Knowledge Management in the Dark: The Role of Shadow IT in Practices in Manufacturing

Knowledge Management in the Dark: The Role of Shadow IT in Practices in Manufacturing

Shahper Richter (Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand), Lena Waizenegger (Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand), Melanie Steinhueser (University of Zurich, Zürich, Switzerland) and Alexander Richter (Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/IJKM.2019040101
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The voluntary use of private devices by employees without the formal approval of the IT department, commonly termed Shadow IT, is an increasingly widespread phenomenon. In this article, the authors study the role of private smartphones (and related applications like WhatsApp) in knowledge-intensive practices in the manufacturing domain. With an in-depth case study based on data gained from observations and interviews, the authors are able to empirically illustrate why workers use their private smartphones (contrary to company guidelines) and how they find significant gains of productivity by using the forbidden applications. This study gives rich insights into the rise of Shadow IT in a manufacturing context which takes place in a self-organised way without knowledge of the management.
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Knowledge management can be defined as a systematic and integrated management strategy that develops, transfers, transmits, stores, and implements knowledge so that it can improve efficiency and effectiveness of workers in an organisational setting (Dahiya, Gupta, & Jain, 2012). Many studies have shown how information technology (IT) can help to effectively coordinate these knowledge management practices (Alavi & Leidner, 2001). This leads to numerous positive organizational outcomes such as enhanced communication and higher levels of participation among staff members, efficiencies in problem solving and time-to-market, more favourable financial performance, and improved project team performance (Donate & de Pablo, 2015). However, what happens when the context of IT shift from organisation-approved IT to IT that is privately owned the workers and not officially aligned with the organisational processes?

A number of reports from industry and academic studies alike point to the increased usage of IT resources without the knowledge of the senior management. For instance, although smart devices are often forbidden at the work place due to security and health reasons, employees bend the rules and use their private devices anyway (Haag & Eckhardt, 2017; Silic & Back, 2014). In a survey with around 4,000 employees, 52% of the participants indicated that they used their private devices for work related activities (Harris, Ives, & Junglas, 2012). This occurs mostly in situations where existing organisational IT are malfunctioning or prevailing injunctive IT norms are perceived as inefficient by employees (Haag, Eckhardt, & Bozoyan, 2015). When employees rationalize their use of personal IT devices to facilitate work practices due to the inefficiencies of existing IT infrastructure, but their actions still represent an injunction of existing IT norms this is commonly termed Shadow IT (Györy, Cleven, Uebernickel, & Brenner, 2012; Stadtmueller, 2013), pointing to the negative consequences of Shadow IT on organisations (Alter, 2014; Györy et al., 2012; Walters, 2013).

The phenomenon of Shadow IT is increasingly observed in many companies, e.g. after the implementation of ERP systems (Behrens & Sedera, 2004), or as stealth SaaS adoption (Zainuddin, 2012). Amongst those studies, only a few focus on the individual perspective of personal devices use in the work context (Haag & Eckhardt, 2014; Jarrahi, Crowston, Bondar, & Katzy, 2017). These studies suggest that by accepting Shadow IT and incorporating it in the organization may lead to an unexpected source of innovation, as shadow IT users use their expertise and knowledge to get their job done in more effective ways.

This study explores Shadow IT use on the individual level in the manufacturing domain. Competences of human workers play an increasingly important role in today’s manufacturing environments as they are simultaneously able to complement modern technology and perform knowledge-intensive work tasks more effectively compared to pure technical approaches. Interestingly, a recent study by Haag et al. (2015) that compared to non-users, shadow system users are more intrinsically motivated, easier accept neutralization techniques, and perform significantly better, regarding both task output and task behavior.

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