Digitizing the field: designing ERP systems for Triple-A humanitarian supply chains

Ioanna Falagara Sigala*, William J. Kettinger, Tina Wakolbinger

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The purpose of this study is to explore what design principles need to be considered in Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems for humanitarian organizations (HOs) to enable agile, adaptive and aligned (Triple-A) humanitarian supply chain capabilities and digitize humanitarian operations. Design/methodology/approach: This study follows an embedded case study approach with a humanitarian medical relief organization, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), which engaged in a multiyear ERP design at its humanitarian field missions.
Findings: This research shows that ERP systems for humanitarian organizations should be designed as unique systems addressing humanitarian organizations' challenges and unique missions, their value generation processes, and resource base in an effort to improve organizational performance. This study presents 12 general design principles that are unique for humanitarian organizations. These design principles provide a high-level structure of guidance under which specific requirements can be further defined and engineered to achieve success.
Research limitations/implications: The results of this study are based on a single case study limiting generalizability. However, the case study was analyzed and presented as an embedded case study with five autonomous subunits using different business processes and following different adoption and implementation approaches. Therefore, the findings are derived based on considerable variance reflective of humanitarian organizations beyond MSF. Practical implications: This study recognizes that HOs have unique routines that standard commercial ERP packages do not address easily at the field level. The primary contribution of this research is a set of design principles that consider these unique routines and guide ERP development in practice. National and international HOs that are planning to implement information systems, private companies that are trading partners of HOs as well as vendors of ERP systems that are looking for new opportunities would all benefit from this research.
Originality/value: This study fills the gap in the humanitarian literature regarding the design of ERP systems for humanitarian organizations that enable Triple–A supply chain capabilities and it advances the knowledge of the challenges of ERP design by HOs in the context of humanitarian operations.

Original languageEnglish
Peer-reviewed scientific journalJournal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)231-260
Number of pages30
Publication statusPublished - 16.03.2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article - refereed


  • 512 Business and Management
  • ERP systems
  • Humanitarian logistics
  • Humanitarian organization
  • Humanitarian supply chains
  • Integrated information systems
  • Triple-A supply chains

Areas of Strength and Areas of High Potential (AoS and AoHP)

  • AoHP: Humanitarian and societal logistics


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