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Journal Article

Distributed Knowledge Management in Virtual Organizations: the 'Social' Experience Factory  pp13-32

Demosthenes Akoumianakis

© Jul 2008 Volume 6 Issue 1, Editor: Charles Despres, pp1 - 74

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Abstract

This paper considers knowledge management functions as carried out by distributed virtual teams involved in the compilation of information‑based products using dedicated and domain‑specific computer‑ mediated practices and tools. We are concerned with two primary tasks, namely depositing shared assets and assembling information‑based artefacts by appropriating the benefits of virtual networking. Moreover, these tasks are considered from the perspective of the Social Experience Factory (SEF) — a platform enabling rich collaborative interactions between geographically dispersed members of communities of practice. The SEF incorporates domain‑specific workflows and several model‑based tools to facilitate systematic accumulation and reuse of collaborative artefacts. An account of these is provided by discussing current implementation in the context of a pilot application.

 

Keywords: social experience factory, knowledge sharing, distributed collective practices

 

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Journal Issue

Volume 6 Issue 2, ICICKM 2007 / Oct 2008  pp1‑116

Editor: Rembrandt Klopper

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Editorial

It has been an informative and enjoyable experience to edit the ten articles in the present issue of EJKM. The editorial presents a brief overview of the ten contributions. AlAmmary and Fung’s contribution focuses on the need for present‑day organizations to actively incorporate knowledge strategy (KS) into their Business Strategy (BS) because knowledge is recognized as a strategic element in the performance of organizations. They test the hypothesis that the alignment between BS (BS) and KS has a positive effect on organizational performance. The overall finding of AlAmmary and Fung’s research is that there is a strong association between KS and BS and that the alignment between KS and BS clearly influences the organizational performance.

Cruywagen, Swart and Gevers present a typology that takes into account differences among knowledge‑centric organizations. They observe that the knowledge management literature is characterised by frameworks for knowledge management implementation, which tend to prescribe best‑practice methods to companies. The authors point out that a key weakness of these frameworks is their inability to account for contextual differences. Consequently many organisations attempt to apply a knowledge management framework that simply doesn’t fit the organisational context, resulting in little or no benefit from their efforts. A shift in focus from best practice to best fit is necessary to account for the difference in organisational contexts.

They propose that a social constructionist approach to the research affords the opportunity to identify areas of significant variation in knowledge management context and practices within knowledge‑centric organisations.

Cranfield and Taylor report the results of a survey that they conducted regarding how Higher Education Institutions in the UK utilize KM. They state that although KM is widely regarded in the business world as an essential tool the application of KM is relatively under‑developed in UK higher education, and that on top of that the recent history of UK higher education is sprinkled with examples of failure in the effective management of knowledge. Cranfield and Taylor note that the study of KM in universities in the UK is complicated by the facts that such institutions generally historically, locationally and financially tend to be very different. Their paper sets out to answer the following questions: To what extent are HEIs moving towards adopting KM principles given the changing environment of HEIs? Are HEIs starting to realize the benefits of adopting KM principles to enhance efficiency and competitiveness? What are the current and intended practices within the UK? What are the factors that hinder or promote the implementation of KM within Higher Education?

Girard and Allison focus on factual, fabulous and fallacious aspects of claims about information anxiety. The authors state that the concept of anxiety created by information has been studied for hundreds of years, Their paper focuses on the complex relationship of five subcomponents of information anxiety as described by Wurman’s book Information Anxiety, namely not understanding information, feeling overwhelmed by the amount of information to be understood, not knowing if certain information exists, not knowing where to find information and knowing exactly where to find the information, but not having the key to access it.

Griffiths and Remenyi use a case study approach to provide a better understanding of the knowledge management requirements for professional organizations that offer a range of information technology consulting services. The authors set out by analyzing four different sets of secondary data contained in previously published accounts of knowledge management in four different professional services organizations. They then used the information to create a general framework for the effective use of knowledge management in an information technology consulting service. The framework was subsequently presented to 12 partners in a small consulting firm as the departure point for a Socratic Dialogue about the topic. Socratic Dialogue analysis led the authors to establish nine key issues for the more effective management of knowledge in professional services organizations.

