A concept is a logical construction that is established in accordance with a framework and is part of it (Ferrari, 1977). According to this definition, a concept is unchangeable within the framework it belongs to and is part of. The concept of gravity is unchangeable within Newtonian physics. However, when treated by Einstein’s relativity it is quite different. In the natural sciences, the frontiers of frameworks can be clearly and easily defined with axioms. In the social sciences, however, axioms are unlikely (Perelman, 1982), so the definitions of concepts are more flexible than one can assure. In the social sciences, social constructed frameworks generally evolve, so the concepts of which they are made up must also evolve. The human resource information system (henceforth HRIS) is a good example of a technological tool that evolves over time. Its definition evolves not only as technology evolves but also as the perception of its impact changes. In fact, the comprehension of HRIS as a concept can go from the naïve understanding (e.g., software applied to human resource management) to its broad conceptualization “in relation to” the greater organizational system and dynamics. Although the literature suggests that HRIS practices can influence organizational performance, such causal conclusion is still problematic. This article describes a study that focuses on both issues. It aims to deepen the comprehension of how information systems are, in general, used as a constituent tool of a greater phenomenon: namely, organizational change and development. Consequently, it aims to redefine the main concepts in this field.
In the last decade, information technology, and in particular information systems (henceforth IS), have received enormous attention and investment from all kinds of organizations. Because the technology is relatively new, studies on IS do not have a clear understanding of their impact on organizational change in terms of changes on people and culture. For this reason, the definitions that permeate such impacts are in-development.
IS are relatively new technologies that are widely used in all kinds of organizational settings. At the present time, the employees of corporations and small businesses cannot live without them and academics institutionalize their studies on journals, conferences, books, and schools’ programs. Within the IS scope one can find different yet integrated applications. One of them is the human resources information system, which in recent years had become crucial to the management of personnel department. Their “positive” impact on organizational performance is, however, more complex to assess and so these sorts of studies must be carried out.
In addition, this technology brings back old schools of thought. One of these is the socio-technical approach, so the debate on how technology affects people and vice-versa has been revived. The approach proposes among other things that each element of a structure affects the other elements and each change within an element also changes the others. We can consider thus that the element IS has its own functioning; every internal change can change the organizational system as a whole and vice-versa. However, as our objective is to discuss the impacts of this elements on the organizational change and development, we find imprudent to reduce the study to the sub-element HRIS, thus we consider the IS as a whole. The reason for that is simple: firstly it would be difficult to argue that only the implementation of a part of a software would cause an impact; secondly, we would have to ask the interviewee to separate in his/her mind the HRIS to the IS in order to answer our questions which is unnatural given the fact that the implementation is made of the whole software. This research restriction does not mean that the HRIS do not have its own importance, but its specific impact is difficult to be measured. So, from now on we will address to the IS software as a whole.