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Exploring leadership role in GSD: potential contribution to an overall knowledge management strategy
Mamoona Humayun, Cui Gang, Isma Masood
Abstract In todays world, software organizations are rapidly shifting from collocated development towards GSD in the desire to seek lower cost and access to skilled resources. Though GSD had become an indispensable technique, but still it suffers from lot o f challenges like inadequate communication, knowledge management, cultural & temporal difference and missing tru st. These challenges pose serious risks in the success of GSD projects. More recently, attention has turned towards identifying the factors that enable GSD organizations to operate successfully across geographical, cultural and temporal boundaries. Software development processes have always been knowledge based therefore affective KM is considered as a crucial enabling factor in the success of GSD projects and KMS an IT-based tools are emerging as a powerful solution of KM these days. Keeping in view the importance of KM, many GSD organizations have deployed various KMS in their organizations in order to achieve desired benefits from it but tempting GSD employees to use this KMS still remain an important concern for researchers and practitioners. Deploying KMS is just a part of KM initiatives which must be complemented with some organizational mechanism in order to get maximum benefits from it. Leadership support has been widely recognized as an important enabling factor of KM and knowledge sharing. This paper examines the role of organizational leadership in the success of KMS-based knowledge sharing behavior in GSD settings. There exists limited empirical evidence about the role of organizational leadership in the success of KMS. How affective KM can be achi eved in GSD? What is the role of leadership in promoting knowledge sharing through KMS? These are interesting questions that need to be answered empirically. In this paper, we present the results of a web-based survey of a leading GSD company of china. Results show that role of leaders is crucial in making KMS affective and tempting employees to use it for knowledge sharing and getting maximum benefits through it. Index Terms Global software development, knowledge management, knowledge management repositor y, knowledge management system, leadership

GSD is becoming a dominant operational phenomenon in todays software development environment. Software development organizations are rapidly shifting from inhouse development towards GSD in search of global resource pool, lower cost, time to market, quick formation of global teams, delivering high quality products and high talent necessary to develop complex and large scale software [1, 2, 3, 4, 6]. However, there are some challenges associated with these benefits which include cultural and temporal difference, inadequate communication, knowledge management and missing trust. Over the past decade, researchers have well documented the negative impact of these challenges on the success of GSD projects (e.g., [3, 4, 5, 7, 8]. More recently, researchers has turned their attention towards identifying the factors that enable GSD projects to successfully execute across cultural and geographical boundaries. KM has been considered as a critical success factor that enables GSD organization to overcome the challenges of GSD to some extent (e.g., [1, 9, 10, 11]). Recognizing the importance of KM, an increasing number of GSD organizations have deployed various KM initiatives, of which KMS an IT-based system for knowledge sharing is a common solution [12].However, it has been noted that some organizations were disappointed with their investment on KMS owing to the observation that employees do not use KMS actively for continuous knowledge sharing [13, 14]. KM systems are not affective if they are not used. As pointed by the CIO of an organization that the existing competitive culture among management staff acted as a great obstacle in knowledge sharing and KMS use. Although IT artifact is a central element of KM but it should be complemented with some organizational mechanism in order to get benefits from KMS [15]. Hence, it is necessary to understand that how knowledge sharing using KMS can be promoted within GSD settings. Leadership support has been widely recognized as an organizational mechanism which enables knowledge sharing through KMS and abundant studies consider it as a critical success factor of KMS success [15, 16, 17, 18, 19]. Leaders are the one who set the examples for others in the organization; they have a direct impact on KM. The support from organizational leaders is the primary guarantee Mamoona humayun. First Author is with the Harbin Institute of Technology, of KMS success. Leaders should actively promote and Harbin China. follow KM practices. Without active support of leaders, Cui Gang.Second Author is also with the Harbin Institute of Technology, employees will consider knowledge sharing through Harbin China. Isma Masood Thord. Author is with the Virtual University, Islamabad, pakis- KMS as an additional task and they will not take it setan



