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18th Australasian Conference on Information Systems 5-7 Dec 2007, Toowoomba

The Role of ERP in Mergers & Acquisitions Grainger

ERP: More than Just a System The Role of ERP in Mergers and Acquisitions
Nick Grainger, Judy McKay Faculty of Information and Communication Technology Swinburne University of Technology Hawthorn, Victoria, Australia Email: ngrainger@ict.swin.edu.au jmckay@groupwise.swin.edu.au

Abstract
Company takeovers continue to be a common corporate practice. Where these involve the acquisition of similar businesses the speed of integration is regarded as a contributory factor to the success of the acquisition. In this paper the contribution of the implementation of the acquirer’s ERP system to integration is explored. ERP implementation may impose the acquirer’s business procedures, processes, data formats, values and underlying culture and has the potential to be a powerful tool to drive the level of integration being sought. In this qualitative study the authors explore a series of ERP implementations in the Asia Pacific region that appear to have successfully contributed to the integration of a global company’s business in this region, and contrast these findings against other conflicting outcomes reported in the literature. Implementation strategies that are considered to have contributed to this success were developed. These strategies were based on an appreciation of the cultural dimensions predominant in the region, and included emphasis on the strategic aim, sharing leadership between Head Office and the local business, project teams comprising a mix of Head Office analysts and regional business people, and strong communication practices in which a sense of community was developed.

Keywords Mergers and Acquisitions, ERP, Culture

Introduction
In the current competitive and increasingly global business environment, mergers and acquisitions abound as deliberate strategies by which companies achieve certain corporate goals and objectives such as rapid entry into a new market or region, building barriers to entry, achieving efficiencies through economies of scale and reduced costs of operations, and the like (Hubbard 1999). However about 66% or more of takeovers fail or disappoint for one reason or another (Lewis et al. 1999). Failure is defined as the non-achievement of the goals and objectives of the merger, often a failure to deliver increased shareholder value in both the short and long term. Common causes of failures include poor timing, flawed logic and ill-conceived analysis, poor alignment with the acquirer’s intended business strategy, poor planning and attention to detail, cultural issues, a failure to quickly meld the two companies and hubris (Perry & Herd 2004). Recognising the value of a merger and implementing actions so that a fully integrated, profitable and sustainable new enterprise emerges, is arguably a complex, risky, and challenging undertaking. In a study conducted between 1977 and 1982 of 152 takeovers, Hubbard (1991) identified nine possible relationships between acquirer and acquired. Hubbard (1991) proposes that if the acquisition is an absorption, one involving very similar types of firms in the same industry, where the major rationale for the acquisition is to create economies of scale, increase barriers to entry, reduce costs or increase market power, then there is a high strategic interdependence between the businesses and a low need for organisational autonomy. In other words the aim will be for the target business to be quickly absorbed, so the customer quickly sees just one business, and benefits in purchasing and marketing can be realised as soon as possible (Hubbard 1999). In such cases strategies will be pursued that attempt to remove all traces of the target’s previous (separate) existence, and seek to switch employee affiliation to the acquirer. According to Hubbard (1991:260) this is done by ‘introducing acquirer systems, procedures and policies’. Since Hubbard’s 1991 study, much in the business landscape has changed. Today there are fewer mergers being pursued and they are much riskier because of the increase in the number of cross-border mergers and acquisitions (a function of globalisation and increasing competition), and increasing expectations that the merger will realise not just cost reductions, but also will deliver on growth in new markets and capabilities, and the like (Perry & Herd 2004). At the same time the ability to impose the acquirer’s systems, procedures and policies has also increased, through improvements in the ability to integrate business processes and systems using a range of

