The role of organizational knowledge management in successful ...Document Transcript
Knowledge-Based Systems 21 (2008) 920–926
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/knosys
The role of organizational knowledge management in successful ERP
Ramin Vandaie *
DeGroote School of Business, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ont., Canada L8S 4M2
a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t
Article history: Special attention to critical success factors in the implementation of Enterprise Resource Planning systems
Received 26 April 2006 is evident from the bulk of literature on this issue. In order to implement these systems that are aimed at
Received in revised form 27 May 2006 improving the sharing of enterprise-wide information and knowledge, organizations must have the capa-
Accepted 13 April 2008
bility of effective knowledge sharing to start with. Based on a review of the literature on the knowledge
Available online 20 April 2008
management in enterprise system implementation projects, this paper identiﬁes two major areas of con-
cern regarding the management of knowledge in this speciﬁc type of projects: managing tacit knowledge,
and issues regarding the process-based nature of organizational knowledge viewed through the lens of
Enterprise system implementation
Organizational knowledge management
organizational memory. The more capable an organization is in handling these issues, the more likely it
Process-based knowledge is that the implementation will result in competitive advantage for the organization. The competitive
Tacit knowledge advantage arises from the organization’s capabilities in internalizing and integrating the adopted processes
with the existing knowledge paradigms and harmonizing the new system and the organizational culture
towards getting the most out of the implementation effort.
Ó 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
1. Introduction cessful outcomes only if it is accompanied by the evolution of
human capabilities to understand the implications and handle
In order to be able to respond to the fast-changing business the consequences of the new system and business processes
environment of the contemporary markets, enterprises have felt deﬁned for it . Enterprise system as a technology is designed
the urgent need to integrate business functions into a single sys- to enable ﬁrms to better manage their knowledge by integration
tem. Such solutions often referred to as Enterprise Resource Plan- of business processes and have better control of information and
ning (ERP) systems, efﬁciently utilize information technology, data in the organization. Ironically, to implement the technology
and enable the internal sharing of data and information as well that is aimed at improving the sharing and integrity of information
as the required communication with third-party vendors and cus- and knowledge in the ﬁrms, organizations must have the capability
tomers [18,27,15]. ERP systems focus on the integration of business of effective knowledge sharing to start with . The knowledge
functions throughout the entire enterprise by facilitating the ﬂow required during enterprise system implementation includes a vari-
of information across the line of the business processes as they ety of expertise, experiences and skills and therefore cross-func-
cross the departmental boundaries. ERP systems run off a single tional and cross-divisional transfer of knowledge is necessary to
database and enable various departments to share information ensure that the requisite enterprise system knowledge is available
and communicate with each other. for a successful implementation . ERP implementation is so
Given the high risk of failure associated with enterprise system knowledge-intensive that the fate of the whole project is in hands
implementation projects [30,26] special attention to critical suc- of a group of knowledgeable employee from across the organiza-
cess factors in enterprise system implementation is evident from tion and success of the project relies heavily upon effective man-
the bulk of literature on this issue [14,3,33]. These success factors agement of knowledge into, within, and out of this team during
range from technical know-how and expertise to people and orga- enterprise system life cycle. Implementation team members are,
nization management skills required during a typical enterprise by deﬁnition, knowledge workers  who put their experience
system implementation project [8,15]. Optimal implementation and knowledge into work, are inﬂuenced by the knowledge they
of enterprise systems requires attention to the technology as well gain during the enterprise system project, and become more valu-
as people [27,13,17]. Developing the technology side of an enter- able for the organization as they grow more and more knowledge-
prise system to cover all organizational processes can lead to suc- able about the new system .
