides a longitudinal account detailing the emergence of local workarounds at Chinese subsidiaries of the MNC. It discusses how the development and quest for these alternative practices was justified as indispensable and appropriate to respond to the local needs as the formal structure laid out by the headquarters was not sufficient to cover the local situation. The second paper is based on a one-year canonical action research study which took place after the longitudinal study. It first studies the impacts of these informal practices on the overall ERP system and second, relates a corrective program launched to attempt to formalise these practices. The third paper is the outcome of my PhD reflections on the application of theoretical framework(s) to empirical studies. As an outcome from the difficulties experienced during this research journey to find a perfect “fit” between a complex and rich organizational dataset and existing theories that might be seen as highly abstract, or too conceptual to interpret empirical findings, this paper suggests a disciplined approach to adopt a theory-free framework to enable the development of original and rich interpretations without bounded theoretical frameworks. The contributions of the dissertation are threefold: theoretical, methodological and practitioner oriented. First, by focusing at a micro-level perspective, activity theory provides a rich framework to understand the emergence of local work practices. The third paper also suggests important theoretical contributions since it provides an empirical demonstration of the difficulties encountered to find a “perfect fit” while applying social and organizational lenses to empirical datasets. Given these difficulties, I suggest the development of a theory-free and disciplined approach as a potential alternative in circumstances where there is theory-data misfit. Second, this dissertation proposes an original combination of two research methods that complement each other to deliver a rich empirical account of IS practice negotiation where conflicting local and global interests existed. Thanks to a long-term access to the company, I have been able to observe and collect thick descriptions of user work practices in a longitudinal case study. Following this in-depth inquiry, I led an action-research program, first to examine the degree of diffusion of these informal practices across Chinese subsidiaries and then to formalize them when appropriate. Lastly, the dissertation offers to practice a better understanding of the ways remote users might develop informal structures to make an information system fit. In particular, it relates a complete history from global template instructions to local practice negotiations and provides data collected both at the headquarters and at Chinese subsidiaries.


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