1-7 rating scale ranging from "very much easier" through "about the same" to "much harder"--the average response was 2.75. In other words, the average response indicated that ERP systems are perceived to be easy to change. It would appear, at least based on the answers to this question, that ERP maintenance may not be a barrier to making system change happen.
The final two questions were forward-looking. We asked the respondents if they believed that they would be able to use their ERP system (including any vendor updates) indefinitely without requiring any (further) extensions or modifications. Answers could range from "yes, absolutely" through "perhaps" to "no, something must be done." The responses averaged 4.5, indicating that respondents generally felt that more changes would need to be made to their ERP system. (Note: Users were more prone to say "something must be done" than information systems personnel.)
The final question asked "To what extent do you believe that making changes is a serious problem of ERPs?" The range of suggested responses went from "no problem" to "a problem to be worked on" to "a serious problem (either now or in the future)." Responses averaged 2.8, and thus, closer to "no problem." (Note: Information systems people were more likely to see change as a serious problem than users.)
In spite of the fact that the respondents to this survey have been using their system for a fairly long time, there still seems to be ambivalence about the difficulty of making business-driven change to an ERP. That ambivalence persisted even when we differentiated between information systems respondents and users.
But the bottom line of our findings is this: ERP enhancements at the user level do happen, and, at least at this time, the ERP change mechanisms seem adequate to handle it. That's good news for companies using ERP systems.
Editor's note: If you're interested in the full research study results, contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org for a copy.
Glass, Robert L., and Vessey, Iris. "Enterprise Resource Planning Systems: Can They Handle the Enhancement Changes Most Enterprises Require?" The Software Practitioner, Sept. 1999.