Agility & Loose Coupling of Enterprise Systems

Enterprise Systems (ES) are large, integrated information systems that combine various ICT functions of organizations. Examples are Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Supply Chain Management (SCM), and most prominently Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems. More concrete, one can think of electronic patient records, production planning systems, or – more closely to home – student administration systems. Traditionally, ES are inflexible and rigid systems that impose ‘best practices’ on organizations. However, there are developments in the area of ES concerning Business Process Management (BPM), Service Oriented Architecture (SOA), and Software as a Service (SaaS), which can all be considered ‘enablers’ of ES flexibility and consequently business agility. These developments may entail a shift from ‘tight’ to ‘loose coupling’ between business processes and applications. Currently, if a change occurs, this usually involves re-engineering the process or customizing the application. In the new situation, dynamic adaptation to changes may occur. What is interesting about these developments is that they have both organizational (i.e., through IT-governance) and technological (i.e., through IT-infrastructure) aspects.

Our interest lies in the question to what extent these recent ES developments contribute to this ‘loose coupling’ and consequently, how this influences business agility. Also relevant in this context are the need for agility (i.e. does the specific business process actually require an agile organization?) and the readiness for agility (i.e. to what degree is an organization currently agile in terms of governance, processes, applications, and technology?).

In the study this proposal pertains to, we aim to perform an in-depth study of the hypothesized relations of Figure 1 in about four case studies. Within the case study organizations, data will be collected through observations, performing semi-structured interviews with both business and IT representatives of organizations, and – if appropriate – also a survey.



  • Arie Twigt
    Master Business Administration: Information & Knowledge Management
  • Stavros Champilomatis
    MSc Computer Science