Academic journal article Informing Science: the International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline

Identifying the Knowledge Requirements of a New Project Entrant: An Informing Science Approach

Academic journal article Informing Science: the International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline

Identifying the Knowledge Requirements of a New Project Entrant: An Informing Science Approach

Article excerpt


IT project failures are often attributed to poor project management practices and poor change management. Knowledge management is, however, often overlooked as a cause of project failure. Knowledge has been identified as a critical resource within organisations and the management thereof can contribute to project success. Projects are made up of project teams with the purpose of achieving an objective, product, or service within a defined scope and time frame. Managing IT projects is a complex endeavor where success has often proved elusive, a recent Chaos report (Standish Group International, 2012) suggests that as many as 80% of IT projects either fail or are completed seriously impaired. We may debate what is actually meant by projects failing or being seriously impaired. Is it to miss critical deadlines, or significantly over-run budget, or deliver substantially less user functionality than originally agreed? The fact is this level of delivery is problematic and testifies of the complexity associated with delivering IT projects. Indeed IT project delivery exhibits all of the complexity attributes identified by Campbell (1998) and revised by Gill (2011), of outcome multiplicity, solution theme multiplicity, conflicting interdependence, and outcome uncertainty.

Much research has been done investigating why projects, and IT projects in particular, fail with such great regularity. However, very few of these papers have investigated the problem from a knowledge management perspective (Disterer, 2002; Faraj & Sproull, 2000; Kasvi, Vartiainen, & Hailikari, 2003; Tiwana, Bharadwaj, & Sambamurthy 2003; Yoo & Kanawattanachai 2001). This paper takes a knowledge management approach to the complex problem of managing IT projects. Specifically we investigate the problem from the unique perspective of new members joining a project team, who often have to acquire large amounts of information and knowledge before being able to actively contribute to the project team. This delay in becoming effective is bad enough on its own, but is compounded by the fact that often the knowledge that new project entrants need to acquire can only come from existing team members, which then impedes their performance and the overall productivity of the project. Often all of this is taking place against a background where the project is already running late.

In this paper we introduce the Inkwenkwesi knowledge (Ink) model as a framework for understanding the high-level knowledge domains present for typical organisations and, by inference, projects. It based on early research work completed by Whyte (1994), where he demonstrates how these knowledge domains (elements) influence perceptions of the success or failure of organisational information systems.

Galloway and Whyte (1988) argue that perceptions of the success or failure of an information system has less to do with the technicalities of that system but how well system managers are able to match user expectations to the service being delivered; this is accomplished through the management of uncertainty and internal-consistency between key elements in the system. These elements being identified in this early study as service staff, management, the product and the process.

This idea was developed further in a later study by Whyte (1994), he argued that elements of service in the preceding discussion seem to be those which are essential to the provision of information system services and projects and, therefore, could be extended to include the following: service product, which is the substance or object of the service; the service process, which is the process of creating and delivering the product to the user; the customer (or user) who is an integral part of the service delivery process; staff who are both the service providers involved in delivering the service and service managers responsible for managing the service operation; and the organisation which provides the context and setting in which the service operates. …

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