Since knowledge retrieval takes place at the interface between social interaction and technology (Gammelgaard & Ritter, 2005) successful systems of ecollaboration intended to manage knowledge involve the effective integration of both their technical and social components. Alongside technical developments, the standardisation of communication protocols has provided the realistic prospect of universal interconnection of businesses. The ubiquity of technology is not, however, reflected in the way that people, using the collaborative infrastructure, make sense of the data that emerges from the collaboration and go on to construct meaning from it. This is mediated not only by technology but by local culture, most explicitly represented by the recurrent activities that represent practice carried out by local communities of workers (Lave & Wenger, 1991; Brown & Duguid, 1996; Wenger, 1998). This interplay of technology, working practice, organisational structure and people traditionally lies at the heart of socio-technical systems (Leavitt, 1965) applied to leverage the skills of knowledge workers. This article examines the role and contribution of e-collaboration systems in inter-organizational knowledge management. The processes underlying this interplay are viewed from three perspectives: communication, collaborative practice and community, opportunities for the future development of e-collaboration systems are then proposed.
Key Terms in this Chapter
E-Collaboration: The use of information technology to establish, facilitate and sustain cooperation between two geographically dispersed parties, who have common goals, to enable them to work together for mutual benefit.
E-Communication: The reciprocal sending and receiving of information using Internet-based technology.
Knowledge Management: Knowledge is contextual information embedded in experience which can be tacit or explicit. Knowledge cannot be managed; only the processes for creating, capturing, codifying, storing, and transferring knowledge in organisations to sustain competitive advantage can be managed.
Collaborative Practice: The ways of working which emerge between communities of practice as they work towards the achievement of common goals.
Knowledge Fragmentation: Knowledge is dispersed around an organization and its existence and/or whereabouts is unknown making it inaccessible.
Community Of Practice: The emergent process of social learning as a self-organized group of people with shared values, beliefs and goals, work together towards a common aim, sharing knowledge through informal interaction.
Social Activity Theory: An approach that explores the dynamic social relationships within communities of practice.
Collaborative Systems: A computer-based system that is accessed and used by more than one organisation to support business transactions in the supply chain. The system allows data to be automatically updated in a partner organisation’s systems during the processing of a transaction.