Elements of Perception Regarding the Implementation of
ERP Systems in Swiss SMEs
Catherine Equey and Emmanuel Fragnière
Haute Ecole de Gestion, 7 route de Drize, 1227 Carouge, Switzerland
Abstract. ERP systems are more and more adopted in large companies. It
seems that this trend is followed by small and medium companies too. We have
conducted a questionnaire based survey to identify how Swiss SMEs perceive
this phenomenon. The sample size is 687 of which 125 have actually imple-
mented an ERP. Our main findings are twofold. First SMEs that have not im-
plemented ERP invoke concerns (e.g. costs), which are typically not perceived
as major problems by SMEs that went through an ERP implementation. Indeed
the latter companies generally acknowledge that ultimately benefits (e.g. im-
proved business information) significantly exceed costs and difficulties of im-
plementation. Second, this survey brings new empirical knowledge on the im-
plementation, utilization and benefits provided by ERP systems in Swiss SMEs.
We primarily show that satisfaction provided by the use of the ERP system is
not dependent on the size and sector of the SMEs.
1 Introduction
Since the late nineties, the vendors of integrated management tools also called ERP
(Enterprise Resource Planning) are facing a saturation of their main market, which is
essentially intended to large companies. To find new customers they are trying to sell
their products to the “mid-market” (companies from 100 to 500 persons) represented
partially by Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). However, it seems that few
SMEs have actually implemented an ERP (which is confirmed by this present sur-
We have conducted a survey research (questionnaire based) to study the level of
implementation and of use of ERP systems in Swiss SMEs. To our knowledge this is
the first study of this type ever conducted in Switzerland. The originality of this work
also lies on the qualitative aspects addressed in the questionnaire like the value added
provided by ERP systems in terms of satisfaction, as well as managerial difficulties
encountered when implementing and using ERP systems.
We learn for instance that the main difficulties encountered during the implemen-
tation phase correspond to the “complexity” of these systems. In terms of difficulty of
use, companies cite on top of all the “resistance to change” as well as the “lack of
training”. Satisfaction regarding expectations of benefits does not differ significantly
between small and medium companies as well as types of industry. On the other hand
Equey C. and Fragnière E. (2007).
Elements of Perception Regarding the Implementation of ERP Systems in Swiss SMEs.
In Proceedings of the 1st International Joint Workshop on Technologies for Collaborative Business Processes and Management of Enterprise
Information Systems, pages 43-51
DOI: 10.5220/0002417900430051
if size does not affect satisfaction perceptions, companies belonging to a group have
been in general forced by the headquarter to adopt the ERP.
In this paper, we provide findings under the form of summarized descriptive sta-
tistics and hypothesis testing. For the hypothesis testing section, we solely focus on
the satisfaction perceived by ERP users. All information gathered in the questionnaire
related to cost is voluntary skipped because of the limited length of the paper. It is
organized as follows. In Section 2, we present a literature review related to manage-
rial implications of ERP systems in companies. In Section 3, we briefly present the
questionnaire and the sampling strategy. In Section 4, we present the main descriptive
statistics obtained from the survey. In Section 5, we test a few hypotheses related to
the theme retained for this paper: the satisfaction of the companies having imple-
mented an ERP. In conclusion, we indicate limitations of this study and directions for
future research.
2 Literature Review
Authors of [1] present a consistent review of the research literature between 1990 and
2003. First of all, they present an overview of ERP systems and of their evolution.
Then they explain the nature of the ERP market. There are, in 2001, more than a
hundred providers worldwide. However, only five ERP software vendors control
about 70 per cent of the market share (SAP, Oracle, JD Edwards, Peoplesoft and
Bann). These authors also do a comparison of papers in the field of ERP selection
In [2], difficulties to come up with one definition of ERP are explained. Authors
point out the diversity of perspectives of academic experts and outline that “ERP is
not a term referring to a distinct object but rather a category (…) a range of similar
products”. They show that ERP does not only focus on resources but, also on busi-
ness processes and they reveal terminology deficiencies. These authors finally con-
duct a historical analysis of MRPII and ERP. They conclude that ERP-related con-
cepts are complex and that we still need to provide a comprehensive definition.