riously [15, 17, 18, 20, 21, 22]. Leadership is considered as an ability to influence the behaviors of others by promoting innovation ad creating a strategic direction so that the others may align their goals with that of the leaders [23]. Two distinct knowledge processes are used for promoting knowledge sharing through KMS: contributing knowledge to KMS and using knowledge from KMS. In this study we use the term knowledge sharing for both of these processes. Keeping in view the importance of leadership in the success KM, in this paper, we will study the role of leadership in promoting knowledge sharing through KMS. The model is formulated on the results obtained from hypothesis testing; data was collected through a survey questionnaire. The population consists of the employees from a large GSD organization in china who have been involved in software development activities and are using KMS for knowledge sharing since last few years. The remaining part of the paper is structured as follows: section II provides the definition of some constructs that are necessary to understand. Section III describes some of the related work in this area. The research hypothesis and Methodology is described in section IV. Section V presents the results, which are further discussed in section VI. Section VII discusses the limitations followed by conclusion and future work in section VIII

products [29]. The objective of KM is to actually transfer tacit knowledge into explicit one, and to transfer this explicit knowledge from individuals to groups in the organization as and when per needed. On the other hand, effective KM is not merely a system that stores information, rather it is a flexible and context oriented system that integrates organizational people, process and technology. Effective KM requires that KM should be incorporated into the overall strategy of an organization. This affective KM will not only help organization in managing and sharing explicit knowledge but it will also accelerate growth, provide competitive advantages and will create benefit for stakeholders. For the purpose of this research, we will focus on effective KM.

The aim of this section is to provide the definition of some constructs that will serve as grounds for understanding the proposed research model.

2.1 Knowledge and knowledge types Knowledge can be defined as awareness and understanding acquired over time through study, observation, investigation or experience [24]. It has also been considered as personal belief that improves ones ability to take affective action according to the situation [25, 26]. Knowledge is a broad and multidimensional notion which is composed of at least two distinct types, tacit and explicit. Explicit knowledge can be stored in books, software products and documents and can be reused easily when required. On the other hand, tacit knowledge is stored in peoples mind in the form of memory, educ ation, skills, experience and imagination [27]. In this study, we will only target explicit form of knowledge and issues related to its management. The reasons for targeting only the explicit knowledge are many: firstly, explicit knowledge is itself a rich and varied form of knowledge. Secondly, management of explicit knowledge is qualitatively different from those of explicit one. Thirdly, knowledge workers viewpoint, inducement and motivation in sharing tacit knowledge are quite different from those related with explicit knowledge [28]. 2.2 Knowledge management vs Affective knowledge managemnet Knowledge management is the process of creating, sharing, distributing, organizing, and understanding of knowledge about organizational policies, processes and

2.3 Percieved usefulness vs perceived seeking efforts Before proceeding further, these two terms must be defined as they are considered very important in the context of KM. KMS is considered as a solution of KM in todays software organizations and KM is by nature an IT-based system. Deploying KMS is a part of KM initiative but tempting employees to use this KM for knowledge sharing requires two main features: perceived usefulness of KMS and less perceived seeking efforts. Perceived usefulness refers to the evaluation of a KMS user that contributing and using available knowledge through KMS will improve his or her performance, productivity, job security and will make his work easy and so on. On the other hand, perceived seeking efforts refer to the knowledge workers belief that using KMS will make his work easy and he doesnt need to spend much time and efforts in getting information through KMS. It has been reported that effort required to share knowledge through KMS is a barrier to knowledge sharing behavior. 2.4 Role of leadership in achieving affective KMS Now the question is that, how effective KM can be achieved? We discuss this question in the light of literature survey. Effective KM can not be achieved by merely using a technology-based KM system. However, when technology is combined with organizational culture along with management and leadership support than the desired benefits can be achieved through KMS [30]. Leadership intervention is crucial for making effective use of knowledge, because leaders are the one who change the vision and directions of individuals [31]. A good and supportive leader always focus on doing the right things, and he uses his abilities and skills to influence the behavior of others in order to align others goals with him. He creates the vision of destinations among his fellows, a compelling reason to work together and thus get the things done through others [23]. A research study was conducted to investigate the KM process for software engineering and it was identified that leadership is the most important one among the four key enablers of KM namely leadership, technology, culture and measurement [32]. Similarly in another study a model of KM was presented and leadership was identified as one among the four important pillars of KM model



[33]. Abundant studies have highlighted the importance of leadership in the context of KM and consider it as a key enabler and facilitating factor of KM. Leaders encourage people to participate in knowledge creation, sharing and decision making and this collective and collaborative decision making leads towards innovation which is very important factor of making effective use of KMS [15, 16, 17, 18,19, 34, 35].

ative methods. The data was collected from two Australian companies who were using KM practices in their software development work. Four key enablers of KM were identified in this study and among these four key enablers of KM leadership was considered to be the most significant for KM success. The results obtained from this study shows that, leadership practices influence organizational strategies of defining and managing knowledge assets.