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the more frequently reported scenario is ERP implementations in mergers and acquisitions actually resulting in fractures and problems rather than in building social and relational capital. For example. is then outlined and the implementation strategies that contributed to integration proposed. decide that this closer integration is very desirable. would be that the work required to implement an ERP system. The role that differences in national culture may play in an international implementation is then considered. In today’s business environment. as a form of packaged software whose functionality can meet the majority if not all an organisation’s needs and allow the 718 . They may have left them to run fairly independently. language. and the potential ability to do all of these through an integrated ERP system. Arguably. It would now be becoming increasingly common for an acquiring business to expect the acquired to become fairly quickly integrated into its existing business processes. leading to better utilisation of resources. and specifically ERP systems. This may lead to the need for integration of formerly independent businesses into the company’s single system. may have the potential to not only bring together the technical aspects of the relationship. policies and politics may all work against deriving the expected benefits. be it in a newly acquired business. and manage them in a coordinated fashion globally. this potentially reduces the risk of a failed merger.18th Australasian Conference on Information Systems 5-7 Dec 2007. There is scant attention to this possibility in the existing literature on ERP systems. in the past a company might have acquired a number of businesses in the same industry. Writing about critical success factors that have the most effect on the success or failure of mergers and acquisitions. a perceived need to present a consistent face and supply chain to global customers. which may prejudice chances of the success of the implementation (Hanseth. culture. of the acquired business. In fact. This paper is structured as follows. In the next section. increase market knowledge and power. Integrating these businesses through ERP consolidation may bring the desired corporate benefits. Ciborra & Braa 2001). based on an Action Research intervention. Of interest to this paper is the impact that modern technologies and architectures. such as the case of Norsk Hydro (Hanseth. but may also reduce the independence the local business previously had. Business practices. Toowoomba The Role of ERP in Mergers & Acquisitions Grainger technologies. The paper concludes by considering whether the proposition outlined in this introduction can be supported. but perhaps in other countries. we will briefly discuss the importance of IT in mergers and acquisitions before going on to consider the nature of ERP systems and their potential to promote integration between businesses. with standardised interfaces and cites a number of large US based corporations that have developed and implemented standard methods and techniques to deal with acquisitions. can have on the process of mergers and acquisitions. but may now for a number of reasons. Ciborra & Braa 2001) and may in fact run counter to achieving closer ties between the various business units. Previously acquired businesses may also be being brought closer into the corporate fold. or one long held but previously independent. Bartlett and Ghoshal (1998) suggest that firms operating in global markets can be at a disadvantage if they fail to gain control over their operations worldwide. policies and procedures on the acquired. such as the potential to reduce costs. to some degree or other. and faster integration. The Nature of ERP Systems and their Potential in Mergers and Acquisitions To understand just how ERP can play such an effective role it is useful to gain an understanding of ERP from a number of different perspectives. An alternative view however. enhanced chances of synergy developing between the acquirer and acquired. including enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. this would surely imply implementing standardised business processes worldwide and using IT as a means of both control and managing consistency worldwide. However. and the adoption of common business processes throughout. If one of the underlying required contributors to a successful acquisition is control. then ERP systems with their focus on standard data formats and integrated processes would seem potentially to be a most valuable tool. There may be a negative response to this amongst the local staff. Popovich (2001) advocates using the acquirer’s system. It will almost inevitably lead to changes in processes and practices in the formerly relatively independent business. and considers the need for further empirical research to further substantiate such a claim The Importance of IT in Mergers and Acquisitions Gaining the full commercial benefits of an acquisition is already known to be problematic and when the business acquired is in another country it may be even more difficult (Perry & Herd 2004). and hence its information systems. For instance ERP may be defined from a technology perspective. but also to improve the social and management relationships between people in both businesses. IT may now be regarded as one of the most critical aspects of integration and successful implementations (Popovich 2001). A series of successful ERP implementations/integrations in the Asia Pacific region. as in the integration of systems and the flow and management of data. and in imposing the acquirer’s systems.