Lucardie, Hendriks and Van Ham present the results of their research on the relationship between knowledge management and business improvement within the context of the continuously growing complexity of market processes that is strengthening the logical role of knowledge as the organization’s core capability to maximize business performance. The authors state that conceptions of knowledge and knowledge representation, however, prove to be highly unproductive because explicit knowledge management initiatives reinforce the production of information instead of reducing and managing knowledge. They state that a basic problem is the disentangling of knowledge from knowledge representation formalisms. The authors claim that adopting a functional view of the nature of knowledge reveals and restores the strong relation between knowledge and corporate effectiveness. The functional view does not only enable content improvement through rational classifications, but also enhances process descriptions and process implementations. It also aligns information technology to the new demands set by the knowledge economy by enabling goal‑oriented, transparent and easy‑to‑use‑and‑modify knowledge structures. The paper describes a real world case taken from the financial services industry to exemplify how a functional analysis of realizes significant increases in business performance.

Lumba and Smith’s paper is based on the results of a study that explored the knowledge management practices and challenges in an international NGO network. The investigation constituted comparative case studies of two centres (Zambia and the Netherlands) belonging to a single international network. An empirically grounded framework of knowledge management practices based on the taxonomy, proposed by Holsapple and Joshi, was utilised as the reference framework for the study. Recommendations are proposed to improve knowledge management practices at local and international level. They include enhanced technical and advisory services at international level, capacity building, creating greater awareness of knowledge management, decentralization of knowledge management processes; implementation of a knowledge management strategy at network level and improving relationships between centres.

Papoutsakis focuses on differences in research methods when empirically measuring organizational characteristics that focus on inter‑group, knowledge‑based collaboration and when measuring the characteristics of individuals. The author states that organizational researchers have recently used the empirical technique to obtain quantifiable information on organizational structure, internal power distribution, within the group, and external relationships among groups that base their collaboration on the knowledge they share.

Smith adopts the premise that technological innovation, a critical factor in the long‑term economic growth of any country, can only function successfully within a social environment that provides relevant knowledge and information inputs into the innovative process. This is dependent on the efficient transfer and communication of knowledge and information, which in turn relates to the amount and quality of interaction among scientists and technologists. These factors prompted a research project that used social network analysis techniques to investigate knowledge exchange and to map the knowledge network structure and communication practices of a group of scientists engaged with crystallographic research. This paper is based on this research project. The author’s findings provide evidence of a strong social network structure among crystallographers in South Africa. A core nucleus of prominent, well connected and interrelated crystallographers constituted the central network of scientists that provided the main impetus to keep the network active. According to Smith, the core group of crystallographers were not only approached far more frequently for information and advice than any of their colleagues, but they also frequently initiated interpersonal and formal information communication acts. It was clear that this core group had achieved a standard of excellence in their work, were highly productive; very visible in their professional community and generally played a pivotal role in the social network.

According to Timonen and Paloheimo there has been a proliferation of research on knowledge work over the past decades. The authors make the point that knowledge work has mostly been used as antonym to manual work, to refer to specific occupations characterized by an emphasis on specialized skills and the use of theoretical knowledge. The efforts to encompass all the various contexts where knowledge plays a relevant role in work tasks, has resulted in various and ambiguous definitions of what knowledge work actually is. In order to shed light on the elusive concept of knowledge work, Timonen and Paloheimo studied how it has appeared in the scientific discussion, and diffused from one scientific community to another. They examined the emergence and diffusion of the concept of knowledge work through a citation analysis on articles from the Social Sciences Citation Index. The authors distinguish three periods of diffusion of the concept of knowledge work. The results show that Drucker’s In the age of discontinuity (1969) and Bell’s The coming of post‑industrial society (1968) were the main influencers when the concept of knowledge work emerged in the scientific discussion from 1974 to 1992. After this period, the authors discern a slow diffusion period from 1993 to 2003, when the concept started to gain attention, and a fast diffusion period from 1999 to 2003, when the research has proliferated.

 

Keywords: alliance organization calculated intangible value communication concept of ba curriculum didactic v constructionist distributed collective practices dynamic capabilities dynamic learning mechanism fundamental value of intangible assets intellectual capital interaction knowledge articulation knowledge circles knowledge creation tacit knowledge knowledge management systems market value Pakistani pedagogy peer-to-peer systems social experience factory knowledge sharing university curriculum on knowledge management value creation

 

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