ERP knowledge does not reside exclusively on the supply side,
* Tel.: +1 905 525 9140x26179; fax: +1 905 521 8995. nor can it be transferred directly to the user organization. Rather
E-mail address: email@example.com this knowledge is dispersed within the organization (across func-
0950-7051/$ - see front matter Ó 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
R. Vandaie / Knowledge-Based Systems 21 (2008) 920–926 921
tional divisions, work groups, etc.) and outside the organization systems in facilitating the management of organizational knowl-
(with consulting partners or software vendors) . During a suc- edge [7,31].
cessful ERP implementation project this knowledge must be com- From the epistemological perspective, knowledge is known to
bined and integrated and transformed into applicable knowledge be either tacit or explicit. Explicit knowledge refers to knowledge
 in the particular context of the project. Typically this is that is transmittable in formal, systematic languages. Tacit knowl-
achieved by setting up a team to evaluate the existing solution edge on the other hand is personal, context speciﬁc, and therefore
and then design and implement the chosen system. By mapping hard to formalize and communicate. Assuming that knowledge is
existing organizational process, identifying processes embedded created through the interaction between tacit and explicit knowl-
in enterprise system package and deﬁning new organizational pro- edge, Nonaka and Takeuchi  introduced their spiral of knowl-
cess that ﬁt both the new systems and the organization, the ERP edge creation in which knowledge contents interact with each
implementation team conﬁgures the package to suit the organiza- other to interchange from tacit to explicit or vice versa. The hierar-
tional context. Disperse, function-embedded, and process-oriented chical view of knowledge which includes Data, Information and
knowledge must be gathered and combined with the knowledge Knowledge in the ascending order of complexity is widely
embedded in the ERP package. Therefore knowledge needs to ﬂow accepted. Data is the raw facts which are processed to become
among team members, and between team members and other information. Authenticated information by human perception is
organizational members or external consulting staff. Fundamen- considered to be knowledge. In practice, what organizations actu-
tally, successful completion of these activities will depend on ally manage under the name of knowledge management, is a mix
how well the ERP-speciﬁc knowledge is handled and managed to of knowledge, information and data; so, as we see, it is very difﬁ-
ensure the access to requisite knowledge whenever, wherever, cult to distinguish between these different dimensions of knowl-
and by whomever it is needed. edge in real world experiences [4,7]. The hierarchical nature of
Based on a review of the literature on the knowledge manage- knowledge is also reﬂected in knowledge management initiatives.
ment in enterprise system implementation projects, this paper Organizations focusing on data and information levels, are more
identiﬁes two major areas of concern regarding the management likely to choose approaches involving data warehouses, statistical
of ERP knowledge. The ﬁrst area concerns the effects and implica- analysis and other similar tools; while focus on knowledge level
tions of the tacitness of a great portion of ERP-speciﬁc knowledge. normally leads to initiatives like communities of practice . The
The challenge of tacit knowledge sharing is partly due to the fact understanding of this characteristic of knowledge as well as recog-
that the process knowledge is by and large routinized so that nizing the tacit or explicitness of knowledge residing in the minds
employees may be subconscious about the separate steps which of individuals or in the collective organizational memory, act as a
are gone through in the process and have difﬁculty expressing basis in determining the type of knowledge management strategies
it explicitly. When any of these employees are selected as the and initiatives for an organization.
ERP implementation team member, the need for communicating All in all, identifying what is meant by knowledge for an orga-
this type of knowledge is magniﬁed. Based on the process-based nization is the ﬁrst step. It is the next step, however, which is
nature of this type of knowledge, the second area examines the the challenge; namely, what can be done to improve the creation,
application of organizational memory in ERP knowledge manage- storage and dissemination of knowledge in organizations. Next, the
ment. Organizational processes embed substantial knowledge of issue of identifying the characteristics of knowledge in the speciﬁc
the organization’s history and paradigms and since this knowl- context of enterprise system implementation projects is discussed
edge is not conﬁned to a speciﬁc mind’s cognition and is stored and a knowledge-based view of ERP projects is presented.
in form of processes, it can be regarded as the organizational
memory. Viewing the ERP knowledge from the lens of organiza-
tional memory has certain implications for managing the knowl- 3. Knowledge-based view of ERP projects
edge in these projects in terms of its enabling or impeding factors
in enterprise system projects which makes it an interesting issue Enterprise system allows companies to have a convergent and
to consider besides the important problem of tacit knowledge integrated view of the organizational information by means of
sharing. This paper begins with general deﬁnition of organiza- centralized databases and integrated business processes across
tional knowledge and knowledge management and transitions the lines of different divisions and departments [9,23,19]. It could
into ERP-speciﬁc knowledge management issues. Enterprise sys- be said that as the result of enterprise system implementation the
tem tacit knowledge sharing and organizational memory perspec- organizational information and knowledge converges across dif-
tive of ERP knowledge are discussed following the deﬁnition of ferent divisions and departments on an organization-wide scope.