Whilst acknowledging their proposal is based just on the empirical evidence from the Norsk Hydro case. the implementation of ERP packages in a large pharmaceutical organisation in Scandinavia and the UK were considered. Krumbholz et al. the European fertiliser division of Norsk Hydro between 1995 and 1999 (Hanseth. Culture: A Help or Hindrance? From the above it would initially seem that implementing an acquirer’s ERP system in an acquired business would progressively do much to drive the rapid and deep integration of the acquired business in to that of the acquirer. There may be shifts in power and management objectives which may need to be translated into system objectives. But such a definition ignores many aspects of an ERP system. In such a case the contents of this melting pot of roles and responsibilities are now recast in a framework that is the implicit business model of the acquiring business. This may lead to the high level of local senior manager involvement that is so often cited as critical to success in ERP implementations (Brown & Vessey 2003). This finding might lead to questions about whether or not culture dimension scores would pre-dispose the likelihood of merger and acquisition success or failure. Ciborra & Braa 2001). people relationships. or may be located in another region or country with different cultural values. roles and the like are a feature of an ERP implementation. Hanseth et al. However. processes. This is not just from a technical data sharing and supply chain integration point of view. If changes to processes. a run-away engine of enormous power (Giddens 1999). and more. (2000) study. In contrast to the technology perspective. with its software modules focused around processes rather than functions ‘may cut across departmental lines’ and lead away from a functional to a process orientation. and may give hope to companies facing 719 . Might such differences not also affect the success of implementing an ERP system. Toowoomba The Role of ERP in Mergers & Acquisitions Grainger seamless flow of data between different parts of an organisation (Gray 2006). The company being acquired or consolidated may have a very different internal culture to that of the acquirer/consolidator. far from being an easy solution for companies wishing to globalise their businesses. In fact it is these so-called unintended consequences such as the proliferation of standardised business processes and the contribution to the coordination of businesses on a trans-national level. but in terms of the alignment of business structure.18th Australasian Conference on Information Systems 5-7 Dec 2007. together with the view that an acquirer’s ERP system is loaded with their cultural values (Davison 2002). Hanseth et al. has been very different. (2001) propose that the deployment of ERP in global organisations may be better characterised as a careening juggernaut. the authors claim the phenomena are analysed in detail sufficient to transcend the individual case and may reflect the dynamics and many side effects of modernity and globalisation proposed by Giddens (1999). proposing that failure to adapt an ERP package to the local culture may lead to projects going over budget and over time. for instance in this case the lower masculinity index in Swedish organisations compared to British ones which might have resulted in greater acceptance of the ERP in Sweden than in Britain. communication processes. all relatively quickly. common reporting and the deeper integration of the business strategy. In the Krumboltz et al. secondly the improved governance achieved through the integration of data across the organisation. Boersma and Kingma (2005) note the unintended consequences of ERP. structures. quite the reverse in fact. Boersma and Kingma (2005: 125) propose that the implementation of ERP. This may have far reaching effects in the acquired business. implying a need for higher level management involvement in the set up and configuration of the ERP system. policies. the experience of the researcher in another company in a different part of the world. (2001) acknowledge that potentially an ERP implementation can lead to increased control due to three factors: firstly the integration of multiple. The basis of these arguments is a study of a pan-European ERP implementation undertaken by Hydro Agri Europe (HAE). often disparate systems. then surely it can be leveraged and viewed as an explicit strategy to drive the integration of acquired businesses. and thirdly through the business process re-engineering which often occurs at the same time in order to enable the businesses processes to run using the existing functionality of the ERP system. While these findings are clearly important to our understanding of the role of ERP systems in mergers and acquisitions. with quite different values in Hofstede’s terms. (2000) investigated the impact of culture on ERP implementation. responsibilities. ERPs are argued to be complex constructions with ever changing dynamics which may exhibit erratic behaviour which is the antithesis of that sought in their implementation. Cultural measures proposed by Hofstede (1994) were drawn on as a possible explanation of the issues. that give much of the potential to drive the change in an acquired organisation that may lead to greater integration and ultimately acquisition success. (2001) write of an integration attempt based on consolidating ERP systems in Europe in 2001 that almost led to the opposite of the desired result and go on to speculate that by its very nature implementing an ERP system may be counter productive to integration. Hanseth et al. Governance of the implementation may thus become a vital activity involving senior managers and the very core of the business. However the extent to which this is accepted and allowed to occur might well be influenced by cultural values. within a business into a single one. laden as it is with the cultural values of the acquirer? In another example considering the cultural issues associated with implementing an ERP solution.

