Knowledge Transfer, Knowledge-Based Resources, and Capabilities in E-Commerce Software Projects

Knowledge Transfer, Knowledge-Based Resources, and Capabilities in E-Commerce Software Projects

Kung Wang (China University of Technology, Taipei, Taiwan), Hsin Chang Lu (Department of International Business, National Taiwan University College of Management, Taipei, Taiwan), Rich C. Lee (National Sun Yat-Sen University, Kaohsiung, Taiwan) and Shu-Yu Yeh (Department of Business Administration, Ming Chuan University, Taipei, Taiwan)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 18
DOI: 10.4018/JGIM.2017070104
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Together with the recognition of successful knowledge transfer as an important growth strategy for small and medium-sized software firms, questions related to the knowledge-based resources have emerged, including what and where knowledge is and how capabilities may influence knowledge transfer in e-commerce software projects. This study provides a deeper understanding of the relevance of knowledge transfer in such projects. The research findings identify the challenges of transferring this tacit knowledge across such projects and even within the user organizations as well. In addition to the technology knowledge and the absorptive capabilities perspectives, this study considers the market knowledge and the associated marketing capabilities as the alternative input to such projects. Most importantly, it offers a clear guide to project managers in their team building and recruiting. By using rigorous theoretical deductions and empirical support from the case studies, the study provides significant research contributions to the academicians and the implications for the practitioners of software projects.
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Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the software industry often must cooperate with other technically advanced firms to obtain knowledge, but a successful knowledge transfer depends on the receiver’s own knowledge-based resources and capabilities (Ratnasingam, 2005). At least three key participants engage in most cooperative knowledge transfer projects: the sender (e.g., technically advanced firm), the receiver (e.g., focal project team), and the user organization that ultimately employs the developed e-commerce software (Haines & Goodhue, 2003). In this scenario, transfer performance refers to the receiver’s ability to gain knowledge-based resources provided by the sender (Grant, 1996) by internalizing those resources into its own knowledge system.

Most theoretical literature related to such transfers focuses on traditional approaches that measure institutional, motivational, or pragmatic efficiency (Szulanski, Cappetta, & Jensen, 2004), as well as the receiver’s resources and capabilities (Ethiraj, Kale, Krishnan, & Singh, 2005). However, these approaches suffer from limited applicability in e-commerce software contexts, where user organizations simultaneously undertake interlinked business activities (Malhotra, Gosain, & Sawy, 2005). Therefore, this study of the e-commerce software industry focuses on the knowledge and capabilities that receivers need and the investments, in terms of money, time, managerial insights, and effort, they must devote to obtain them.

We investigate two main research questions: What kinds of knowledge are located in which places, and how do capabilities influence knowledge transfer? To answer these questions, we rely on in-depth interviews, process analysis, and documentation analysis in the context of knowledge related to e-commerce software. The detailed interviews were conducted in our case studies of cooperative e-commerce software firms in Taiwan. These Taiwanese cases are appropriate for the study of knowledge transfer for several reasons. First, software firms in Taiwan are almost all SMEs. Second, the growth of Taiwan’s e-commerce software industry continues to depend mainly on knowledge transfers from foreign, technically advanced partners.

This study provides a deeper understanding of the relevance of knowledge transfer in the context of e-commerce software. In the next section, we therefore outline the literature pertaining to knowledge transfer, capabilities, and e-commerce software projects. Next, we explain our case studies of three Taiwanese firms, which produce findings with notable implications and contributions for both research and practice. We also note limitations and directions for research.

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