IFSR 1998 Newsletter Vol. 17 No. 3/4 December
Department of Business Informatics
University of Regensburg
Organisational Memory (OM) is a concept well known from organisation science and learning theory. Many approaches have been developed which claim to guide organisations to use their common or shared memory in a more efficient way. Existing approaches focus on organisational issues and consider the OM as a resource which has to be managed like capital or labour. With the advent of advanced database technologies (e.g. data warehousing, OLAP, data mining, knowledge discovery and bases, distributed data base systems, multimedia and hypermedia data bases) and net technologies, especially the so-called „Intranet“- or „Web“-technologies, sound information technologies exist to support organisational processes of generating, institutionalising, retrieving and disseminating information. However, so far the OM approaches lack the integration of these technologies as means to support the respective processes.
In other words, the author believes that there are so far no „real“ OMS-tools (Organisational Memory Systems) available and there possibly never will be an OMS-tool which covers the respective organisational processes on its own. „OMS-tool“ stands for development tools or tool-sets, applications or application frameworks respectively. There are, however, technologies and even systems around which support certain aspects of the OM. The integration of the tools and systems can play a crucial and beneficial role in improving a company’s position in the competition with a clear focus on organisational learning projects.
Thus in my understanding an OM system is a system which realises parts of the OM (also called organisational knowledge base) with the help of information systems and/or supports tasks, functions and processes closely related to the use of the OM.
Overall goal of our research work in the field of OM systems is to bring together the concept of OM and the technologies mentioned above. The corresponding main research question is whether the organisational approaches of OM can provide a theoretical framework for the integration of these technologies to support organisational information sharing. The research design used to answer this question consists of three sections:
- Theoretical section: A survey of the existing OM approaches documented in the relevant literature is conducted. This forms the basis for the development of a theoretical framework suited for the consideration of information technologies as instruments to support OM.
- Empirical section: Firstly, IT products already claiming support for OM and related empirical work e.g. in innovative companies using OM technologies are evaluated and classified. Secondly, the actual and planned use of OM technologies including environmental variables is studied.
- Practical section: Research concepts, prototypes and process models will be developed which will be used to further our understanding of IT support for OM and to demonstrate how some of the key OM processes might be supported. The prototypes will show our view of OM support and will be discussed with interested organisations and thus refined.