[3] identified ten critical factors to the successful outcome of acquiring an ERP
system. The factors that stand out the most are as follows: “clear and unambiguous
authority, a structured, rigorous and user-driven process, its planning, the establish-
ment of criteria and the sense of partnership that the team works to establish not only
with various user commitments, but also with potential vendor.” They believe that the
acquisition success depend on the combination of several critical factors.
[4] presents a new and dynamic model of ERP success factors which should to
improve implementation strategies. They point out the relationships between critical
successes factors such as: organizational context, supporters, project organization and
[5] analyses software development failures that costs organizations billions of dol-
lars. The author reveals that one-third of all software developments fail. He points out
that generally this is the biggest and the most complex projects which fail. Clear and
realistic goal and team’s expertise are also crucial to the success of these projects.
[6] compares the perceptions of managers and end-users on selected implementa-
tion factors. He proposes, by understanding these differences of perception, interven-
tions such as training and communication that can help implementation success.
[7] shows that expert groups seek to influence the ERP’s implementation and de-
velopment. Especially accountants use their position and their professional expertise
to influence the introduction of ERP system.
[8] studies informal control mechanisms on information system (IS) adoption. His
study shows that informal controls should be applied to the ERP systems implementa-
tion in order to enhance tacit and social aspects of IS management. He points out that
“uncertainty avoidance culture and intrinsic motivation of end users in ERP imple-
mentation influence individual user’s ease of use and usefulness of such systems”.
[9] studies differences between ERP’s user expectations and managerial policy by
a case study of SAP implementation.
As per large companies, the literature about ERP and SMEs is rich and varied.
Again critical success factors and ERP selection processes have the favor of the au-
thors. [10] adopts the case study research methodology to study the implementation
activities in order to point out criteria which allow a successful installation. They
indicate that “effective executive management commitment can help a project to
achieve success” and that the choice of the “executive sponsor” is important.
[11] studies critical success factors of ERP in order to propose a structured ap-
proach to help SMEs. Based on the literature, they consider five critical success fac-
tors (CSFs): management and organization, process, technology, data and people.
They emphasize that some CSFs are more important than others. For instance, “peo-
ple” is the main CSF.
[12] studies factors affecting ERP system adoption and compares SMEs to large
companies. Their empirical research shows a strong correlation between company
size and ERP adoption. In the opposite, the business complexity seems to be a “weak
predictor of ERP adoption”.
[13] studies differences in ERP system selection processes between SMEs and
large sized organizations. The main differences are “a different approach to staffing
the group performing the selection process”, for instance large organizations engage
more persons in decision making processes than SMEs. SMEs also select ERP with
less complex models and less expensive methods.
In conclusion, we see that solely the paper [12] studies the criteria which affect
the adoption of ERP but their research focus on the differences between SMEs and
large companies. Research papers do not explore the situation of SMEs in relation to
the adoption of ERP (rate of use), neither in Switzerland nor in any other country.
Typically, the profile of SMEs which use ERP and their “perception” regarding the
ERP implementation are unknown. For instance, data about cost, project length and
number of employees involved in ERP implementation are rarely raised. Perceived
rate of success and satisfaction are also not very much explored in the literature.
3 Questionnaire and Sampling Plan
The methodology to address the research question is based on a questionnaire survey.
In the first phase of the research project, we have conducted in-depth interviews with
Swiss-French companies. This multiple cases study (see [14]) led to the development
of a few research questions along with associated research hypotheses. We had then
the material to design the questionnaire. The first version of the questionnaire was
built with the help of Abacus (which is the leader of ERP vendors’ for SMEs in the
German part of Switzerland), Microsoft, Oracle and SAP senior consultants. The final
version of the questionnaire included 7 major parts: contact, activities and financial
information about the enterprise, specificities of ERP implemented, implementation
project description, project organization, benefits and outcomes related to the use of
the ERP system, difficulties and troubles encountered.
