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The goal of this study is to gain an emic perspective of an enterprise-wide reengineering initiative facilitated and driven by data-centric enterprise technology. An emic perspective should giveus an in-depth understanding of how reengineering actually works in an organization. That is, it should give us insight into how people perceive reengineering, the obstacles to reengineering, and the role of data-centric enterprise technology as a driver and facilitator of reengineering. As such, phenomenology is our research methodology since the purpose of a study is the controlling force behind the choice of a research approach (Patton, 1990).
Patton (1990) notes that qualitative methods support learning what people think and feel. They are most suitable when the focus of the research is on the process (how) and interactions rather than the outcomes of a particular event or phenomenon. To get a balanced perspective of the human experience, we need to describe the experience of individuals as they encounter specific situations (Barrit, 1986). "Phenomenon are experiences; thus phenomenology means the study of experience" (Barritt, Beekman, Bleeker, & Mulderij, 1985, p. 19). The phenomenologist's task is to fully understand the experience from the perspective of the subject, rather than correlate it with a cause or other phenomenon (Dukes, 1984).
Phenomenology emphasizes describing and understanding (Borch & Arthur, 1995). It adopts a social constructivist position that believes that the world is socially constructed (Ambrosini & Bowman, 2001). That is, people construct their world and they can experience it as something more than a human construction. This implies that meaning cannot be "objective" in the positivist sense because it is subjectively constructed by people (Ambrosini & Bowman, 2001).
Phenomenology is driven by the intention to clarify and really understand the original phenomena (Schipper, 1999). As phenomenological researchers, we explore the phenomena as it is originally experienced by the people and organizations under study (Schipper, 1999). The actors' (people involved in the phenomena) definition of the situation is what is sought (Abrosini & Bowman, 2001). This definition is constructed in and out of interaction between human beings and their world and developed and transmitted within an essentially social context (Crotty, 1998).
The phenomena we wish to understand are the essence of breakthrough technology in the context of facilitating or debilitating enterprise-wide BPR. In this case, the breakthrough technology is enterprise software incorporating database, transaction, and interface functionality. To disguise the software vendor, we will refer to the breakthrough (enterprise) technology as high profile technology (HPT).
To gain an emic perspective of the phenomena, we embarked on an in-depth case study with Vicro Communications. We chose Vicro Communications because it is involved in enterprise-wide BPR in interaction with HPT. Vicro Communications has been involved in enterprise-wide BPR efforts over the past few years. Top management mandated the use of HPT to facilitate process improvement, automation, and redesign. HPT was chosen to consolidate and unify all technology platforms under one vendor.
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