Leadership plays an important role in the success of KM in GSD. Below we discuss some of the studies which highlights the role and importance of leadership in the success of KM. Vittals in his study [31] states that the first step in establishing an effective KM is the selection of competent leader. He further argues that leadership plays an important role in making effective use of KM because effective KM requires vision and change in direction which can only be developed through leadership. Based on literature review and two separate research studies, he has created a model of KM enablers among which leadership is a key enabler and driving factor of successful KM. Kulkarni et al. [15] has identified the organizational factors and measures that enable knowledge sharing and use. The organizational factor he has identified includes: leadership, supervisor & coworkers support and incentives. He has also integrated social, organizational and economic approaches and built a KM success model. In order to test the model he has collected data from 150 knowledge workers. The results obtained from hypothesis testing claims that leadership has a direct influence on knowledge use. Based on previous research and existing literature on knowledge management, Kristen et al. [17] has examined three of the critical human factors that leads towards the success of KM: organizational culture, organizational leadership and CKOs. It has been examined in this study that how each of these factor contributes to effective knowledge management. The prevailing ideas among researchers and professionals involved in KM are also presented in this study. In is research, Takeuchi [36] describes three ways in which CEOs and other management can support KM within the organization. Firstly, the management should set the goals that company as a whole ought to be. Secondly, management should incorporate the vision for KM in organizational policy. Thirdly, management should strategically plan and decide that which KM efforts to support and develop? And then must follow the strategy. He further argues that, by performing these actions, leadership can not only link together many disparate activities of the organization, but can also establish a standards and objectives for the rest of the organization to follow. A study was performed by aurum et al.[22] in which the current practices of KM were investigated in software engineering processes using both qualitative and quantit-

Gap Studies discuses above show us the importance of leadership in the context of KM. It is obvious that role of leadership is crucial in the success of KMS. However, there is a lack of empirical studies that specifically analyze the impact of leadership on the success of KMS especially in GSD context. To fill this gap, in this study we will try to investigate the role of leadership in the success f KMS in Global software development organizations.

4.1 Research hypothesis KMS can be seen as effective only when the employees of the GSD organizations believe that using KMS for knowledge sharing will improve their job performance, productivity, effectiveness and will make their work easy. Employees of GSD organizations will use KMS continuously for knowledge sharing only if they perceive that it is useful for them. Hence, we propose that continuous usage of KMS is associated with the highest level of perceived usefulness of KMS. H 1: Perceived usefulness of KMS is positively related to the continuous intention of using KMS. If the employees of the organization believe that KMS is not user friendly and they need to spend a lot of time and efforts in getting knowledge through KMS, they will consider it as an additional task and will loose their interest in using KMS. This behavior will damage the perceived usefulness of KMS usage. H 2: Perceived seeking efforts of KMS are negatively related to perceived usefulness of KMS. Leadership intervention is important in making KMS effective, as leaders are the one who change the vision and direction of others. Leaders should act as a role model and they should promote KMS usage. Leaders can influence the behaviors of others by providing motivation, support and vision to cope with changes. Therefore, we propose that employees continuous intention of using KMS is associated with highest support of leadership. H 3: Leadership support is positively related to the continuous intention of using KMS. Similarly, leaders can change the direction of people and can align the goals of individuals with that of the leaders. Leaders should act as a role model who sets an example for others and signal that the open sharing of ideas and information is important and valuable for team. This behavior of the leader can change the vision of the employees and they will consider KMS useful for them. H 4: Leadership support is positively related to the



perceived usefulness of KMS The research hypotheses of this study are summarized in the research model shown in Figure1.

