Systèmes d'Information et Management


More and more organisations purchase software "off-the-shelf" as an alternative to developing new systems either internally or through outsourcing. This trend, which began with generic software aimed at supporting major organisational processes such as payroll or debtors and creditors ledgers, is now spreading to strategic information systems. This article attempts to investigate the reasons why managers would adopt such an option and seeks to identify the factors which determine the success or failure of such projects. We focused on SOCRATE, the reservation system of the SNCF (the French railroad company). This system is indeed the most famous instance of purchase of a strategic information system to date. On the one hand, we sought to understand the context in which SOCRATE has been implemented and the state of mind of the project leaders. On the other hand, we also sought to identify the risks inherent in such projects. The opposition between the point of view of the leaders of the project and the traditional risk analysis techniques sheds some light on the problems encountered as the project unfolded, but it also indicates a number of ways that the management of such projects could be improved.