The evaluating stage involved study of the outcomes of each implementation. over an eight year period between 1998 and 2006. and may in fact help an organisation realise the benefits expected from an acquisition more quickly. action planning. or the interviewing of participants who were directly involved. McKay & Marshall 2007) and that considered holistically. it is proposed to briefly discuss the research method adopted for this study. The research here is based on a series of nine ERP implementations conducted by a US based corporation in newly acquired companies or previously acquired but allowed to remain independent. to varying degrees. This particular research programme experienced many changes over its course due to the parent company’s emergent approach to translating high level strategy into tactical activities and the influence of global political activity (such as September 11th) and software vendor marketing strategies. Toowoomba The Role of ERP in Mergers & Acquisitions Grainger mergers and acquisitions and wishing to integrate these acquired businesses into their ERP system. many factors contributed to their relative success or failure and a direct causal relationship between any particular activity and response cannot be made. multiple iterations in different environments address this threat to some extent. Action taking comprised direct involvement in an implementation.18th Australasian Conference on Information Systems 5-7 Dec 2007. overcome some of the issues and challenges of mergers. companies. The third commonly stated threat to action research is that of the subjectivity of the researcher which can come about due to the deep involvement of the researcher in organisation and process being studied (Francis 1991). an information system is both historically and contextually situated (Mitev 2003). and through this process rapidly integrate the acquired businesses. The authors support the view that IS is a socio-technical discipline (Hirschheim 1985. occurring that are outside the control of the researcher. Whilst such factors influenced individual implementations. The first of these relates to the uncontrollability of the environment being studied with events. then applied to the next implementation. again through direct participation or through interviewing participants. 720 . in some environments. Due to the emergent nature of most action research (Galliers 1992). patterns of implementation behaviour did appear. The acquiring company in all cases was a chemical manufacturing company based in the US mid-west and these were ‘absorption’ acquisitions (Hubbard 1991). however the second researcher had only an academic interest in the research. over the course of the nine implementations over the eight years. action taking. acquisitions and consolidations. Indeed action research has been used as a qualitative methodology in IS research since the 1980s (Baskerville 1997). either through direct participation or through interviewing participants. either expected or unexpected. as in the findings from the research being highly contingent and having little external validity (Cook & Campbell 1976). in the Asia Pacific region. Nevertheless it is acknowledged that due to the nature of these implementation projects. The Approach This paper is a qualitative study that takes an action research approach (Checkland & Holwell 2007. More in-depth research is underway into these nine implementations and a further three. three areas of potential compromise need to be addressed. A second identified threat to the validity of the findings of action research is that of contingency. Specifying learning involved reflection on the outcomes of the evaluation and generating knowledge which was. Before discussing the outcomes of our experience. utilizing a third (external and independent) researcher which will address this current weakness. Action planning involved development and consideration of alternative approaches to implementation. It is commonly based on series of cyclic processes comprising diagnosing. evaluating and specifying learning (Susman & Evered 1978). In this research the ‘diagnosing’ stage involved one of the researchers becoming aware that the chemical company wished to implement an ERP system in a newly acquired business and positioning himself to be able to collect data about the implementation process. McKay and Marshall (2007) propose that action research is most suitable for investigating IS due to its integration of problem solving activity and research. one of the researchers was directly involved in seven and indirectly involved in two. Of the nine implementations. Whilst such criticism may be valid in a single action research iteration. Cherry 1999) to developing the argument that the ERP implementation process may. in this case. It is acknowledge that one of the researchers was closely involved in seven of these implementations and thus cannot be regarded as an objective reviewer.

