Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

IsExpertNet: Facilitating Knowledge Sharing in the Information Systems Academic Community

Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

IsExpertNet: Facilitating Knowledge Sharing in the Information Systems Academic Community

Article excerpt

Introduction

Most knowledge management (KM) research has been intra-organizational: examining an organization's ability to capture, codify, store, distribute, and utilize internal knowledge (e.g., Allee, 1997; Bennet & Bennet, 2003; Davenport & Prusak, 1998; Skyme, 1999). Research on these intra-organizational knowledge management systems (KMS) has focused on incentives to encourage knowledge sharing, procedures to codify this knowledge, and information systems to facilitate storage, distribution, and access to the knowledge base (e.g., Alavi & Leidner, 2001; Davenport & Prusak, 1998; O'Herron, 2003).

Some intra-organizational KM research studies examine knowledge sharing in communities of practice within the organization (e.g., Davenport, 2001; Smith & McKeen, 2003; Warner, 2001; Wenger & Snyder, 2000). Very little research has been conducted on extra-organizational knowledge sharing within broad, professional-oriented communities of practice, despite the recognition that a key aspect of knowledge management is facilitating communication between people (Hildreth & Kimble, 2002), regardless of where they work. Pan and Leidner (2003) note that "a goal of many KM initiatives is to develop a global knowledge community where knowledge is shared and utilized across various communities of practice in the organization". This study extends this goal beyond organizational boundaries into an extra-organizational context

The purpose of this paper is to examine how knowledge sharing can be facilitated within a global, extra-organizational community of practice. First, the paper discusses knowledge sharing in communities of practice and the global IS academic community is identified as an extra organizational community of practice. Second, incentives for knowledge sharing are examined and peer recognition is identified as a strong incentive for facilitating knowledge sharing. Third, the IS academic community is defined as a community of shared work practitioners and implications for this study are identified. Fourth, the practice approach to knowledge management is identified as the best approach to facilitate knowledge sharing in this community. The main contribution of the paper is to propose the development of ISExpertNet, a knowledge-sharing tool for the global Information Systems academic community. The paper concludes with suggestions for further research and project development of ISExpertNet for the community's consideration.

Knowledge Management in Communities of Practice

Relatively little knowledge management research focuses on extra-organizational knowledge management systems. This is understandable given the predominant view that knowledge is a proprietary asset or competitive weapon that offers strategic advantage to the organization (e.g., Davenport & Prusak, 1998; Holsapple, 2003; Spender, 1996). However, if a knowledge worker is viewed as both an employee of the organization in which s/he works and also a member of a professional community of practice, then there is a dual opportunity for knowledge inquiry and sharing.

Communities of Practice

Professionals, academics, and other knowledge workers have both organizational and community affiliations. For example, an enterprise software consultant may be employed by an ERP consulting agency and be a member of an ERP professional association. For this consultant and other knowledge workers, sharing of organizational knowledge is most likely to occur through an internal knowledge-sharing network. However, questions of a non-proprietary nature (e.g., for professional development) are linked to the employee's community of practice.

Specifically, communities of practice can be defined as "groups of people who share similar goals and interests. In pursuit of these goals and interests, they employ common practices, work with the same tools, and express themselves in common language. …

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