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Proceedings ArticleDOI

Understanding organizational memory from the integrated management systems (erp)

12 Jun 2013-

Abstract: With this research, in the form of theoretical essay addressed to the theme of Organizational Memory and Integrated Management Systems (ERP) we tried to present some evidence of how this type of system can contribute to the consolidation of certain features of Organizational Memory. From a theoretical review of the concepts of Human Memory, extending to the Organizational Memory and Information Systems, with emphasis on Integrated Management Systems (ERP) we tried to draw a parallel between the functions and structures of Organizational Memory and features and characteristics of ERPs. The choice of ERP system for this study was due to the complexity and broad scope of this system. It was verified that the ERPs adequately support many functions of the Organizational Memory, highlighting the implementation of logical processes, practices and rules in business. It is hoped that the dialogue presented here can contribute to the advancement of the understanding of organizational memory, since the similarity of Human Memory, is a fertile field and there is still much to be researched.
Topics: Organizational learning (62%), Organizational memory (62%), Organizational studies (60%), Information system (53%)

Content maybe subject to copyright    Report

JISTEM - Journal of Information Systems and Technology Management
Revista de Gestão da Tecnologia e Sistemas de Informação
Vol. 10, No. 3, Sept/Dec., 2013 pp.541-560
ISSN online: 1807-1775
DOI: 10.4301/S1807-17752013000300005
_____________________________________________________________________________________
Manuscript first received/Recebido em 01/02/2013 Manuscript accepted/Aprovado em: 28/07/2013
Address for correspondence / Endereço para correspondência
Gilberto Perez, Mestre (2003) e Doutor (2007) em Administração pela Universidade de São Paulo. Na
Universidade Presbiteriana Mackenzie atua como Coordenador e Pesquisador do Núcleo de Estudos em
Estratégia e Inovação - NEPEI - Universidade Presbiteriana Mackenzie, Rua da Consolação, 930, São
Paulo 01302907 - São Paulo, SP Brasil E-mail: gperez@mackenzie.br
Isabel Ramos, Centre Algoritmi, University of Minho, Braga, Portugal, E-mail: iramos@dsi.uminho.pt
Acknowledgements: This paper is funded by: FEDER funds through the Operational Program for
Competitiveness Factors, COMPETE and Portuguese Funds through FCT - Foundation for Science and
Technology under the Project: FCOMP-01-0124-FEDER-022674 and MackPesquisa - Mackenzie
Research Fund”.
Published by/ Publicado por: TECSI FEA USP 2013 All rights reserved.
UNDERSTANDING ORGANIZATIONAL MEMORY FROM THE
INTEGRATED MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS (ERP)
COMPREENDENDO A MEMÓRIA ORGANIZACIONAL A PARTIR DOS
SISTEMAS INTEGRADOS DE GESTÃO (ERP)
Gilberto Perez
Universidade Presbiteriana Mackenzie, São Paulo/SP, Brazil
Isabel Ramos
Centre Algoritmi, University of Minho, Braga, Portugal
__________________________________________________________________________
ABSTRACT
With this research, in the form of a theoretical essay addressing the theme of
Organizational Memory and Integrated Management Systems (ERP), we tried to
present some evidence of how this type of system can contribute to the consolidation
of certain features of Organizational Memory. From a theoretical review of the
concepts of Human Memory, extending to the Organizational Memory and
Information Systems, with emphasis on Integrated Management Systems (ERP) we
tried to draw a parallel between the functions and structures of Organizational
Memory and features and characteristics of ERPs. The choice of the ERP system for
this study was made due to the complexity and broad scope of this system. It was
verified that the ERPs adequately support many functions of the Organizational
Memory, highlighting the implementation of logical processes, practices and rules in
business. It is hoped that the dialogue presented here can contribute to the
advancement of the understanding of organizational memory, since the similarity of
Human Memory is a fertile field and there is still much to be researched.
Keywords: Human Memory, Memory Organizational, Information System, ERP.

