On Applying Normalized Systems Theory to the Evolvability of Open Source ERP Systems

Date: 16 September 2019

Venue: Graduation Hall, Grauwzusters Cloister - University of Antwerp, City Campus, Lange Sint-Annastraat 7 - 2000 Antwerp (route: UAntwerpen, Stadscampus)

Time: 4:00 PM

PhD candidate: Ornchanok Chongsombut

Principal investigator: Prof Jan Verelst

Short description: PhD defence Ornchanok Chongsombut - Faculty of Business and Economics


Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems have become the most important part of enterprises’ information systems. Moreover, evolvability is widely considered to be an important concern for the design and development of software architectures. In particular, evolvability can be considered as a criterion to evaluate and analyse the quality and usefulness of ERP packages.

The purpose of this research is to investigate the evolvability of ERP systems and explore the potential for improvement in evolvability based on Normalized Systems theory.  More specifically, the research question is formulated as “How can the evolvability of open-source ERP systems be investigated and improved based on Normalized Systems theory?”.

To investigate this research question, the design science research approach is chosen as the methodology for the research. As a first step, four open source ERP packages were selected. Next, reverse engineering techniques were applied to the Sales module of each of these four ERP packages, in order to deconstruct their data and workflow models.  After exploring the data models of the selected ERP packages, the next stage involves the creation of prototypes based on Normalized Systems theory, which are then analysed in terms of evolvability based on a case study of fish market management in Thailand.  Finally, versions of the prototypes were generated for different technology stacks in order to illustrate their technology independence, which is an important aspect of evolvability.  This technology independence was not present in the existing fish market system, nor in the existing four open source ERP packages, and provides indications of the feasibility and advantages in terms of evolvability of the proposed approach.

This study has been one of the first attempts to redesign and redevelop parts of existing open-source ERP packages in the market by using Normalized Systems theory. Therefore, the dissertation can assist researchers in understanding the possibilities offered by Normalized Systems theory within their own domain of interest and help them explore the potential usefulness of the theory within each phase of creating an IT artefact such as analysis, construction, demonstration, and evaluation.

Practical contributions include that this dissertation resulted in four re-engineered data models of the Sales module of open-source ERP packages, which are available for practitioners for inspection, which could for example be useful in ERP package selection.  Additionally, this research provides insight into the feasibility into developing evolvable ERP systems by deconstructing existing open source ERP systems and regenerating them as Normalized Systems applications.

Link: https://www.uantwerpen.be/en/research-groups/management-information-systems/