basic concepts and are followed by conclusion and discussion of IT experts need to know more about the business processes and
these identiﬁed issues. business process experts need to leverage their knowledge about
the IT systems in place in their organization. Eventually, the over-
2. Organizational knowledge and knowledge management lap between the knowledge of different divisions increases and
the knowledge on the organizational scale follows a converging
Although the concept of knowledge has been addressed by pattern. However this convergence on the organizational level
scholars for a long time, the concerns about managing organiza- tends to turn into divergence as we move down to the individual
tional knowledge has been introduced and gained spectacular level [2,17]. A broader knowledge of the organization is required
acceleration during the last few decades [28,1,6]. This ‘‘knowl- for end users of enterprise system systems compared to the tra-
edge wake” has taken special advantage from the overwhelming ditional legacy systems that were adapted to each island of auto-
advances in information technology, such that design and imple- mation. As the view changes from task-focused to the process-
mentation of information systems in support of organizational focused by implementing enterprise systems, employees need to
knowledge management has found an established ground in know how their task ﬁts into the overall process and how that
Information Systems research [1,24]. Yet, designing information process contributes to the achievement of organizational objec-
systems to support knowledge management initiatives is impos- tives. For example, an employee working in customer billing sec-
sible unless an understanding of the nature and types of knowl- tion will need to know more about the IT systems as well as other
edge in organization exists. Such an understanding is a key business areas such as production and accounting. Similarly, the
element in formulating and analyzing the role of information IT experts need to know more about different subject areas to
922 R. Vandaie / Knowledge-Based Systems 21 (2008) 920–926
adapt the new system to their requirements and conﬁgure the 5. Knowledge management and enterprise system,
enterprise system to operate optimally. Therefore, as the organi- contradictory or complementary?
zational view of knowledge regarding the tasks and processes
that are conducted in the organization tends to converge by the Considering simultaneous implementation of enterprise system
use of enterprise system, the individual knowledge must diverge and knowledge management systems in organizations implies
to accommodate for the changes posed by enterprise system some sort of contradiction by its nature. Enterprise systems are
implementation . One major implication of such a view of meant to increase the organizational efﬁciency by enhancing the
enterprise system projects is that knowledge sharing needs to information processing capability of the enterprise [15,19]. This
be signiﬁcant across organizational boundaries to allow for the capability enhancement is enabled by the systematization and cen-
maximum sharing of observations and experiences among tralization of information management and the adoption of stan-
employees from different organizational divisions with different dard approaches to the codiﬁcation and processing of
mindsets about how the business is done along the line of pro- information. On the other hand, Knowledge management initia-
cess. Knowledge sharing in enterprise system projects exists tives aim at mobilizing the knowledge through organized knowl-
along different lines of interaction among organizational mem- edge repositories of explicit knowledge and communities of
bers, ERP team, and external consultants which echoes the need practice as a means of sharing and creating tacit knowledge, having
for improved knowledge sharing along different organizational their overall focus on improving innovation capabilities by increas-
dimensions and in different levels of engagement with the imple- ing ﬂexibility [4,7,24]. While it is traditionally believed that it is
mentation project. Next section reviews different lines of ERP- impossible for an organization to focus on both efﬁciency and ﬂex-
speciﬁc knowledge sharing in more details. ibility, Newell et al.  show, by analyzing a case, that enterprise
system and knowledge management initiatives are complemen-
4. Different lines of knowledge sharing in enterprise system tary rather than contradictory. Assuming enterprise system sys-
projects tems as integrated databases of organizational information and
explicit knowledge as opposed to knowledge management initia-
ERP team is the center of activities in every ERP implementation tives being methods of managing tacit knowledge, their ﬁndings
project [23,12]. This team is in charge of implementing enterprise suggests that a balanced perspective of enterprise system and
system in multiple stages beginning with the examination of the KM systems can assist in exploiting explicit knowledge as well as
current business processes (referred to as the ‘as is’ phase), fol- exploring and sharing tacit knowledge simultaneously. In other
lowed by identiﬁcation of the gap between the ‘as is’ status and words, utilizing the respective strength of enterprise system and
the ‘to be’ status which is determined by the best practices KM in tandem enables the alignment of organizational capabilities
included in the enterprise system package. The ﬁnal step of the in information processing, knowledge exploration and exploitation
ERP team’s mission is installing the new processes and training .
the users to use them without getting stock or crashing the new Knowledge management techniques are used over the course of
system . The members of this team come from different enterprise system implementation and during different steps of
departments carrying the knowledge which is speciﬁc to their implementation projects to facilitate this knowledge sharing .
department and as part of mapping organizational business pro- Detailed view of how knowledge of ERP project members evolves
cesses, is required to be shared with other members of the team. during these different stages is discussed next.
