Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty of Commerce
Pfaff, Charmaine C., Harnessing Wiki technology for knowledge management in learning organisations, Doctor of Philosophy thesis, Faculty of Commerce, University of Wollongong, 2008. http://ro.uow.edu.au/theses/1745
Can a corporate Wiki support knowledge work? Do organisational culture and leadership styles affect the suitability of corporate Wikis for all organisations? What factors contribute to Wiki failure and what steps can be taken to reduce the rejection of Wikis? The success or failure of any corporate Wiki project is dependent on having these difficult questions answered. This thesis describes a comparative study of six Australian and British organisations to discover the potential for corporate Wikis to support knowledge work in organisations. Since Information Systems (IS) is dynamic and subject to continuing changes, conventional empirical methods, such as surveys and questionnaires are inappropriate for many of the issues IS researchers need to address in the study of IS in organisations. Hence, a multi-method approach using case study research, participative action research (PAR) and Activity Theory is more effective. The research focus in this thesis relies on a mix of data gathering approaches including selfadministered questionnaires, semi-structured interviews and observation. The title and the research questions of the thesis evolved as a result of two years of research, paper publications, valuable critique from colleagues and ongoing reflection on the number of issues posed by Enterprise 2.0 technologies such as Wikis, blogs, podcasts, social bookmarking to support knowledge work in the work environment. The research study was conducted in two phases. Phase One of the research study aimed to study the introduction and testing of corporate Wikis in two primary cases, a knowledge intensive organisation and a non-governmental organisation in Australia. Seizing the opportunity to implement the corporate Wikis in these two organisations, it was decided to set up these two primary cases as PAR projects because the researcher will be actively liasing with other members of the corporate Wiki project building and testing the corporate Wiki. Case studies will be built up throughout the research process from the initial design to the final presentation of results and discussion of the project members’ action implications. Phase Two comprised of four supporting cases of corporate Wiki usage in successful learning organisations. They consisted of a public utilities company, a global research and development company and a marketing and technology consulting company from the U.K. The fourth supporting case was a government organisation from Australia. The aim of Phase Two research study was to explore how and why do enterprises adopt and use corporate Wikis, so as to investigate the causal issues that contribute to corporate Wiki adoption/implementation success. Data was gathered through email questionnaires and semi-structured interviews and formulated into case studies and findings interpreted. The novelty of this work lies in applying Activity Theory to uncover the hidden activities of knowledge work so that organisations can determine what knowledge is of value and how to acquire, access and disseminate organisational knowledge. This work contributes to the body of work in Knowledge Management that sees technology as a social technical system. It argues that the corporate Wiki is capable of developing improved knowledge capabilities to answer to the basic challenge facing many organisations today, which is how to acquire, access and disseminate organisational knowledge capture, in particular tacit knowledge, to fulfil requirements of their clients and staff, while improving the quality of its products and services within the constraints of a fixed resource base. Research findings have uncovered the salient features of successful Wiki adoption methods so that it can provide guidance to organisations which are embarking on corporate Wiki implementation projects. Based on the Activity Theory analysis and empirical research, it is observed that learning organisations are successful in Wiki adoption and implementation because they have an open culture, supportive leadership style, and allow technology to be user-driven. The corporate Wiki is proposed to be the next generation Knowledge Management Systems (KMS) to meet the urgency and demand for a more rigorous approach to the exploitation of knowledge as an organisational resource.