processes and IS and IT infrastructure worldwide (Marchand 1999). was proposed by the US team. with functionality gaps being filled by small packaged or developed applications being interfaced with the main ERP application. However. From the researcher’s perspective. largely through acquisitions in Europe and the Asia Pacific region. as ChemOne was a large enterprise. Toowoomba The Role of ERP in Mergers & Acquisitions Grainger Multiple iterations of the action research cycle are regarded as an effective antidote to these three areas of weakness in the action research methodology (Kock 2007). Malaysia and China The action research study was conducted in a chemical manufacturer supplying to industry. a potential difficulty in the case of a newly acquired company. and had already demonstrated this strong top down approach in the Asia Pacific region with the successful establishment of a centralised accounting function based in Hong Kong. Hong Kong.18th Australasian Conference on Information Systems 5-7 Dec 2007. a net income of nearly US$600M. a research spend of more than US$300M and employed more than 31. and additional sales offices were established in New Zealand. China. Manufacturing plants were acquired or built in the UK. Such additions would form a library of applications theoretically available to all businesses using the system. Whilst a structured benefits management framework (Ward & Daniel 2006) was not applied there were a number of targeted benefits that were achieved. Italy. led by a locally based Australian project leader drawn from the business (not the IT/IS area). The ERP implementation in Australia took nine months and was completed on time and within budget. ChemOne is largely unknown to consumers outside the USA. senior IS managers in head office in the USA developed an aligned IT support strategy based on the establishment of a standard information system that could be progressively implemented in each newly acquired business. Japan. The template was applied in the Australian context. which had expanded largely through acquisition to become a global player with substantial operations now in Europe. Malaysia. A key plank in that strategy was to use the functionality of an ERP system to support the integration of data and business processes across the entire business. The project proceeded as follows. and subsequently the ‘vanilla’ ERP system was successfully implemented by a joint local and Head Office project team. in particular: • The demonstration (to the rest of the organisation) that the business could run on a vanilla version of the ERP application. It was anticipated this implementation would be the trial for subsequent implementations in Asia and Europe where further acquisitions were being confirmed. and this ultimately resulted in a series of ERP implementation projects being rolled out in different locations across the globe over an 11 year period. The plan captured in this template was to have a common global infrastructure. Australia. but does now have a significant business in Europe and Asia-Pacific. ChemOne first explored the possibility of an ERP system in 1995 with an early Oracle application that lacked required functionality and was beset with other difficulties. A local project team was formed in Australia to work with a small team of analysts based in the head office in the US. The template was designed and intended to support the Company’s aspiration to have global markets. An attempted implementation in France was eventually abandoned. and consistent business processes globally. Stage 1: The Action Research Study of ERP implementations in Australia. A possible weakness or limitation of such an approach is that it does demand a level of business uniformity and consistency. With the company pursuing a growth strategy based on absorption acquisition. Between 1995 and 2006 one of the larger divisions of the Company grew substantially. with consistent products and brands. project sponsors were confident that this challenge would not prove to be insurmountable.000 people globally. running a vanilla ERP (Oracle) application on all sites. the framework of ideas (Checkland & Holwell 2007) to be investigated through the implementation project was the view of the PPG managers that ERP implementation could proceed more efficiently if a ‘vanilla’ form of the application was adhered to and where strictly necessary ‘bolt on’ applications were used to add missing functionality. Such an approach is claimed to enable the alignment of business strategy. A configured application template that it was hoped would have universal application within the business. In 2005 the company had sales in excess of US$10 billion. 721 . and of using ‘bolt on’ applications to improve functionality where it was indisputably missing (rather than trying to gain the functionality by changing the core application). One of the researchers became involved in 1998 when ChemOne acquired an Australian business and proceeded to implement a new stand alone version of the Oracle ERP application. based in the midwest USA. culture. Taiwan and Vietnam. and Singapore. The experience taught key managers in the Company the importance of maintaining a ‘vanilla’ form of the application (meaning plain and unchanged). and which may require a strong company culture with top down leadership if it is to be successfully adopted (Marchand 1999). France. In this study it will be referred to as ChemOne. Asia-Pacific and South America. supplemented by a number of small additional applications directly interfaced with it. Thailand.