From November 2005 to April 2006 more than 4’000 Swiss SMEs (evenly spread
in the Swiss territory, so this is actually a national survey) were contacted to take part
to this study. The questionnaire was administered essentially by mail. An online ver-
sion of the questionnaire was also available. The questionnaire was declined in four
versions: French, German, Italian and English. The French version is integrated in the
appendix of the French technical report (see [15], for the other versions, please con-
tact the authors of this paper).
Addresses of Swiss’ SMEs were received from the Swiss office of statistics (OFS)
and the selection was made according to the main two following criteria: the size (in
terms of numbers of employees only) as well as the linguistic area.
The stratification of the sample was realized in such manner that 75% of the sam-
ple are companies of the German part of Switzerland, 20% are companies of the
French part of Switzerland, and 5% are companies of the Italian part of Switzerland.
Moreover, we took into account that 84% of companies employ 1 to 49 employees,
and 16% of companies employ 50 to 249 employees.
In order to increase the number of answers, a follow up was done by phone’s in-
terviews. We ultimately obtained a response rate of about 17, 2%. Finally, a total of
687 Swiss SMEs have answered the questionnaire. Out of the 687 answers received
only 18.2% of SMEs are indicating using an ERP (ERP users: 18.2% or 125, non
ERP users: 81.5% or 560, no response: 0.3% or 2). This indicates a low level of pene-
tration in Swiss SMEs (less than 20%). Data have been analyzed with the STATA
and SPSS statistical packages.
4 Descriptive Statistics
The main part of the questionnaire was dedicated to companies which use an ERP.
However, companies that had not implemented an ERP were asked about their moti-
vation for not implementing an ERP. “High cost” (21%), “non necessity” (11%) and
“lack of knowledge” (5%) are the main reasons invoked by Swiss SMEs. More than
40% of the respondents gave no answer to this question, indicating that a large part of
the respondents do not seem to be concerned by ERP systems.
As indicated in the literature review, [12] provided findings regarding the ERP
system adoption based on a survey analysis by comparing a sample of large compa-
nies with a sample of SMEs. They rejected the hypothesis that, the reasons of not
implementing an ERP in a SMEs is due to the business complexity. Indeed they
showed that the main reason invoked is a perception of high cost related to the im-
plementation of an ERP system.
It is relevant that, as we would see further, to emphasize that the reasons for not
implementing an ERP in SMEs are not similar to the difficulties meet up by SMEs’
users of ERP. SMEs that have implemented an ERP are frequently dissatisfied by the
complexity of these tools. On the other hand, our study shows that cost is rarely an
issue of dissatisfaction for ERP users. An explanation that could be added based on
our study (i.e. 40% of respondents give no answer) is that this perception of high cost
comes from the lack of knowledge about ERP systems. However this point should be
investigated in a further research to validate this hypothesis.
In this paper, we skip most of the detailed results related to the ERP software
specificities (for more information, the reader can have a look at [15]). We just report
the main figures. The following descriptive statistics are drawn from the sample of
125 respondents corresponding to ERP users who had to fill in the detailed version of
the questionnaire.
The choice to implement or not an ERP is not related to the cultural and/or lin-
guistic characteristics of the companies. The language and canton (i.e. Swiss states)
of residence, variables capturing this kind of cultural differences, confirm this state-
The size of SMEs, in terms of number of employees, is an important factor ex-
plaining the adoption of ERP systems. Indeed, the comparison with the Swiss national
average and our sample reveals that close to 86% of the Swiss companies have less
than 50 employees. In our sample of ERP users, companies with less than 50 employ-
ees accounts for only 53% of them. In the same way, the Swiss economy counts only
1% of SMEs of more than 100 employees, whereas our sample of ERP users is com-
pose with nearly 26% of companies of more than 100 employees. These descriptive
statistics indicate that larger SMEs are more inclined to adopt an ERP system.
