Document Type


Publication Date

January 2011


This paper explains how various aspects of work system theory (WST) can be applied to achieve greater business value from ERP by assuming that the underlying "design spaces" encompass much more than the features, configuration, and limitations of ERP software. It uses WST concepts to identify directions for achieving business value that might not be considered thoroughly in ERP implementations that focus primarily on converting from legacy software to ERP software.

This paper starts by summarizing basic premises concerning the relationship between work systems and ERP. Focusing on the context of ERP usage, it explains the elements of the two central frameworks in WST, the work system framework and work system life cycle model. Instead of viewing the context as ERP usage or ERP projects, viewing the context as ERP-enabled work system improvement focuses attention on a number of paths toward greater business value that may not be used effectively in current practice. The paper discusses five relevant design spaces that are mentioned rarely, if at all, in current practice. Part of the paper's contribution is in making those ideas more explicit through framing the discussion around aspects of WST. Another part of its contribution is in providing a new way to discuss topics such as workarounds, add-ins, and exceptions that are sometimes controversial issues when ERP is used.