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Long-term alterations of ERP systems: lasting through relinquishment and regeneration

Claire Dambrin (ESCP Business School, Paris, France)
Bénédicte Grall (Lirsa (EA 4603), Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers, Paris, France)

Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management

ISSN: 1176-6093

Article publication date: 28 October 2022




This paper highlights how technical devices last in organizations. Instead of focusing on the usual implementation or short-term post-implementation phases, this study aims to explore what happens to established technical devices.


The authors build on a 10-year in-depth longitudinal case study examining a CRM package, a type of Enterprise Resource Planning system specialized in customer relationship management, in a door-drop advertising company. This case is based mainly on 35 interviews and four weeks of non-participant observation, made over three different periods.


Drawing on the literature on drift and maintenance, this study investigates two tensions foregrounding lasting: one regarding the degree of human intervention on the technical device (object being maintained vs object maintaining itself) and one regarding the relationship to the initial expectations towards the technical device (relinquishment of certain hopes vs regeneration of interests). This case combines these tensions and allows to highlight four alterations in the CRM system to show how apparently stable devices keep on changing.

Social implications

In a time of resource exhaustion, it is important to reflect upon our relationships to information technology and their modalities of lasting. By stressing that uses emerge from relinquishment and reduction, the authors wish to help organizations move towards more sustainable engagement with their technical devices in the long run.


Lasting is not just a matter of being maintained in a context of threat but also builds upon the capacities of a technical device to maintain itself. The self-alteration dynamics that the authors come up with, shedding and ramification, offer a dedramatized interpretation of maintenance that complements studies on institutional maintenance. The results also contribute to studies on technological drift. The authors stress that drifts are triggered by ties that run out, in particular, discontinuation of maintenance in the system. The durability of technical devices in organizations thus does not consist in always more uses or functionalities, but is also made of reductions and relinquishment.



This paper benefited from the comments by participants at the 9th workshop on Management Accounting as Social and Organizational Practice, Innsbruck, 2016, the 12th Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Accounting Conference, Edinburgh, 2018 and participants of internal research seminars at Stockholm School of Economics, ESSEC HEC and CNAM. The authors would like to thank Chris Chapman, Wai Fong Chua, David Cooper, Eksa Kilfoyle, Bernard Leca, Marie-Astrid Letheule, Martin Messner, Fabian Muniesa, Keith Robson and Ebba Sjögren for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper. The authors also thank their editor, Thomas Ahrens, as well as the anonymous reviewers for their very constructive comments on the paper.


Dambrin, C. and Grall, B. (2022), "Long-term alterations of ERP systems: lasting through relinquishment and regeneration", Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.



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