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ERP as an organizational innovation: key users and cross-boundary knowledge management

Jan-Bert Maas (KPMG Management Consultancy, Amstelveen, The Netherlands)
Paul C. van Fenema (Netherlands Defense Academy, Breda, The Netherlands)
Joseph Soeters (Netherlands Defense Academy, Breda, The Netherlands)

Journal of Knowledge Management

ISSN: 1367-3270

Article publication date: 9 May 2016




The purpose of this study is to provide more insight in the ways key users act as knowledge managers and boundary spanners during the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system usage phase. Despite the recognized importance of key users during the implementation phase of an ERP system, little is known about their role in the ERP usage phase.


To provide rich insight in the boundary-spanning mechanisms utilized by key users to share knowledge, a qualitative approach was applied. In this study, “abductive” theme coding for 58 interviews with key users, end-users and managers has been used. This paper found six mechanisms and characterized them as “crossing” structural, social or cognitive boundaries.


Six boundary-spanning mechanisms have been distinguished which have been applied by key users to overcome several knowledge management issues. Subsequently, these mechanisms lead to a model which describes three different roles that key users may fulfill to efficiently share and transfer knowledge during the ERP usage phase.

Research limitations/implications

Knowledge barriers during an ERP implementation and their accompanying six boundary-crossing mechanisms have been distinguished.

Practical implications

The recognition of the essential role that key users can fulfill during the usage phase of an ERP system is an important implication. Management has to take into account that tasks and responsibilities of key users have to be clear from the start and they may cautiously select employees who are suited to become key users.


The main contribution is the importance of the impact of key users on the effectivity of knowledge management during the ERP usage phase.



Maas, J.-B., van Fenema, P.C. and Soeters, J. (2016), "ERP as an organizational innovation: key users and cross-boundary knowledge management", Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 20 No. 3, pp. 557-577.



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Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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