Sunday, April 21, 2013

Finally, a thesis title

After spending months trying to find a suitable collection of words which will describe the essence of my doctoral research, I finally hit on what seems to be the perfect title:

An investigation into the prevalence of end user computing (EUC) alongside ERP environments in Israeli SMEs.

(I admit that I don't like the word 'alongside' - I don't want to use the word 'in' twice, so I have to find a synonym).

There are two terms which need explaining here:
  • End user computing (EUC): this is defined as the optional use of computers by professionals and managers (ie knowledge workers) for work related purposes (Zinatelli, Cragg & Cavaye, 1996), or control by users over their computing needs (Raymond & Bergeron, 1992).
  • SMEs - small to medium enterprises: this is a rather nebulous term which is defined differently in different parts of the world. Most studies define SMEs as having fewer than 250 employees, whereas some set the bar at 100 employees.
Whilst I have frequently come across the term SMEs in my literature searches, I hadn't encountered EUC until a week ago; the above definitions  fit almost perfectly the idea that I had in my mind. In an ERP environment, the ERP program itself offers the user many screens and reports. I don't think that it is relevant whether the reports were written by the ERP company itself, thus existing in all applications, by a third party consultant or by an employee of the SME, such as myself. The point is that when faced by a problem, the end user has two options: she can either turn to the ERP expert (who will either find an existing solution or create a new solution) or she can solve the problem herself using tools which are external to ERP. 

It is this second option that I intend to investigate.

Although primarily I want to investigate the prevalence of EUC (how many people use external tools), I am interested in why people use external tools. Thus the first part is quantitative and thus fairly simple, whereas the second part is qualitative and more nebulous.

I want to see whether the following parameters make any difference to the prevalence of EUC
  1. user age
  2. user experience with ERP
  3. user education
  4. department to which the user belongs
  5. the company's area of operation (manufacturing, services, finance, etc)
  6. the percentage of non-SKU (stock keeping units) products in the company's database
  7. where the company is situated in the ERP life cycle (implementing, newish, veteran)
Edit from a week later: a better title which avoids using 'in' twice would be An investigation into the prevalence of end user computing (EUC) in Israeli SMEs which have implemented ERP.

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