The interaction between an enterprise system and a knowledge-intensive project organization : a case study of project staffing

Merja Mattila

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


Knowledge-intensive project organizations compete in an increasingly dense global web of customers and suppliers. In this global web, organizations seek new ways to deliver projects and services more efficiently. One way to increase efficiency is restructuring in order to become more customer oriented through flattening organizational structure and distributing work across the globe. This kind of decentralized organization relies heavily on distributed teams and several IT tools, such as global Enterprise Systems (ES, and their primary form Enterprise Resource Planning, ERP) and different collaboration devices. In this dissertation I take an exploratory approach on the interaction between a knowledgeintensive project organization and an enterprise system. In the case study I follow how a large project organization transforms from a silo organization into a more integrated matrix model. This case study extends over a period of two and a half years. During the same period, the company implements new ES functionalities in order to support its strategic change relating to a new operating model. I demonstrate the interaction between the ES and the organization by using a part of the new operating model, a project staffing process, as an example of organizational processes that are supported by new enterprise system functionalities. The project staffing process exploits traditional HR data such as competence catalogues and employees’ workload data to optimize resource use. By applying grounded theory I investigate research questions that emerged from the empirical data. Despite the growing literature regarding the interplay between the enterprise system and organization, this complex interaction is not thoroughly understood. I employ theories and models relating to neo-institutional theory, organizational change, sociomateriality, human and machine agencies, affordances, loose coupling, system usage, boundary objects and boundary spanning. In the four research papers forming the body of this thesis I provide new perspectives on the interplay between the enterprise system and knowledge-intensive project organization in managing resources in project business. The main contribution of my study is that the knowledge-intensive project organization sets special challenges for the assimilation and use of new ES functionalities. Particularly, the complexity of the company’s professional services and projects creates different managerial implications and organizational responses within the company. In addition, the new HR-related ES functionalities set some specific challenges for the system assimilation and use in the knowledge-intensive project organization.
Translated title of the contributionThe interaction between an enterprise system and a knowledge-intensive project organization : a case study of project staffing
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Rossi, Matti, Supervising Professor
Print ISBNs978-952-60-4621-1
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-4622-8
Publication statusPublished - 2012
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


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