Supporting knowledge management with information technology : the significance of formal and informal structures

Sammanfattning: Knowledge Management (KM) is a relatively young field of research. It has traditionally aimed at managing work in organisations often by the assistance of supporting Information Technology (IT).In this thesis, the definition of KM is expressed as facilitating the intertwined process of learning and knowing in an organisation. in order to support this process by IT KM needs to be based on an understanding of the significance of the formal and informal structures that organisations are built on. Using the word knowing rather than knowledge assists in approaching the issue of how to facilitate learning and knowing, since it declares knowing as a process or as a state of mind. This process feeds on what is available in the form of nourishment, which is supplied in the form of information. KM then has two ways of supporting learning and knowing: by nourishing and by encouraging this process.Two analysis frameworks were constructed from two subsequent literature reviews of KM, Computer Supported Collaborative Work/Lerarning (CSCW/CSCL), and Communities of Practice (CoP). These models were used to describe and analyse the learning process of the selected case, a Swedish military organisation. It soon became evident that the formal learning process did not work as intended, and that the informal structures and processes struggled to accomplish the results that the formal process failed to deliver. The formal and informal processes were not aligned and neither worked satisfyingly. Informal structures exists within formal structures and they are both equally important. They are intertwined and dependent on each other. as the findings of this case study has revealed.In supporting learning and knowing in organisations, IT needs to support both formal and informal structures. IT could nourish structures and processes, and IT could encourage participation and interaction in them. As learning is based on interaction supporting it is vital, but at the same time, no interaction will occur without nourishment. These are the impĺications for IT when designing for learning and knowing in organisations. It is not only a matter of supplying and making information available, but also of encouraging interaction in aligned formal and informal structures.

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