A team drawn from Australia and the US Head Office worked in the first instance with a local Malaysian project team to implement a stand alone ERP system at a manufacturing plant in Kuala Lumpur. ERP Implementation Strategies Contributing to Integration The ERP implementation strategies which appeared to contribute to the successful integration of the Australian. demonstrate some degree of replicability. Cohen & Walker 1993).18th Australasian Conference on Information Systems 5-7 Dec 2007. but also for subsequent implementation in other businesses in the Asia Pacific region and Europe. Through this process and subsequent reflection (Boud. Communication with Head Office was generally in the form of a dialogue and advice. whilst the previous project which had tried to customise and implement an earlier version of the application. Nevertheless in the organisation’s and Hubbard’s (1999) terms. infrastructure and the deployment of Head Office resources. (above and beyond their own immediate needs) and to the development of a repeatable implementation process which was subsequently followed in Malaysia and China. This appeared to encourage communication from Australia. the time required being reduced to 4 months. This appeared to lead to a high level of local responsibility and ownership being taken in Australia for the success of the project. all regarded as successful by ChemOne. had not. A Shared Approach to Leadership Despite Marchand’s (1999) proposed need for strong top down leadership to implement a global system. From the researcher’s viewpoint it could only really be stated that this implementation of a ‘vanilla’ version of the application. In both cases the same strategies (discussed in the following section) were employed to promote the integration of these businesses into the increasingly global business of the acquirer. data requirements and best practice. This led to project members thinking more deeply about appropriate processes. processes and procedures came into use. the integration was a success in that with the implementation process new terms. Malaysian and Chinese businesses were as follows: Adoption of a Template for Implementation The core members of the project team were asked to plan and implement an ERP system. Following the implementation there were few traces left of the previous separate existence of the Australian business. rather than authoritative direction. at this time. During these projects. had been judged by the organisation as ‘successful’. policies. However opportunities to study further iterations of the implementation process arose as the Australian implementation experience and project process became the base for subsequent consolidation implementations across the Asia Pacific region in 2001 following a number of (absorption) acquisitions. the Head Office-based project sponsor allowed the implementation of this first installation to proceed with a flexible informal project plan that relied heavily on local leadership within the project team and close cooperation between local and Head Office members of the project team. These three implementations. The process was subsequently successfully repeated by the Head Office and Australian team in conjunction with a local project team at a manufacturing site in north east China. initial theory emerged regarding the implementation strategies that may have contributed to these perceived successful outcomes. by this team. Only the high level objectives concerning the overall timetable. Toowoomba • • • The Role of ERP in Mergers & Acquisitions Grainger The development and documentation of a believed to be repeatable implementation process. the researcher met frequently with their Sponsor and members of the project to learn about progress and the perceived contributors to successful implementation and integration of the businesses. The development of knowledgeable and experienced project team members able to support ERP implementations in other parts of the organisation. In reality many operational issues arose in the first few months of this first implementation largely resulting from the lack of experience of the implementation team and software scale up issues. overall budget. 722 . This enabled the team to build new knowledge and understanding as the implementation proceeded and respond quickly to specific local requirements. at least within this organisation. not just for Australia. were directly controlled by Head Office. The development of an internationally accessible ERP simulation environment and supporting training documentation enabling future users in other parts of the organisation to use and learn about the application.

In Head Office the project sponsor who had been responsible for the earlier ERP projects in the region was assigned responsibility and he in turn employed the same project leader in Australia as before.18th Australasian Conference on Information Systems 5-7 Dec 2007. however they greatly assisted integration by bringing in and living their company’s practices. it was decided to run the project largely using virtual communication technology. This built relationships between sites. structure to the plan and timetable and provided opportunities for future local users and future project members (from Europe and Asia) to use the application. and the like. increased individual responsibility and was a clear demonstration that active project involvement could lead to career advancement. into a single instance across the entire region. Communication Skill Development In order to involve non-Australia based project members in project meetings. All had worked for the company for many years and had deep knowledge of its business. fastest and most trouble free implementation and integration.based up and coming business managers who took regional leadership roles for major business processes. As local staff expertise developed on a site. its culture. The presence of these pre-existing relationships appeared to help to solve many problems. With the template agreed. one an Operations Planner at a major US manufacturing site.or Hong Kong. and knowledgeable individuals became a regional resource travelling to other sites to assist with subsequent implementations. Due to the very spread out geography and the considerable personal toll of extensive travelling in the stage 1 study. accepted procedures and individual skill in participating in such teleconferences. a practice of incorporating international teleconferencing into the regular and frequent project meetings led to the acquisition of suitable hardware. This team was known by many of the staff in the region. Experienced and Knowledgeable Staff Members from Acquiring Company Involved Supporting the ERP implementation were four internal consultants from the acquiring company. Local project members from sites where implementations were planned for the near future participated in simulations and implementations at other sites before the implementation was commenced at their own site. In all cases the businesses involved were manufacturing or selling similar