72 Information Resources Management Journal, 19(1), 70-83, January-March 2006
Copyright © 2006, Idea Group Inc. Copying or distributing in print or electronic forms without written permission of Idea Group Inc.is prohibited.
often is limited to niche applications, requiresconsiderable effort, and still faces knowledgemaintenance difficulties (Malhotra, 2000). Othersolutions, such as corporate controlled portals,can quickly suffer from outdated knowledgeand lack of maintainability (Newcombe, 2000).
Knowledge Acquisition Bottleneck
In summary, we can describe the knowl-edge acquisition bottleneck as follows (Wagner,2000; Waterman, 1986):
The channels that existto convert organizational knowledge fromits source (either experts, documents, ortransactions) are relatively narrow.
The slow speed of ac-quisition frequently is accompanied by a de-lay between the time when knowledge (orthe underlying data) is created and whenthe acquired knowledge becomes availableto be shared.
Experts make mis-takes and so do data mining technologies(finding spurious relationships). Further-more, maintenance can introduce inaccura-cies or inconsistencies into previously cor-rect knowledge bases.
As the knowledge in theknowledge base grows, so does the require-ment for maintenance. Furthermore, previ-ous updates that were made with insuffi-cient care and foresight (“hacks”) will accu-mulate and render future maintenance in-creasingly more difficult (Land, 2002).Given these challenges, it appears thatthere are few opportunities for breaking theknowledge acquisition bottleneck. The nextsection will propose one possible remedy.
LEARNING FROMSOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT
One area that has offered lessons for thesuccessful creation of knowledge assets is soft-ware development, and specifically open sourcesoftware development by distributed teams of volunteers. Open source projects engage soft-ware developers, wherever they may reside, andhave them collaboratively develop the knowl-edge asset (the software). Surprisingly, thisactivity takes place with little centralized man-agement. Raymond (2001) characterized thisapproach to software development as the
style in contrast to the traditional
style of development. Cathedral is a meta-phor for the development of a large monolithicartifact through a structured and lengthy de-velopment process. Fundamental to the ca-thedral style approach is that source code isonly widely available at release dates with ac-cess restricted to a few developers betweenrelease dates. Bazaar style development, how-ever, occurs over the Internet in constant pub-lic view. Raymond identified principles of thisdevelopment style that challenge the assump-tion that large and complex software assetsneed to be built via an
, centralized ap-proach. Overall, four themes guide this devel-opment approach, which can be characterizedas follows: (1) design simplicity of the artifact,(2) team work, (3) frequent creation of a visiblework product, and (4) development as an on-going conversation. This section introduces aframework of open source (software) develop-ment, identifies its benefits, and derives les-sons about the applicability for knowledge as-sets other than software.
Open Source Software Development
Open source software development, asdescribed, for instance, by Raymond (2001),Benkler (2002), and Markus, et al. (2000), relieson several factors to achieve success (and thus,performance of the knowledge creation effort).Key success factors (see Figure 1) consist of asuitable artifact, a skilled and motivated teamof volunteer users and developers, a lean andtransparent development process, and light-weight but effective governance. Added to thisis an enabling factor; namely, an appropriatetechnology infrastructure, which, for instance,permits frequent releases, accommodates vot-ing mechanisms to govern the community, orenables fast and reliable version management,