Thursday, April 13, 2017

April thesis update

My last post concerning my thesis concluded with these words "So now, I'm going to cease work for the time being in anticipation of a favourable message from the university". As luck would have it, that day I received a note from my new supervisor, who has finally understood that I am not just changing my methodology but also changing the subject being researched. As the thesis had reached the objectives which I had set myself a few weeks previously, I was able to send it to him there and then. The only response which I have received since is that the supervisor is very busy marking exam papers (presumably the March "diet" of MBA Organisational Behaviour, which I did myself six years ago); now it is the Easter/Passover holidays so again I expect a delay.

I hadn't intended to do very much in the period following the sending of the thesis; I was awaiting the arrival of a textbook about qualitative research which my advisor had recommended, and I was also suffering from a streak of painful headaches which crippled my ability to do any constructive thinking in the evenings. My GP prescribed a strong, non-specific, pain killer to be taken daily for ten days; at first this didn't have much of an effect, but about halfway through the period, the daily headaches vanished. I have been headache free now for about two weeks.

The textbook arrived in time to be read during the Passover holiday; I found the opening chapters very illuminating. I don't see that I have mentioned this here, but I developed an instrument (rather a grandiose phrase) which I am calling a 'programming change order' via which I intend to analyse data collected from interviews. I discovered from reading the textbook that this PCO is a 'limiting device' which helps focus the research and is not necessarily a bad thing. Whilst reading those opening chapters, a few new questions popped into my head:
  1. Who requested the enhancement? (I already noticed that I need to ask how the requests for the enhancements were approved)
  2. Are the enhancements adopted? (Already noted in the thesis that there is no easy way of measuring this automatically)
  3. How are users trained to utilise the enhancements?
Disappointingly, I find the rest of the textbook less applicable to my needs. The book devotes a chapter to discussing the use of computer software in analysing the raw material collected from interviews; as the edition of this book which I have is from 1994, this material is somewhat dated. Nevertheless, I discovered that there is a type of software called Computer Assisted/Aided Qualitative Data Analysis, or CAQDAS for short, and that doctoral students at my university are able to download a recent version of one of these programs (NVivo). These programs store text and enable the user to mark portions of the text with codes; later, these codes can be analysed. As I don't have any raw data yet, I have only glanced at this program and have yet to download it. 

I'm not sure that I will be in need of this program, as the PCO focuses the data sufficiently for my needs; I included in my thesis an example of a PCO and of the analysis which I intend to perform on the PCOs. I intend to collect these analyses and perform some descriptive statistics on them.

I thought that I would try to read again the DBA thesis which I mentioned previously about CRM usage, but found this as hard going as before. I then turned to the same source (British Library EthOS - the e-theses online search) and found another, even more interesting, thesis, entitled "Impact analysis of enterprise resource planning post-implementation modifications", which was completed in 2016. I am trying to read this now; whilst it has great relevance for me, it is also written in exceeding bad English, which makes it hard to understand. My supervisors demand a high level of English (and I am constantly copy-editing) so I find it hard to understand how this thesis - which was for a PhD at a London university - escaped the same fate.

Whilst there is a certain amount of overlap between this thesis and mine, there are also huge differences. This one perpetuates the train of thought which says "many studies advocate that the change in ERP systems should be implemented with minimal modification to the application", a position which is repeated several times throughout the thesis. Of course, one of the strong points of originality in my thesis is that the opposite seems to be true when talking about Priority: I contend that companies are able to strengthen the gains achieved from the ERP program by enhancing it.

Two good things have come out from the parts which I have read: firstly, I need to devote a section to change management - this connects with the points about how enhancements are approved and how users are trained to use them. The second good thing is this research used a methodology called design science research which seems to be applicable to my needs; I have downloaded the original paper on this subject which I will read as opposed as to trying to understand what the doctoral thesis mangles.

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