Tell Me a Good Story: Using Narrative Analysis to Examine Information Requirements’ Interviews During an ERP Implementation
This paper reports on a participant-observation study examining how clients use narratives to convey information during ERP requirements analysis interviews. Techniques drawn from narrative analysis are used to analyze the structure and content of different types of narratives clients tell during requirements analysis interviews. First, findings reveal that interviewees organized their experience, sought to persuade listeners, and conveyed information to analysts using "stories," "habitual," and "hypothetical" narratives. We argue that cClient narratives provide a pragmatic view of the information system, offering insight into the ways the system is actually used and the habitual practices of the work environment. Second, narratives function to signal the embeddedness of the information system in its larger organizational and social context.While analysts may be inclined to dismiss narratives as messy or asuncodeable data, we argue that the insights they provide merit attention. To the degree that narratives give insight into users' perspectives on organizational issues, they provide knowledge that is essential to any information systems project. This is especially true for ERP projects that, unlike other systems projects, seek to integrate processes spanning the entire organization. ERP projects typically require departments with very different priorities and vocabularies to radically rethink the organization and its habitual practices. Work habits, values, and dilemmas faced by users as recounted in narratives are likely to carry over after the legacy system has been removed. Hence, a sound grasp of these factors is surely advantageous for analysts in assessing the current and future environment of the organization. Future implications for research and practice are also discussed.
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