542 Perez, G., Ramos, I.
JISTEM, Brazil Vol. 10, No.3,Sept/Dec 2013, pp. 541-560 www.jistem.fea.usp.br
RESUMO
Com esta pesquisa, no formato de ensaio teórico abordou-se o tema da Memória
Organizacional e os Sistemas Integrados de Gestão (ERP), buscando apresentar alguns
indícios de como este tipo de sistema pode colaborar para a consolidação de algumas
funcionalidades da Memória Organizacional. A partir de uma revisão teórica sobre os
conceitos da Memória Humana, com extensão à Memória Organizacional e Sistemas de
Informação, com ênfase nos Sistemas Integrados de Gestão (ERP), procurou-se
estabelecer um paralelo entre as funcionalidades e estruturas da Memória
Organizacional e as funcionalidades e características dos ERPs. A escolha do sistema
ERP para este estudo deveu-se à complexidade e escopo abrangente deste sistema.
Pôde-se constatar que os ERPs suportam de forma adequada algumas funções da
Memória Organizacional, com destaque à implementação das lógicas, processos,
práticas e regras vigentes de negócio. Espera-se que o diálogo aqui apresentado possa
contribuir para o avanço do entendimento da Memória Organizacional, visto que à
semelhança da Memória Humana, é um campo fértil e ainda existe muito a ser
pesquisado.
Palavras-chave: Memória Humana, Memória Organizacional, Sistema de Informação,
ERP.
1. INTRODUCTION
To assess whether an organization can be understood as a system, to which the
concepts of memory are likely to be applied, has become a challenge for researchers of
organizational theories. Perhaps, this is considered a preposterous claim by scholars of
the humanities. However, if the claims of the General Systems Theory (TGS)
(Bertalanffy, 1975) are observed, an organization can be conceptualized as a system
because it is based on open systems as they relate to the environment (various
stakeholders); presents perspectives to organize itself as a whole and is able to
implement a holistic view.
It is clear that the cybernetics has enabled the development of TGS, as well as
the operationalization of ideas that converged at a theory of systems applied to
management. To cybernetics is also associated the use of Systems and Information and
Communication Technologies, widely used in the integration and exchange of
information within the organization and with the environment. Likewise, studies in
psychology, philosophy and sociology contributed substantially to the evolution of the
concepts of memory and understanding of the complex mechanisms involved in its
operation. Based on these approaches, the initial proposition proves to be quite
promising and studies on Organizational Memory begin to appear, but there is much
still ahead.
For a proper understanding of the functioning of the Organizational Memory,
scholars of organizational theories "borrowed" basically the same concepts and
meanings of human memory and applied them to their studies within organizations. It
then becomes necessary to understand that these meanings and implications should be
explained so that it is possible to assess whether in fact they apply to organizations and
how they apply.

Understanding Organizational Memory from the Integrated Management Systems (ERP) 543
JISTEM, Brazil Vol. 10, No.3,Sept/Dec 2013, pp. 541-560 www.jistem.fea.usp.br
In its essence, the memory is related to one of the central concepts of the theory
of information processing. In turn, the information is a valuable resource for
organizations and sometimes, it generates competitive advantage. Organizational
Memory is related to the accumulation of socially constructed solutions to the problems
of the past and that are often found within organizations (Ackerman & Halverson,
2004).
In practice, the Organizational Memory influences in various ways individuals
and areas that are part of it. This is the case of decisions made by managers, who rely on
information and knowledge that the organization is able to store and recover in due
course in information systems. The decisions influence the results of the organization
and determine its future. Thus, organizational memory is somehow tied to the
effectiveness and performance of organizations.
One can then infer that organizational memory is somehow related to the use of
available systems, often very expensive, as is the case for Enterprise Resource Planning
Systems (ERP), since this is a system widely used by organizations thanks to the range
of functions it incorporates, its modularity and integration of data and information from
various areas that make up the organization in a single database.
Since the Organizational Memory shows up as a fertile field of research while
challenging, the purpose of this essay was to better understand its mechanisms of
operation, associating them with the Information Systems (another fertile research
field), in particularly with Enterprise Resource Planning Systems (ERP), given the
complexity and scope of such systems, which has as one of its main purposes, the
preservation of organizational memory.
Before the case presented, it was formulated the following research question:
How can Enterprise Resource Planning Systems (ERP) contribute to consolidate
the Organizational Memory? Its overall objective was to determine how ERP systems
can somehow assist in the consolidation of organizational memory.
2. METHODOLOGICAL CONSIDERATIONS ABOUT THE ESSAY
Although the established essayists position themselves on not having the need to
adopt a methodology in the preparation of an essay, it was decided to maintain this
section, which aims to present the reader with some concepts and the uniqueness of the
theoretical essay, as well as to clarify the choice of this type of text. It was understood
that the logic of argument of an essay should also be present in its structure.
Medeiros (2000: 112) refers that the essay "is a methodological display of
performed issues and original conclusions that have been reached after careful
examination of an issue." He emphasizes further that the test should take part
problematically, anti-dogmatically, and that it should stand the critical spirit of the
author, as well as originality.
An interesting approach to the essay and that served as a reference for the
elaboration of this work is presented by Meneghetti (2011: 321): "Unlike the traditional
method of science, in which the form is considered more important than the content, the
essay requires subjects, essayist and reader, able to assess that the understanding of
reality can also occurs in other ways ".