Therefore one major part of knowledge management in every
implementation project deals with facilitating the sharing of
knowledge among members of the ERP team [2,16,5]. 6. Knowledge management in enterprise system life cycle
In addition to the group knowledge sharing, the enterprise sys-
tem team also has a great deal of communications and interactions Knowledge management can assist the adopting companies and
with end users and user managers to both become aware of their the consulting ﬁrms through different stages of the enterprise sys-
expectations of the new systems and keep them informed about tem life cycle. On a general view, enterprise system life cycle
the changes that might occur after the implementation. Since the involves selecting, implementing, and using the enterprise system
sharing of knowledge in this level is directly inﬂuenced by the [22,23]. In selecting stage, knowledge management systems could
users’ capability of handling the changes in roles as a result of be designed to organize the information regarding different types
the new system [3,13], this part of enterprise system knowledge of enterprise system packages so that ﬁrms looking for an ERP
management must be incorporated into the change management package can compare and choose the one that best ﬁts their orga-
strategy of the organization. nizational context and fulﬁlls their requirements. The implementa-
A third line of knowledge sharing is between the ERP imple- tion stage of enterprise system life cycle is characterized by the
mentation team and the consulting ﬁrms hired to convey their pro- occurrence of various problems in design and practice of the new
fessional knowledge of the selected enterprise system package into system [16,27,30] and keeping an organized record of these prob-
the organizational [23,26]. The knowledge that team members lems along with their tested answers is a valuable resource for
seek from the integration partner is not restricted to the manuals every enterprise system implementation effort. In the using stage
and the documented information about the package. Thus, it is issues range from compliance of the data plugged into the system
important for the consulting staff to work side by side with enter- by the standard settings of the software for data entry to conﬁgur-
prise system team members so that they can learn what is hard to ing the system to generate the desired output reports . Avail-
document as instructions and manuals . ability of knowledge management systems that provide the
Facilitating knowledge sharing requires adopting knowledge accurate and timely information for such issues seems to be a
management initiatives along with the ERP implementation pro- necessity for every adopting organization.
jects. But the simultaneous implementation of knowledge manage- In all stages of the enterprise system life cycle, the part of the
ment initiative and enterprise system might have certain knowledge which is hard to capture and document (i.e. the tacit
complexities. Next section discusses different views stated in the knowledge) can not be organized using formal knowledge reposi-
literature on the issue of contradictory or complementary effect tories [28,10] and the knowledge management techniques facili-
of having KM and enterprise system initiatives in place at the same tating the access to this type of knowledge differ in nature from
time. the explicit knowledge management systems . The challenge
R. Vandaie / Knowledge-Based Systems 21 (2008) 920–926 923
of tacit enterprise system knowledge sharing is partly due to the The next step is to merge the non-canonical processes underlying
fact that the process knowledge is by and large routinized so that system with existing culture in the organization to complete the
employees may be subconscious about the separate steps which knowledge transfer process. The integration phase, however, may
are gone through in the process and have difﬁculty expressing it not be as easy as the implementation phase since the new values
explicitly . When any of these employees are selected as the may conﬂict with the old ones . These conﬂicts may reﬂect
enterprise system team member, the need for communicating this as the resistance to change among employees which in turn will
type of knowledge is surfaced. Transferring the experiences gained deviate the implementation process from its planned desired out-
during enterprise system project from and to the members who comes. Internalization of the non-canonical processes increases the
transition on and off the enterprise system team, transfer of exper- appreciation for the new values in the organization and mitigates
tise from external consultants to the enterprise system team mem- the negative effects of the organizational resistance .