Most of the respondents indicate that they are in a phase of growth. Only 7% of
the ERP users sample acknowledges a reduction in their sales turnover. Among these
companies in phase of recession, 75% installed their ERP more than 5 years ago,
period during which their financial situation might have been different.
Industry (or the secondary sector as opposed to the tertiary and primary sectors) is
over-represented in the sample of ERP users regarding the actual importance of the
tertiary sector in Switzerland. Is it due to the fact that ERP systems are built upon the
Material Requirement Planning (MRP) structure and are thus naturally more em-
ployed in manufacturing plants (i.e. secondary sector)? The question remains open.
Only 36% of the companies belonging to the ERP users sample have declared to
be a subsidiary of a Swiss company and 19% a subsidiary of a foreign company.
However, globaly, 44% of the companies declare to belong to a group. We can think
that the group imposes the use of the ERP on the subsidiary company and that with-
out this obligation, the use ratio of ERP by SMEs could be even weaker.
A significant part of the companies does not turn to the most known vendors like
SAP or ORACLE. Indeed, 50.4% of the respondents ticked the item titled “other” in
the question related to the ERP system installed in the company. It is also notable that
no particular program dominates in the category titled "other". This result is quite
surprising, since we might have thought that to ensure business sustainability compa-
nies would relate to software well positioned in the market.
Another astonishing point is that certain companies mention programs which do
not have the characteristics of an ERP (e.g. AS400, Clipper). This confirms the lack
of consensus regarding a clear definition of ERP systems.
Regarding the choice of the ERP system, Swiss French and Swiss German com-
panies differs significantly. "Oracle" is the first choice of Swiss French companies.
"Abacus" and "Microsoft" are the first choices of Swiss German companies. So it
shows that the Swiss market for ERP systems is segmented in 2 distinct markets (the
Italian part is insignificant).
The installation of an ERP lasts in 80% of the cases less than 1 year (including,
for 53% of the cases, less than 6 months). Nevertheless, in 4.6% of the cases, the
installation seems problematic because it requires more than 1 year and half.
The number of consultants (relative with the interns) also does not appear related
to the duration of the installation of an ERP. The number of consultants required by
the implementation of an ERP remains however important (one consultant for 1 em-
ployee involved in the implementation project). The companies evaluate in 71% of
the cases a need for an external assistance.
The more or less important implication of the direction in project ERP has also
only a moderated impact on the duration of the installation even if a strong implica-
tion of the direction contributes to drastically reduce the probability of seeing the
installation lasting more than a year and half.
In terms of difficulties encountered during the implementation phase, we see that
45% of the respondents indicated the “complexity” of these systems. It is followed by
the “work overload” (38%) and the “difficulties adapting the ERP system to your
process (customization)” (32%). In terms of difficulties encountered when using the
ERP system, we see that 32% of the respondents indicated the “resistance to change”.
It is followed by the “lack of training” (29%) and again the “complexity” of these
systems (25%). We thus conclude that managerial issues are the prominent difficul-
ties associated with ERP systems. Indeed, all technical difficulties were always
ranked at the bottom.
We have skipped all the results related to the costs of implementation and use,
since it appears to be a minor element regarding the overall satisfaction provided by
the use of ERP systems (for more details see [15]).
5 Hypotheses Testing
The main research question developed in this paper is: “Is the satisfaction regarding
the benefits provided by ERP systems evenly spread among Swiss SMEs”? We have
chosen to focus in this paper on one of the qualitative aspects developed in our sur-
vey. Indeed, we believe that the originality of this study lies on the measurement of
qualitative variables such as the satisfaction of the use of ERP systems, and the diffi-
culties (e.g. resistance to change).