544 Perez, G., Ramos, I.
JISTEM, Brazil Vol. 10, No.3,Sept/Dec 2013, pp. 541-560 www.jistem.fea.usp.br
Besides the theoretical study, another guiding aspect of this essay was its
multidisciplinary approach, in this case, the Organizational Memory and Information
Systems. Therefore, by not introducing the empiricism of traditional papers, it is hoped
that the dialogue and reflections presented here can somehow entice the reader into a
further reflection and, perhaps, to continue the discussion herein initiated.
3. THEORETICAL REFERENCIAL
This chapter presents an overview of the evolution of the concepts of Human
Memory, extending the concepts of Organizational Memory and Information Systems,
with emphasis on ERPs.
3.1 Evolution of the concepts Memory and Human Memory
The field of memory studies is multidisciplinary and combines intellectual
currents of several areas, including (but not limited to) anthropology, education,
literature, history, philosophy, psychology and sociology (Roediger & Wertsch, 2008).
According to those authors, philosophers have written about memory problems since
2500 years ago and psychologists have studied empirically the questions related to
memory for over 125 years.
The memory is an important and complex cognitive process, which can be
defined as a process consisting of three mechanisms: storage, retention and access.
While those mechanisms are considered sequential, they are, in fact, interdependent.
That is, how the content has been stored can influence the retention, the access depends
on which types of retention are activated, and so forth (Baddeley, 1999).
The memory can be natural or artificial. As Simon (1955) states, information can
be stored in the natural memory or stored in an artificial memory in the form of
documents, books, notes, decisions, knowledge, processes, etc. This type of memory
assumes a representative role for organizations in the form of Information Systems. In
organizations, the decision maker can use the natural memory whenever she/he runs
into a problem already experienced. However, she/he can use the artificial memory to
access files, databases, and records and other typo of information about how a past
decision influenced the organization, so they are useful in solving new similar
problems.
Over time, various models have been proposed to study human memory. It is a
theme constantly revised in view of the findings in the areas of neuroscience,
progressively more accessible due to the increasing sophistication of research methods
in the area. A model commonly adopted, based on neuropsychological research, shows
how memory can be divided into two basic types: declarative and non-declarative
(Sternberg, 2008). Moreover, memory is defined in two ways: by retention time and by
its contents (Davidoff, 2001; Gazzaniga, Ivry & Mangun, 2006).
There are also proposals that human memory can be explained by a
connectionist model that shows the activation of parallel processing. The criticism that
is made to this model point out that it fails to explain mechanisms for recalling single
episodes, for example (Sternberg, 2008). What can be said is that human memory is
maintained by various cognitive and neural systems, different in terms of quality of the

Understanding Organizational Memory from the Integrated Management Systems (ERP) 545
JISTEM, Brazil Vol. 10, No.3,Sept/Dec 2013, pp. 541-560 www.jistem.fea.usp.br
information stored and how it is encoded and evoked. It relates to emotions, to learning
mechanisms and suffers losses associated to the human development (Oliveira, 2007).
From what has been presented so far, to develop a unique model of human
memory presents itself as a relatively difficult task. One justification for this is that the
knowledge about human memory is evolving fast mainly by the contribution of
Psychology and Neuroscience. However, a model (Figure 1) developed by Alan
Baddeley - Professor of Psychology - is widely accepted by these two scientific
communities.
Figure 1: Representation of Human Memory
Source: Adapted from Baddeley et al.(2009)
Observing the model in Figure 1 reveals that human memory consists of three
other memory types, namely: 1) Sensory memory (very fast and retains the stimuli
received) 2) Working Memory (stores information that will be the basis for reasoning
and learning) 3) Long Term Memory (information to be used indefinitely). Together,
these memories enable humans to adapt to their environment, to achieve the proposed
goals, knowledge integration and patterns maintenance a human ability that
accelerates the interpretation of new events based on past experiences.
Recent studies in neuroscience indicate that human memory has some
constructive features (Schacter & Addis, 2007). A practical example of this capability
occurs when presenting to a group of people, for a certain period of time, a list of words
related to a given context, eg: tired, bed, awake, sleep, dream, night, blanket, napping,
sleep, snoring pillow, yawning, peace and sleepy.
After finishing the session, when asked participants to recognize a few words;
some participants correctly identify the word pillow, some confirm that the door was
not present; however, some respondents cite words that were not on the original list, but
they were associated with the initial context, for example, the word sleep. Similarly, a
system based on constructive principles can extract, recombine and reassemble events
that never occurred. This system will occasionally produce memory errors, but it can

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