bers, and transferring the contextual knowledge of enterprise Distinguishing the implementation and integration phases
system which could help users to better understand the underlying provides an initial explanation for the basic question of how
assumptions of the enterprise system are among other challenges companies can gain competitive advantage from ERP system if
posed by the tacitness of ERP-speciﬁc knowledge [28,23,10,17]. the competitors use the same standardized set of best practices
Due to the signiﬁcant emphasis of the literature on the issue of ta- . The implementing of best practices is the common part
cit knowledge management in ERP projects, following sections re- which has almost the same implications for different organiza-
view this subject in deep and discuss different methods adopted by tions. The competitive advantage arises from the organization’s
organizations to face its complexities. capabilities in internalizing and integrating the adopted pro-
cesses with the existing business values and harmonizing the
ERP technology and the organizational culture towards getting
7. Managing the tacit ERP knowledge the most out of the implementation effort. Part of this capability
could be in the form of restructuring the organizational roles in
Two different categories of business processes have been iden- order to increase the cross-functional knowledge transfer and ﬁll
tiﬁed in the literature: canonical and non-canonical [2,17]. Canon- the gap between the knowledge base of employees and the
ical processes are the abstract representation of the organization enterprise-wide knowledge requirements of the system .
and they map complex tasks to a set of simple canonical steps. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that the competitive advan-
Non-canonical processes refer to what actually happens during tage in adopting enterprise system relies mainly on the tacit
the work and represent informal processes governed by communi- knowledge handling capabilities of the organization. Next section
cation and interpersonal relationships used for getting advice for reviews the different areas where necessities for tacit knowledge
on-the-job practices . One implication of identifying these two sharing exist in every ERP project and classiﬁes them according
types of business processes is that the transfer of ERP knowledge to their idiosyncrasies.
also should be considered from a two-dimensional perspective.
The reference models or best practices in ERP packages are canon- 8. Tacit knowledge sharing in enterprise system projects
ical processes which are explicitly coded and represent the explicit
part of the knowledge transfer in enterprise system projects. These Enterprise system as a technology is designed to enable ﬁrms to
best practices are reference models for the chains of activities better manage their knowledge through effective knowledge shar-
which are adopted by the organization implementing the system. ing as a consequence of tight integration of processes and better
However, the knowledge transfer is not limited to this explicit control of information and data . Ironically, to implement the
dimension and ERP systems are not just pure software packages technology that is aimed at improving the sharing of knowledge
which can be tailored to the organization [30,10]. In fact, in addi- in the ﬁrms, organizations must have the capability of effective
tion to the cleanly codiﬁed procedures, they also entail non-canon- knowledge sharing to start with. It may appear at ﬁrst that the
ical processes related to organizational dimensions that affect the knowledge required for enterprise system implementation can
ways in which business is carried out throughout the organization easily be codiﬁed and distributed along with the ERP package since
and inﬂuence the company’s strategy and culture. Therefore, it is basically a set of transaction processing systems. However
implementation of enterprise systems includes the transfer of ex- knowledge sharing during ERP implementation involves more than
plicit as well as tacit knowledge of business processes. just communicating how different procedures and modules of the
Transfer of the explicit part or the codiﬁed business processes to enterprise system operate [16,28,10]. It requires that organiza-
the adopting organization is part of the standard ERP implementa- tional members, especially those who are in the core implementa-
tion procedure and generally does not pose much complexities tion team, have a clear understanding of the underpinning
. However, transferring the tacit part of this knowledge urges assumptions of the system as well as the environment of the
for intimate communication and informal relationship between adopting organization. Only when this kind of tacit knowledge is
the source and the recipient of knowledge . Such kinds of rela- integrated into the implementation effort, the organizational
tionships are limited in enterprise system implementation projects members will start to appreciate the value of enterprise system
and as a consequence, the adopting organization’s capability to ad- and this integration is one of the most difﬁcult phases in every
just the existing organizational norms and culture to the implicit ERP implementation .
fundamentals of new business processes plays an important role The challenge of tacit knowledge sharing is partly due to the
here. In other words, implementing the best practices changes fact that the knowledge needed to make processes work may
the way business have been conducted for a long time and sufﬁ- have become so routinized that the performing employees may
cient understanding of the proper actions to face this change is not be conscious about the separate steps which are gone through
not possible just by installing the system and its components. in the process and have difﬁculty expressing it explicitly .
