Investigating ERP systems using structuration theory - A critique

Document Type

Conference Proceeding


Faculty of Business and Public Management


School of Business




Dobson, P.J. (2001). Investigating erp systems using structuration theory - a critique. In: Stoney, S., & Burn, J. (Eds.). Working for excellence in the e-conomy: 2nd international We-B conference (pp. 73-82). Churchlands, Australia: We-B Centre, School of Management Information Systems, Edith Cowan University.


There have recently been increasing calls for a greater social focus and increased use of interpretive methodologies within the IS field (IFIP TC8 WG8.2, 2000). This paper suggests that a relatively new social theory, critical realism, has the potential to add new insights to research in the information systems field. The paper introduces critical realism by contrasting it with the use of Structuration Theory in the IS field. In contrast to many earlier social theories structuration theory along with critical realism attempts to address both agency and structure in their theoretical frameworks, however the way of representing structure and agency is fundamentally different within each approach. The paper presents the different conceptions of structure and agency within each theory and discusses how the study of ERP systems can depend on how structure and agency are perceived. It argues that critical realism is a useful approach to examine ERP systems since it provides a strong recognition of the role of structure in social situations. ERP systems are enterprise-wide integrated systems that have strong structural impacts on the organisation and the users themselves - it is important that the underlying research approach reflects this important component. The paper concludes by examining whether web-enabled ERP fundamentally changes this structural focus.