Title: Socio-technical factors influencing channel use for knowledge-sharing in regional SME networks

Authors: Cecily Mason, Tanya Castleman, Craig M. Parker

Addresses: Deakin Business School, School of Information Systems Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia. ' Deakin Business School, School of Information Systems Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia. ' Deakin Business School, School of Information Systems Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia

Abstract: The economic sustainability of regional areas is dependent on cross-industry innovation and knowledge-sharing among Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). The web-based initiatives deployed in regions worldwide to facilitate SME knowledge-sharing have typically been unsuccessful. This paper argues that the main reason for these failures is the lack of understanding of the socio-technical factors which influence the use of web-based channels (websites, online forums and expertise databases) as well as the more conventional channels (face-to-face and e-mail). This paper reports the findings of interpretive case studies of two regional SME business networks. It evaluates the major channels on six socio-technical criteria: link strength; trustworthiness; tacitness; usability; durability and currency. None of the channels were strong against all socio-technical factors. This highlights the importance of achieving an appropriate mix of channels to facilitate SME knowledge-sharing.

Keywords: knowledge sharing; knowledge management; KM; virtual communities; communities of practice; VCoP; web based communities; online communities; small and medium-sized enterprises; regional networks; SMEs; Australia; small firms; socio-technical; business networks; channels; communication; e-mail; regional development.

DOI: 10.1504/IJKMS.2008.018794

International Journal of Knowledge Management Studies, 2008 Vol.2 No.3, pp.303 - 319

Published online: 18 Jun 2008 *

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