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From global knowledge management to internal electronic fences: contradictory outcomes of intranet development

journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-08, 19:24 authored by Susan Newell, Harry Scarbrough, Jacky Swan
This paper considers the adoption of intranet technology as a vehicle for encouraging organization-wide knowledge sharing within a large, global bank. Ironically, the outcome of intranet adoption was that, rather than integrate individuals across this particular organization, the intranet actually helped to reinforce the existing functional and national boundaries with ‘electronic fences’. This could be partly explained by the historical emphasis on decentralization within the bank, which shaped and limited the use of the intranet as a centralizing, organization-wide tool. This is possible because the intranet can be described as an interactive and decentred technology, which therefore has the potential for multiple interpretations and effects. Thus, while the intranet is often promoted as a technology that enables processes of communication, collaboration and social coordination it also has the potential to disable such processes. Moreover, it is argued that to develop an intranet for knowledgesharing requires a focus on three distinctive facets of development. These different facets may require very different, sometimes contradictory, sets of strategies for blending the technology and the organization, thus making it extremely difficult for a project team to work effectively on all three facets simultaneously. This was evidenced by the fact that none of the independent intranet-implementation projects considered actually managed to encourage knowledge-sharing as intended, even within the relatively homogeneous group for which it was designed. Broader knowledge-sharing across the wider organizational context simply did not occur even among those who were working on what were defined as ‘knowledge management’ projects. A paradox is that knowledge-sharing via intranet technologies may be most difficult to achieve in contexts where knowledge management is the key objective.


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  • Published


British Journal of Management









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  • Business and Management Publications

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