groups of products in similar ways. A slightly revised template for the single instance implementation was developed jointly by the same analysts from Head Office as before. This led to the project being closely integrated into the day to day business throughout its life. Toowoomba Integration of the Project into the Local Business The Role of ERP in Mergers & Acquisitions Grainger With the exception of the local project leader who was assigned to the project full time. 723 . They spent approximately two weeks per month at the Australian site over a period of nine months. the building of supporting work practices. policies and procedures. The underlying process however still basically followed the template developed some years previously and the key ideas of vanilla implementation and add-on applications to fill functionality gaps. Involvement of Future Users in Simulations A series of organised business simulations of growing complexity integrated the testing of functionality. A social programme evolved that led to friendships developing and contributed to the development of trust. strongly supported by the region-wide project team. some newly acquired. this was recognised by head office. now assisted by Australian. This was a gruelling on them and expensive for the company. its processes. gave a focus to project members. Some discreet competition developed between senior site managers vying for the smoothest. defined processes and draft documentation. and another an analyst from the Hong Kong regional office. all other local project members retained their pre-existing business roles as well as their short term project roles. Two were IS analysts based at Head Office in the US. A long term strategic approach was taken to resolving the many issues relating to data and system configuration and a ‘can do’ attitude prevailed. Stage 2: Action Research Study of the Consolidation of Asia Pacific businesses Between 2004 and 2006 the researcher had the opportunity to further study the application of the growing body of knowledge within ChemOne about implementing ERP and using the process to integrate newly acquired businesses when the ERP project team was again assembled in the Asia Pacific region to implement a major upgrade to the already installed versions of the ERP application and at the same time consolidate the company’s businesses. the application was implemented on one site at a time where a local project team took local leadership.

Japan and Singapore. photos on international web sites). relatively low for long term orientation. it also led to closer relationships and communication both between sites in the region and with Head Office in the US together with the widespread use of virtual communication tools. Siew & Tay-Yap 2000). and at a last resort an add-on application being bought or developed to interface with the ERP system and thus provide the required functionality. Taiwan. New Zealand. The European and Asia Pacific Cases Compared In Table 1. enabled new acquisitions to be brought onto the system quickly. An MS SharePoint website as a virtual project office. project team or company. Altering the ‘vanilla’ version of the application itself was not considered an option (Soh. being a respected member. But it delivered much more than this. This combined with a near standard implementation process that evolved. The virtual communication practices pioneered by the project teams were subsequently implemented by project members back in their normal jobs and became common practice for business management groups and functional groups across the region. but personal relationships as well. emphasis was placed on activities that would align with these cultural values including: • • Presenting acquisition. and using meetings to engender a sense of belonging. A growing number of middle managers in the region became highly competent with the ERP application and its regional implementation. within budget. 724 . Apart from the expected benefits of data integration. • • Had ChemOne’s consolidation project been in Europe. whilst ‘Individualism’ is low (Hofstede 1994). With this in mind during the ChemOne Asia Pacific ERP implementation project. emphasising the shared long term benefits of integration. northern and central China. teleconferencing combined with online meetings using MS Exchange server. Frequent well structured meetings which fostered not just clarity about the project. indicating a preference to be a member of a close and committed group. Ciborra & Braa 2001) and ChemOne’s ERP consolidations. economically and reliably. a very different emphasis would appear to have been needed. a comparison has been made of some of the differences between the Norsk Hydro case (Hanseth. and built a sense of regional community became a normal part of daily operations of these projects. As important as the technology were the communication practices that evolved as experience grew in the effective use of these technologies. and delivered the expected functionality to users. Thailand. pens. consolidation and ERP implementation plans and activities from a strategic point of view. the USA and Australia tend to score the opposite. providing symbols of membership (t-shirts. where individualism scores high as a cultural dimension and long term thinking relatively low. In addition a number of staff took the opportunity to become involved in the project and broaden their network to include staff on other sites and Head Office. Toowoomba The Role of ERP in Mergers & Acquisitions Grainger Simple virtual communication technologies were used to great effect. by consulting. This has been based on the perceptions gained of the Norsk Hydro case. Focusing on the building of personal relationships over and above work. Malaysia. The Outcome In this project. high for individualism. Building a sense of belonging to an international community. Loyalty is important. between late 2004 and early 2006. with existing functionality and workarounds being used wherever possible. Sharing responsibility for leadership: Respecting local leadership (Hofstede’s Power Distance dimension is high in most of Asia) (Hofstede 1994).18th Australasian Conference on Information Systems 5-7 Dec 2007. These were accommodated within a steadily expanding regional template. listening to and deploying plans through local leaders leading to a high level of responsibility at a local site level for their contribution to regional success (Martinsons 2004). Siew & Tay-Yap 2000). over a period of time. for instance in Hofstede’s terms the highest ranking dimension for all Asian cultures is that of ‘Long Term Orientation’. ChemOne consolidated onto a single ERP instance its businesses in Australia. common reporting and supply chain benefits. These enhancements became available to all via the ‘library’ previously discussed. The project was completed on time. and the researcher’s observation of the ChemOne situation. European countries. Not mentioned are regional cultural differences. be that family. Naturally local needs created challenges on individual sites (Soh.