By focusing on the transfer of explicit and tacit knowledge dur- When any of these employees are selected as the enterprise sys-
ing enterprise system implementation, this process can be divided tem team member, the need for communicating this type of
into two separate phases: implementation and integration. knowledge is surfaced. The knowledge that team members need
Implementation phase refers to implementing the canonical pro- for enterprise system project is more diverse than the knowledge
cesses of best practices provided in the ERP package which are required for their jobs and is mainly in the form of know-how
comparatively easy to transfer and map into the organization. and individual experiences. Therefore, facilitating the sharing of
924 R. Vandaie / Knowledge-Based Systems 21 (2008) 920–926
tacit knowledge exhausts a great part of the implementation 9. Process-based nature of ERP knowledge through the lens of
team. organizational memory
Tacit knowledge sharing can be classiﬁed into different catego-
ries . First category concerns the knowledge sharing within the Organizational processes embed substantial knowledge of the
ERP team and among team members. The team must also interact organization’s history and paradigms that can be brought to bear
with other organizational members to gather information about when making decisions in ERP projects . As a matter of fact
processes across the enterprise and also to keep them informed they can be regarded as the organizational memory since they
about the progress of the project and its effects on their jobs. Exter- are not conﬁned in a speciﬁc mind’s cognitions and are stored
nal consultants are also an inseparable part of every ERP imple- in form of processes . Process modeling is used to translate
mentation project and therefore, knowledge sharing, especially in process knowledge into models that can be used to conﬁgure
tacit form, exists between the members of the enterprise system the enterprise system and adjust the organizational processes.
team and the external consultants as well. This is especially impor- One important issue in enterprise system implementation is
tant since normally the consulting team leaves the ﬁrm after a determining the extent to which organizational processes need
while and it is up to the ERP team to salvage the knowledge trans- to be changed to ﬁt into the enterprise system framework and
ferred by them into the organization [20,22]. Retaining the knowl- the extent to which the enterprise system must be customized
edge after the transition of the knowledge owner is also an to address existing routines in the organization. The process
important issue when members of the enterprise system team knowledge and paradigm in the ﬁrm may not necessarily be the
leave the team for whatever reason at various phases of the enter- same as the one incorporated within the enterprise system 
prise system project. New members can not catch up with what and if this mismatch is not reconciled, it is expected that the
the former member left just by reading the manuals and docu- ERP implementation will be sub-optimal. One way of approaching
ments of the project since a major part of the enterprise system this issue is to have a clear understanding of the underlying
knowledge gained by the former member was in tacit format. structure and organizational culture behind the processes and
Tacit knowledge sharing facilitators during enterprise system to interrelate them with ERP knowledge incorporated into best
implementation can be classiﬁed into two categories [28,20,10]: practices.
structure of team interactions and atmosphere of the team. Struc- The perception of the process-based organizational memory
ture of team interactions refers to factors that determine and regulates the handling methods in dealing with the mismatches
structure the interactions between team members. For example, during ERP projects . One extreme of such behaviors is to adopt
the physical work space where the team is assigned to work in the entire process knowledge from the new system and change the
can affect the pattern of interactions among team members organization’s paradigm accordingly. On the other extreme it could
. Hierarchy of the team membership is another structure fac- result in extensive customizations of enterprise system to incorpo-
tor that inﬂuences the tacit knowledge sharing. Atmosphere of rate the organization’s process knowledge and paradigms into the
the team considers the factors that are less tangible and deﬁne system. Considering processes as a medium for organizational
the behavioral norms within the team. This atmosphere might memory, Stijin and Wensley  suggest that the new processes
make team members feel inhibited from openly sharing their introduced by enterprise system may well embed some, but by
opinions or inversely, foster open communication of ideas. no means all, of process knowledge that resides in organizations.