To address this research question we propose first to test the following hypothesis
H0: Satisfaction provided by the use of the ERP system is not dependent on the size
and sector of the SME
Ha: Satisfaction provided by the use of the ERP system is dependent on the size and
sector of the SME
The satisfaction variable corresponds to the average for all ERP modules (finance,
SCM, HR, inventory, production …) employed by each given respondent. This vari-
able is expressed as a “likert” scale, with 1 being the weakest value and 5 being the
strongest value. The size variable is expressed over 4 levels: between 10 and 49 em-
ployees, between 50 and 99 employees, between 100 and 199, and 200 and 249 em-
ployees. The sector variable is defined as either the secondary or the tertiary sector.
Table 1. Satisfaction means and standard deviation regarding the size and sector.
Size N Mean Standard Deviation
10 to 49 64 3.76 0.83
50 to 99 25 3.66 0.48
100 to 199 22 4.02 0.57
200 to 249 9 3.86 0.70
Total 120 3.80 0.72
Sector N Mean Standard Deviation
Secondary 63 3.69 0.78
Tertiary 57 3.91 0.63
Total 120 3.80 0.72
The statistical test we have employed to analyse this hypothesis is to compare
means (of statisfaction) for every sample of size or sector involved (see Table 1). In a
general manner, we notice that satisfaction is on average quite high. Practically, we
have conducted an ANOVA (Analysis of Variance) for the size case, which is the
method for comparing means of more than 2 independent samples. For the sector case
it is just a t-test for 2 independent samples. We have retained a significance level of
5% that is the first-type error (or the risk to reject the null hypothesis when it is actu-
ally correct).
The p-value of 0.355 for the size case indicates that we cannot reject the null hy-
pothesis at the significance level of 5%. So we conclude that satisfaction is not af-
fected by size. The (2 tailed) p-value of 0.09 for the sector case indicates that we
cannot reject the null hypothesis. However, this is not clear as it is for the size case.
Nevertheless, we can conclude that the overall satisfaction related to the use of ERP
systems is generally good in SMEs whatever their size or sector.
Other statistical tests can be conducted, that are typically suited for dealing with
variables defined upon nominal scales (e.g. “yes” or “no”, which is often the case
with qualitative variables). Still related to the notion of satisfaction, Table 2 presents
descriptive statistics about value different “attributes” of value added provided by
ERP systems.
Table 2. Value-added by ERP Systems.
Yes No No response
Improved Information 96% 3% 1%
Cost savings 48% 38% 14%
Time Saved 74% 20% 6%
Improved quality of work 95% 5% 0%
For instance, for the “Time saved” variable which was defined over the nominal
scale “yes” or “no”, we could explore the relationship between this variable and again
the size and sector variables (see [16]). We thus test the hypothesis whether there is
really a relationship between the time saved and the SME size or sector of activity.
This is done through a Chi-square test, which can treat nominal variables. Here a
detailed analysis would show that there is unlikely a relationship between the time
saved and the size and sector variables. This analysis shows that satisfaction is on
average quite high and homogeneous among the population of Swiss SMEs (other
aspects than size and sector such as language have also been tested). This is the same
for the benefits provided by the use of the ERP system (except maybe for the cost
savings with only 48% of yes). We can thus infer that vendors and consultants should
specifically address the needs and expectations of Swiss SMEs. On the other hand,
there is likely no necessity to segment the SMEs market due to its homogeneity.
6 Conclusion
In this paper, we have presented the first results of the national survey we conducted
on the implementation and use of ERP systems in Swiss SMEs. We have tackled the
population of Swiss SMEs, because they constitute in Switzerland the essential part
of the economy. We unfortunately notice that the academic literature dedicated on
ERP systems and SMEs essentially focuses on Critical Success Factor’s and not on
satisfaction. Indeed the main contribution of this survey is to have included the per-
ception of SMEs regarding qualitative aspects of the implementation and use of ERP
systems. An ERP system leads to important organizational changes in the company.