extent of previous experience in the region or with the other companies unknown Infrastructure Data processing and local network support contracted out to third party. Implementation support Appears to be at least partially contracted out to consulting company with some loss of continuity Whilst ChemOne had some success with these strategies. Schimitz & Steinfield 1990) social influence model of technology use may further explain ChemOne’s results. Many had worked on earlier ERP implementations in the region. concluded that overall Chinese organisational culture has a negative impact on local ERP implementation success. If it is accepted that ERP applications are loaded with cultural values (Boersma & Kingma 2005) then it is not so surprising that local project teams in China have a poor implementation success rate. Validity of Learning The validity of the learning from action research studies such as this has already been justified. A different situation may exist when a US based company located in China is driving the implementation using internationally sourced staff in conjunction with a local project team. The ERP application itself is very much more than a configured database with integrated work processes. with all its complexity cannot be replicated today as such. as was the case of ChemOne. Also to be considered according to Checkland and Howell (2007) is recoverability by interested outsiders drawing on the ideas and processes that were used. Infrastructure support led by HO but also provided locally in-house. a mix of IS and business support. policies. In Zhang et al’s study it is acknowledged that in most cases Chinese companies were buying ERP applications from foreign vendors. (1993). leading to changes in roles and responsibilities aligned with those of the acquiring or consolidating company. it was replicated at the time within the organisation. Whilst the ChemOne experience. working with a local team on site or virtually. Checkland and Howells (2007) and Argyris (1985) Conclusion The motivation to implement the acquiring business’s ERP system across all acquired businesses can be expressed in terms of enabling global competitiveness. The implementation process can involve a deeprooted re-configuration of how a business runs. Regional based project implementation team Most part time. Data processing all done in house. Same project sponsor and project leader as on previous ERP projects in the region and know as business and IT leaders in the region. It is recognised that the initial learning as outlined here is based on a deliberate process of reflective learning within a series of iterations of the implementation and integration process as advocated by Boud. When the implementation project team comprises members from Head Office and other parts of the business. It embodies work practices. Zhang et al. In such a case Fulk et al’s (Fulk. Local network support by local inhouse regional team supported by HO expertise. A further research project to undertake such a study is now being planned.18th Australasian Conference on Information Systems 5-7 Dec 2007. cultures. (2003) who researched factors influencing ERP implementation success in China (amongst Chinese companies). and is hoped will lead to more learning about the contributors to the achieved outcomes. the joint project 725 . principles and beliefs. Toowoomba The Role of ERP in Mergers & Acquisitions Grainger Table 1: Differences between Norsk Hydro and the ChemOne Asia Pacific case Area Geographical Location Basis of Strategy Leadership Norsk Hydro HAE Pan-Europe HO driven global IT approach HO Brussels based management team and project team ChemOne Asia Pacific HO driven regional IT approach HO US based sponsor. values. high level mgmt team and infrastructure mgmt team. some drawn from previous implementations. with benefits to both acquirer and acquired. Entirely supported by in-house consultants. Implementation Team Full time. some from HO.

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