Depending on the organizational strategies, ﬁrms may choose to Careful considerations are necessary in identifying exactly where
emphasize one of the two tacit knowledge facilitators for tacit different types of process knowledge reside in organizations and
knowledge sharing in enterprise system teams. For example, the decisions will have to be made as to what type of process knowl-
project managers in one of the companies in Jones’ case study edge can be integrated into the new system and what other types
organized the team based on process rather than functions will continue to reside in other memory media . Moreover,
while deemphasizing ranks and seniorities and providing equal interactions must be available among the process knowledge
bonus to all team members. They also made knowledge sharing stored in these different media so that informed decisions can be
part of the contract with the external consultant. Such a structure made and the knowledge can be updated as the enterprise system
that governs team interactions facilitates sharing of tacit knowl- project progresses.
edge during the enterprise system project. Another company in Huang et al.  describe the dynamics of the process by which
the same study focused more on providing an atmosphere where existing organizational memory and processes knowledge is mod-
team members felt free to express ideas and others were willing iﬁed as a result of implementing the new ERP system. They argue
to listen. There were also off-site meetings arranged for team that organizational processes as representations of cross-func-
members to provide more intimate knowledge sharing atmo- tional knowledge are continuously redeﬁned by the various initia-
spheres which could help preserve knowledge while people tran- tives implemented in the organization. As mentioned before, this
sitioned on and off the team. echoes the concept of organizational memory which is constantly
Although tacitness of the enterprise system knowledge is the reconﬁgured through incremental or fundamental changes. The
most important characteristic of ERP knowledge which is reﬂected impact of ERP-induced business process redesign (BPR) on the pat-
in the literature, the effects of the process-based nature of ERP terns of organizational memory in the organization under study in
knowledge is also addressed in many research works [14,29,17].  was found to be in the form of the redirection of knowledge
Process-based nature of knowledge implies that organizational ﬂows across the organization. The organizational memory was pre-
processes embed substantial knowledge of the organization’s his- viously shaped around fostering organizational boundaries which
tory and paradigms and since this knowledge is not conﬁned to a served as ‘vales’ in controlling the availability and accessibility of
speciﬁc mind’s cognition and is stored in form of processes, it information. Adopting the enterprise system tended to reshape
can be regarded as the organizational memory. Viewing the enter- the organizational memory in a way that minimized the informa-
prise system knowledge from the lens of organizational memory tion boundaries. Nevertheless, they also suggest that although
has certain implications for enterprise system knowledge manage- the enterprise system facilitates the free ﬂow of information, the
ment in terms of its enabling or impeding factors in ERP projects. challenge of knowledge integration may still be remaining and de-
The following sections review the issues related to enabling and spite the successful implementation of enterprise system and ben-
impeding effects of organizational memory on ERP knowledge eﬁts from ongoing capital investment, patterns of organizational
management. memory might be deviating from the ideal ERP knowledge integra-
R. Vandaie / Knowledge-Based Systems 21 (2008) 920–926 925
tion requirements, which in turn can ﬂaw the implementation in organizations, especially consulting companies, which regularly
the long run. extend lucrative offers to ERP-Savvy employees.
External consultants also operate as intermediaries who facil-
10. Organizational memory, barrier or enabler? itate organizational learning by bringing in external knowledge
[33,23]. ERP technology is new and complex for many ﬁrms
In their exploratory study of ERP implementation issues, Robey and it is difﬁcult for a company to embark on such an endeavor
et al.  discovered that most of the managers in their study who without external knowledge. With their expertise in conﬁguring
were involved in implementation projects reﬂected a concern with the organizational processes and adjusting them to the new sys-
learning and knowledge. These managers believed that the main tem, consulting partners act as accelerators of organizational
barrier to a successful enterprise system implementation was the learning and alleviate the negative effect of the organizational
ﬁrm’s knowledge of existing systems and business processes. In memory of old processes. However, most successful ﬁrms limit
other words, they saw the so-far-shaped organizational memory their dependence on consultants and take measures to ensure
as an obstacle to acquiring the knowledge paradigm of the new the transfer of external knowledge into the organization .
system. Managers who were trying to comprehend the new busi- Effective use of consulting requires a ﬁrm to remain in control
ness processes enabled by the enterprise system needed to recon- of the consultant-client relationship and make sure that the req-
cile the demands for new knowledge with their knowledge of old uisite knowledge is transferred into the organization so that the
systems and procedures. The issue reﬂected in this case study possibility of resuming the past status of organizational memory
raises the question of whether or not the organizational memory under the resistance force is minimized.
