A multi-methodological examination of Information and Knowledge Management (IKM) in business contexts

Nelson, Karen (2004) A multi-methodological examination of Information and Knowledge Management (IKM) in business contexts. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Many different approaches have been proposed with the aim of facilitating sound and successful information management (IM) and knowledge management (KM) practices within business contexts. These approaches seek to identify organizational factors (e.g. culture or information technology practices) or to suggest management processes (e.g. human resources management) required to establish environments conducive to IM and KM. Most of these approaches, often presented as frameworks (as they are referred to in this study) for organizational IM or KM, are exemplified by the following features.Firstly, they have emerged as unrelated notions, with little reference to each other or to foundational studies in the area. Secondly these frameworks are not based on any

theoretical foundation. Thirdly, these frameworks have tended to focus on either

information or knowledge management activities but not both, even though organizational IM and KM exist in a complementary and co-dependent relationship.

The usefulness of these frameworks is made problematic by muddled use of the terms

'information', 'knowledge', 'IM' and 'KM', which are often transposed or used synonymously. The situation is further complicated by the inherent complexity of the organizational environments into which practitioners attempt to introduce information and knowledge management (IKM) initiatives.

Early outputs of this research are explanations of how the terminology above is used in

this study and a literature review that describes current IM and KM frameworks by

analyzing their components. The literature review identifies current challenges in the

research domain, including the need for sound foundation (referent model) on which future IKM frameworks can be based. A suitable referent model is proposed by integrating single and double feedback loops (from systems theory) with two concepts from the IM literature: IM processes and the domains of IM activity.

Then, an interpretive multi-methodological research (MMR) approach is pursued consisting of three sequential phases: action research, transition and case study. The first phase, a 3-cycle action research project accompanied by a longitudinal descriptive case study and an embedded literature analysis, was conducted over a 31 month period. The key research outcome of the action research phase was a set of candidate enablers Information and Knowledge Management (IKM) in Business Contexts for organizational IKM, while the organizational deliverables included policies, strategies, process improvement and new information systems. The information gathered in phase one was rich and deep. However, in keeping with the goal of the research to produce a practical, useful IKM framework, the researcher sought a broader view from the IKM community. To achieve this practitioner view, a second research phase was designed to bridge the gap between the detailed examinations of IKM initiatives within one

organizational environment, to the examination of IKM initiatives within other organizations. Therefore phase two - a transition phase - consisted of a series of surveys and interviews with IKM practitioners that explored their perceptions of organizational IKM activities and environments. The data collected in phase two

supported the findings from phase one and informed the development of the case protocols for the third - case study - phase. In the third phase, six IKM projects in three organizations were studied. Documentary and interview data were examined to understand the relationships between IKM projects, the candidate enablers identified earlier in phases one and two, and other organizational factors implicated in IKM

initiatives. When analyzed, the findings from the third phase converged with the data

collected in the previous two phases, and provided a rich, deep and broad collection of


The study culminates by synthesizing the data collected in the three research phases to

(1) confirm a suitable referent model on which IKM frameworks can be based and (2) develop an integrated, multidimensional IKM framework that assimilates the referent model. The referent model, which is based on previous calls for IKM frameworks to have a sound theoretical foundation, incorporates two established concepts from the IKM literature: (a) the operational, analytical and strategic domains of IKM activity and (b) double and single loop feedback loops of systems thinking applied to IKM processes. The practical and flexible IKM framework, which assimilates these concepts, has three dimensions. These dimensions are (i) domains of IKM activity and feedback loops (ii)

organizational enablers (iii) project context. It is envisaged that this framework be used

by practitioners to identify and manage areas of the business environment that require

attention to ensure success of IKM projects or initiatives.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 15930
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Middleton, Michael, Gable, Guy, & Rosemann, Michael
Keywords: Information management (IM), information resources management (IRM), knowledge management (KM), information and knowledge management (IKM), interpretive research, multi-methodology research (MMR), referent model, IKM frameworks
Divisions: Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > Faculty of Science and Technology
Department: Faculty of Information Technology
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright Karen Nelson
Deposited On: 03 Dec 2008 03:53
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2011 19:40

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