Critical success factors for implementing supply chain information systems : insights from the pork industry

J.M. Denolf

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


Critical success factors for implementing supply chain information systems – Janne M. Denolf

Due to intensified competition, companies realize that they should closely collaborate with their supply-chain partners to further cut costs and stay competitive. To do so, supply-chain partners should intensify information sharing, which is often facilitated through supply chain information systems (SCIS). Implementation of such a system is a complex undertaking due to the umpteen technical and organizational aspects that require consideration. Multiple theories have given valuable insights into the complex interplay of organization and technology. However, tangible tools that consider these theories for implementing a supply chain information system are scarce. To provide more ready-to-use methods, the main objective of the thesis is to identify organizational and technical critical success factors (CSFs) for sharing information and implementing supply chain information systems (SCISs). CSFs are the factors that must go well during an implementation and must, therefore, be given special and continual attention in order to successfully implement an information system. This central objective is investigated by means of the pork industry.

In Chapter 2, we pay particular attention to (supply chain) information sharing. The literature indicates that the relationships among the supply-chain partners have to be managed, and effective governance structures need to be chosen for effective and efficient information sharing. Despite initial research, the literature has not accounted for the multi-dimensionality of information sharing and does not consider the complete supply chain as the unit of analysis. This leads to the first research objective: to investigate how and to what extent supply chain information sharing can be explained by supply chain governance structures. To gain insights regarding the research objective, three European pork supply chains with different governance structures were investigated. Through cross-case analysis, the study stipulates that apart from governance structures, quality regulations, the financial strength (of one or more supply-chain partners) and relationship management seem to influence information sharing to a great extent.

As stated in Chapter 2, supply chains increasingly share information through implementing automated SCISs. To manage these implementations carefully, the study of CSFs for SCIS implementations forms a promising approach. Since to date no consensus has been reached on SCIS critical success factors, the second objective is to identify critical success factors for implementing SCISs. Based on 10 key articles focusing on ERP implementations, we have built a list of CSFs as a starting point for the SCIS literature search. Thereafter, based on 21 SCIS articles, 14 CSFs for supply-chain information system implementation have been defined. To indicate the nature of the CSFs and highlight the interaction of the organizational and technical system, the CSFs are classified in the MIT90s framework of Scott Morton (1991) (See Figure 1).

Figure 1. Framework of CSFs for SCIS implementations

Chapter 3 identifies a comprehensive framework of CSFs for implementing SCISs. Concrete guidance for applying CSFs has, however, not been provided by the CSF literature. There is a gap between the rather abstract CSFs for SCIS implementations and operational project management. Consequently, the following third objective is posed: to make critical success factors for implementing supply chain information systems “actionable”. To deal with this objective, we investigated the completed implementation of SCISs in four German pork supply chains. Respondents were asked to describe crucial challenges during the project and actions taken to cope with these challenges (i.e. Critical Incident Technique). Challenges were assigned to CSFs and form a basis upon which to take actions. Our results suggest that “convince future users to use the new SCIS” – part of the CSF “manage change and deliver training” – and “define the functional requirements of the SCIS” – part of the CSF “select standards, vendor, and software package” – are frequently mentioned challenges. Furthermore, possible critical actions – with connected supply-chain responsibilities – are identified for implementing a SCIS. All in all, through this research, we link the concepts CSFs, challenges, and actions and bridge the gap between CSFs and operational project management for the implementation of a SCIS.

The fourth research objective deals with traceability systems, which are specific SCISs, aiming at the collection, documentation, maintenance, and application of information related to all processes in the supply chain in a manner that provides guarantees to consumers and stakeholders on origin, location, and life-history of a product. Despite a number of traceability and RFID publications, these publications fall short as they often deal with the general issue of traceability and are not really applicable for practitioners. Identification of critical traceability points (CTPs), which are points where information regarding traceability may get lost, is a suitable method for making traceability research more applicable. At last, the following fourth research objective is posed: to identify CTPs in organic pork supply chains and to investigate how these CTPs can be managed through the application of RFID in these chains. Data were collected through an in-depth case study in the European organic pork industry. After having mapped the production processes and information flows for farm and slaughterhouse, CTPs were identified. To keep such information available for actors in the supply chain, pigs should be uniquely identified throughout the supply chain and transformations at farm and slaughterhouse recorded. In the supply chain investigated, 18 CTPs are identified. Then, it was verified how and to what extent CTPs could be managed using RFID applications. The results indicate that several CTPs can be managed using RFID, but additional organizational measures, and the use of other identification technologies, such as DNA profiling, are imperative to manage all CTPs. On top of that, a new SCIS should be built, coupling different existing computer systems of actors involved.

On a general level, this thesis makes a contribution to the theories examining and explaining the mutual interaction of organizational and technical aspects. Specifically, tangible tools are provided that consider these theories for implementing SCISs. Organizational and technical critical success factors – and connected actions – are identified and classified in the MIT90s framework, which is in line with the Structuration Theory of Orlikowski (1992) and reflects the project life cycle of Markus and Tanis (2000). Using the framework of 14 CSFs, a more ready-to-use method is provided for implementing SCIS. Specifically, the thesis makes contributions to the literature on critical success factors (CSF) and critical traceability points (CTP). First, by identifying critical success factors (CSFs) for implementing SCISs, the CSF literature base is extended. Moreover, through identification of key actions for the CSFs, this thesis responds to a stream of researchers claiming that CSFs are not “actionable”. Second, compared to previous research, we investigate how and to what extent critical traceability points can be managed using new technologies such as Radio Frequency Identification (RFID). By verifying best practices and applications for RFID deployment, we provide a response to a group of researchers who stated that RFID and traceability research are not really applicable for practitioners.

Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
  • Omta, Onno, Promotor
  • van der Vorst, Jack, Promotor
  • Trienekens, Jacques, Co-promotor
Award date15 Dec 2014
Place of PublicationWageningen
Print ISBNs9789462571594
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • operations research
  • supply chain management
  • information systems
  • pigs
  • meat and livestock industry

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