Why ERPs Disappoint: the Importance of Getting the Organisational Text Right

  • James R. Taylor
  • Sandrine Virgili
Part of the Springer Series in Advanced Manufacturing book series (SSAM)


In 1994, the journal Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) featured a debate between two acknowledged “stars” in the field: Lucy Suchman, then a researcher at PARC (the Xerox Palo Alto Research Centre), with a background in ethnography, and Terry Winograd, a professor of computer science at Stanford University, also located in Palo Alto, California. Suchman led off the polemic with an article entitled “Do categories have politics?” In her paper, she opened up for argument the validity of all computer-based systems that claim to be “tools for the coordination of social action“ (p. 177). She questioned in particular how “the theories informing such systems conceptualise the structuring of everyday conversation and the dynamics of organisational interaction over time“ (p. 178). Her explicit target was a system, called “The Coordinator,“ that Winograd had been instrumental in developing. It based its protocols on a theory of organisational communication derived from earlier work in philosophy, linguistics and discourse analysis known as “speech act theory“ (SAT). SAT proposed a categorisation of utterances, based on how they contribute to a set of presumed standard organisational transactions, which The Coordinator proposed to make explicit and incorporate as part of a computer-based protocol. In this way, it claimed, the supporting technology it offered would render the communicative exchanges of the organisation more transparent, and thus—by implication—would make them increasingly regular and efficient.


Sense Making Computer Support Cooperative Work Purchasing Agent Everyday Conversation Purchasing Department 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Limited 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • James R. Taylor
    • 1
  • Sandrine Virgili
    • 2
  1. 1.University of MontréalMontréal
  2. 2.CEREFIGEUniversity Paul Verlaine MetzMetz

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