Making the case for critical realism: Examining the implementation of automated performance management systems
Idea Group Publishing
School of Management
This article seeks to address the dearth of practical examples of research in the area by proposing that critical realism be adopted as the underlying research philosophy for enterprise systems evaluation. We address some of the implications of adopting such an approach by discussing the evaluation and implementation of a number of automated performance measurement systems (APMS). Such systems are a recent evolution within the context of enterprise information systems. They collect operational data from integrated systems to generate values for key performance indicators, which are delivered directly to senior management. The creation and delivery of these data are fully automated, precluding manual intervention by middle or line management. Whilst these systems appear to be a logical progression in the exploitation of the available rich, real-time data, the statistics for APMS projects are disappointing. An understanding of the reasons is elusive and little researched. We describe how critical realism can provide a useful “underlabourer” for such research, by “clearing the ground a little ... removing some of the rubbish that lies in the way of knowledge” (Locke, 1894, p. 14). The implications of such an underlabouring role are investigated. Whilst the research is still underway, the article indicates how a critical realist foundation is assisting the research process.