embedded in its processes acts as a barrier to enterprise system
implementation. 11. Conclusion and discussion
ERP implementation challenges established knowledge of the
organization in two ways. First, packaged format of ERP allows lit- By means of a rather comprehensive review of the literature on
tle customization. Second, as enterprise system replaces existing enterprise system knowledge management, this paper investigated
legacy systems, it also replaces the processes supported by those the major concerns of the different lines of research which arise as
systems that requires the organization to assimilate new business the consequences of two distinct characteristics of ERP-speciﬁc
processes and manage its consequences. Old processes are deeply knowledge: tacit and process-based nature of enterprise system
embedded into organizational memory which induces some sort knowledge. Fig. 1 summarizes these two areas of concern in enter-
of resistance against assimilating the best practices. In addition, prise system knowledge management along with their facilitators
organizational memory is supported by organizational structures that moderate their negative effects which are identiﬁed to be pre-
which might even exacerbate the resistance during the change valent in cases studied by different researchers. The ﬁrst area con-
process. Typically high and medium level managers traditionally cerns the effects and implications of the tacit chunk of ERP-speciﬁc
enjoy great autonomy in the organizational structure and pro- knowledge. The subject of tacit knowledge management is
cesses . Enterprise system is designed to restructure a process- addressed extensively in the literature and different issues along
centered paradigm in the organization . As a consequence, with their respective mitigating solutions are provided in various
enterprise systems typically require organizations to get rid of research works [16,5,10].
most of their organizational memory about technical infrastruc- Tacit knowledge sharing facilitators during enterprise system
tures and especially, about their business processes. Most ﬁrms implementation are classiﬁed into two categories [28,20,10]: struc-
have had built information systems to support existing processes ture of team interactions and atmosphere of the team. Proper utiliza-
prior to implementing enterprise systems; while by implementing tion of each method can assist the adopting organization in
the ERP system, they are using it to change their business processes overcoming the difﬁculties of tacit knowledge sharing. Organizing
. These new demands require substantial organizational learn- communities of practice composed of the different groups involved
ing, and different ﬁrms use a variety of means for overcoming in different stages of the enterprise system life cycle is one way to
knowledge barriers associated with it. In simple terms, implement- overcome the difﬁculties of transferring such knowledge from
ing an enterprise system means that organizations must learn to where it resides to where it is needed. In case of running the enter-
function in radically different ways than what they have learned prise system project on distant locations , virtual communities
during the course of past experiences. Ignoring this essential char- centered around company intranets or the internet acts as the
acteristic of ERP implementation can heavily hamper the success of facilitating bridge among separate bodies of knowledge across
the whole project. the entire enterprise.
Arranging powerful core enterprise system implementation Process-based nature of organizational knowledge, is the sec-
teams and effective utilization of external consulting are believed ond area of concern in enterprise system knowledge management
to be effective methods of dealing with the knowledge barriers which was examined from the lens of organizational memory.
connected with assimilating new processes and overcoming resis- Organizational processes embed substantial knowledge of the
tance due to past organizational memory [9,29,23]. Core ERP teams organization’s history and can be regarded as the organizational
that stay together, act coherently and are motivated by incentives memory. Viewing the ERP knowledge through the lens of organiza-
to ﬁnish the project are very inﬂuential to overcoming knowledge tional memory sheds light onto some interesting issues of concern
barriers. Core teams become a key repository of new knowledge in ERP implementation projects. Arranging powerful core enter-
that facilitates the transition of the organizational memory to the prise system implementation teams and effective utilization of
new knowledge paradigm. They also help to distribute knowledge external consulting were identiﬁed to be among most preferred
throughout the organization as they come into contact with users methods of dealing with the knowledge barriers connected with
and start transferring their expertise to others. If organizations enterprise system conﬁguration caused by difﬁculties associated
manage to retain the core team, the transformation and transition with organizational memory.
of the organizational memory can be completed and the essential The standardization which results from adopting the same best
knowledge integration will be accomplished . However, retain- practices of enterprise system packages by many organizations
ing an effective core team is not easy since as repositories of prac- might give rise to concerns about loosing competitive advantage.
tical knowledge, members of core teams became valuable to other In particular, the two subjects reviewed here are very illustrative
926 R. Vandaie / Knowledge-Based Systems 21 (2008) 920–926
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