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From implementation to appropriation: understanding knowledge management system development and introduction as a process of translation

Journal article
Authors Andreas Diedrich
Gaustavo Guzman
Published in Journal of Knowledge Management
Volume 19
Issue 6
Pages 1273 - 1294
ISSN 1367-3270
Publication year 2015
Published at Department of Business Administration
Gothenburg Research Institute (GRI)
Pages 1273 - 1294
Language en
Links dx.doi.org/10.1108/JKM-02-2015-0055
Keywords Development, Knowledge management, Translation, Actor-network theory
Subject categories Business Administration

Abstract

Purpose – This paper aims to examine the complexities emerging in the attempts to develop a sophisticated IT-based knowledge management system (KMS) for sharing knowledge. Using actor-network theory, the authors conceptualise this as continuous processes of translation, whereby heterogeneous human and non-human (e.g. technologies, methods and plans) elements are drawn together and mobilised to produce stable networks through associations between them. Design/methodology/approach – The case study method was adopted using a narrative approach that studies the ways of organising work in organisations. Shadowing, field notes, diary studies and participant observation were the main data collection methods used. Findings – The development and introduction of a KMS is a contingent and local process shaped by messy translations whereby the original idea, human and other non-human elements are reconfigured. By considering humans and non-humans symmetrically, the intended and unintended actions, and the role of unexpected events, this approach overcomes the deterministic view of human nature of the conventional KMS approaches. Research limitations/implications – A conceptual framework is presented as a means to improve the understanding of the complex associations emerging within networks of people, objects and machines during the development and introduction of KMS. Practical implications – The translation approach helps practitioners to consider their taken-for-granted assumptions about people, machines and the associations among them. This assists practitioners to uncover emerging conflicting issues between human and machines, among machines and among humans. Furthermore, this allows practitioners to recognise the different identities humans and non-humans take, overtime, as a result of emerging associations. Originality/value – The originality of this paper lies in the use of alternative conceptual lenses to understand KMS development and introduction as processes of translation. Additionally, rather than exploring the success stories, it focuses on a failed attempt to introduce a KMS.

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