We believe that qualitative variables studied through a questionnaire-based approach
can bring value to the current knowledge on ERP systems. In particular, we have
shown that satisfaction of Swiss SMEs ERP users is good and quite homogenous in
terms of industry type and size. However, an empirical research that attempts to
measure business perceptions, is also associated with limitations. Perceptions biases
are inevitable. So findings should be taken with precautions. The study also brings
managerial or practical implications. In particular, developers and consultants should
put more emphasis on making these systems more accessible for SMEs. We also
noticed that the knowledge regarding ERP systems is quite weak among SMEs. This
point will be investigated in a further research to validate this hypothesis. Moreover,
the few SMEs that use an ERP systems seems to be satisfied and to acknowledge
important benefits such as improved information and quality of work. Consequently,
ERP systems for SMEs should become a growing and sustainable market if properly
1. Shehab, E.M., Sharp, M.W., Supramaniam L., Spedding, T.A.: Enterprise resource plan-
ning / An integrative review. Business Process Management, Vol. 10. N°4 (2004) 359–386
2. Klaus, H., Rosemann, M., Gable, G.G.: What is ERP?. Information Systems Frontiers,
Kluwer Academic Publishers (2000)
3. Verville, J., Bernadas, C., Halingten, A.: So you’re thinking of buying an ERP ? Ten criti-
cal factors for successful acquisitions. Journal of Enterprise Information Management, Vol.
18. N°6 (2005) 665–677
4. King, S., Burgess, T.: Beyond critical success factors : A dynamic model of enterprise
system innovation. International Journal of Information Management, Vol. 26. N°1 (Febru-
ary 2006) 59–69
5. Ewusi-Mensah, K.: Software Development Failures. MIT Press (2003)
6. Amoako-Gyampah, K.: ERP implementation factors. A comparison of managerial and end-
user perspectives. Business Process Management, Vol. 10. N°2 (2004) 171–183
7. Newman, M., Westrup, C.: Making ERPs work: accountants and the introduction of ERP
systems. European Journal of Information Systems, Vol.14. N°3 (2005) 258–272
8. Hwang, Y.: Investigating enterprise systems adoption: uncertainty avoidance, intrinsic
motivation, and the technology acceptance model. European Journal of Information Sys-
tems, Vol. 14. N°2 (June 2005) 150–161
9. Lim, E.T.K., Pan, S.L., Tan, C.W.: Managing user acceptance towards enterprise resource
planning (ERP) systems – understanding the dissonance between user expectations and
managerial policies. European Journal of Information Systems, Vol. 14. N°2 (2005) 135–
10. Muscatello, J.R., Small, M.H., Chen, I.J.: Implementing enterprise resource planning (ERP)
systems in small and midsize manufacturing firms. International Journal of Operations &
Production Management, Vol. 23. N°8 (2003) 850–871
11. Sun, A., Yazdani, A., Overend, J.: Achievement assessment for enterprise resource plan-
ning (ERP) system implementations based on critical success factors. Int. J. Production
Economics 98 (2005) 189–203
12. Buonanno, G., Faverio, P., Pigni, F., Ravarini, A., Sciuto, D., Tagliavini, M.: Factors af-
fecting ERP system adoption. A comparative analysis between SMES and large companies.
Journal of Enterprise Information Management, Vol. 18. N°4 (2005) 384–426
13. Bernroider, E., Koch, S.: ERP selection process in midsize and large organization. Business
Process Management, Vol. 7. N°3 (2001) 251–257
14. Equey, C., Rey, A.: La mise en place d’une solution de gestion moderne (ERP/PGI), quels
enjeux pour une PME/PMI ?. 1ère partie : étude de cas détaillés, Working paper N°HES-
SO/HEG-GE/C--06/1/4--CH (2004)
15. Equey, C.: Etude du comportement des PME/PMI suisses en matière d’adoption de
système de gestion intégré, Working paper N°HES-SO/HEG-GE/C--06/12/1--CH (2006)
16. Bryman, A., Ducan C.: Quantitative Data Analysis with SPSS Release 10 for Windows.
Routlege (2001).