Leadership support

Perceived usefulness

+ +

Continuous intention of using KMS

Perceived seeking efforts


4.2 Survey administration A web-based survey methodology was used to collect the data for testing hypothesis. A leading IT-organization in china was used as a research site for administering the survey. There were three reason of choosing this organization; firstly, it was a large GSD organization with more than 15000 employees separated in different counties. Secondly, the organization was using KMR a system of KM since last seven years and all the employees worldwide could login to this KMR and share their knowledge through this KMR. Thirdly, a senior person in this organization allowed us and helped us in identifying the key KMS users and also helped us in collecting data from these KMS users through a survey questionnaire. The total of 400 employees was identified who were using KMR regularly for knowledge sharing. These identified employees were requested to fill the questionnaire that was administered on their companys intranet within two weeks. A friendly reminder was also sent to these identified workers after a week; finally, we obtained 192 results after two weeks, with almost 48% response rate. After analysis 13 responses were rejected as the information provided on these questionnaires was incomplete. Hence total 179 responses were used in final analysis.
Table 1: Geographical location of respondents Respondents location USA UK China Egypt UAE Botswana Number of responses 43 36 69 7 18 19

tested question from prior research were selected to measure constructs with the aim of increasing the validity of the constructs. Where validated items were unavailable new questions were developed based on existing literature review and experts opinion. The items for measuring continuous intention of using KMS were focused on the intention to which KMS user believes that using KMS for knowledge sharing on continuous basis will help him in performing his official routine tasks timely and easily and were adapted and built upon the existing studies which include(e.g. [37, 41,42, 43). The items related to the measurement of perceived usefulness of KMS were focused on the extent to which a KMS user believes that KMS is useful for performing his job and were adapted and built upon the existing studies which include(e.g. [37, 38, 41, 42, 43]). The items used for measuring perceived seeking efforts were focused on the extent to which KMS user believe that sharing knowledge through KMS requires lot of time and efforts and were adopted and built upon the studies which include(e.g. [39, 40, 41, 42, 43]). Similarly the items related to leadership support were related to the leadership role in enhancing employees belief that KMS is useful and encouraging and motivating them to use KMS regularly for knowledge sharing by acting as a role model and were adapted and built upon the existing studies which include(e.g.[43, 44, 45, 46]). The response of each item in the questionnaire was given as Likert scale of five levels ranging from 5= strongly agree to 1= strongly disagree. PLS technique was used for testing the hypothesis, it is considered as an appropriate statistical method for early stage research models. Moreover, it is more suitable technique as compared to other structural equation modeling techniques when the sample size is not so large.

The results obtained from the survey demonstrate satisfactory items reliability, convergent validity and discriminant validity which are obvious from Table2. Firstly, all the internal consistency scores exceed 0.7 which indicate acceptable item reliability [47, 50]. Secondly, the values of the average variance extracted, were above the 0.5 threshold for all constructs which shows the existence of adequate convergent validity [47, 48]. Thirdly, for the existence of discriminant validity, the value of the diagonal elements should be greater than any of the intercorrelation value between the latent variable which is obvious from Table2 [51]. Loading of each individual element was also examined to confirm the existence of discriminant validity whose cross matrix is available from the authors. As correlation matrix is always symmetric and two triangles of the matrix are always mirror images of each other, therefore Table 2 only shows the values of a single triangle. Now, we discuss the results of hypothesis.
Table 2: Correlation and intercorrelation for constructs and reliability and validity analysis

4.3 Measures A questionnaire was used as a survey instrument,



Continuous using KMS intention of

Mean 3.78 3.75 3.08 3.92

Standard Deviation 0.68 0.72 0.89 0.68

Internal consistency 0.76 0.87 0.82 0.79

Average variance extracted 0.56 0.68 0.71 0.72

1 *0.75 0.56 0.32 0.43

Perceived usefulness Perceived seeking efforts Leadership support

**0.82 0.46 0.51 **0.84 0.53 **0.85

**The diagonal elements are the square root of average variance extracted. Off-diagonal elements are the correlations between underlying constructs

Hypothesis 1, which states that GSD employees perceived usefulness of KMS is positively related to the continuous intention of seeking knowledge , was supported and strongly significant, = 0.48, t= 3.18, p<.001, indicating that GSD employees who believes that using KMS for knowledge sharing is beneficial for them would have stronger intention to use KMS for knowledge sharing continuously. Hypothesis 2, which states that perceived seeking efforts of using KMS are negatively related with perceived usefulness of KMS was equally supported, =0.18, t= 2.18, p<0.05, indicating that GSD employees who believes that sharing knowledge from KMS requires lot of efforts would have weaker intention to use KMS continuously for knowledge sharing. Hypothesis 3, which states that leadership support is positively related with employees intention of using KMS continuously was also supported, =0.23, t=2.89, p<0.05, indicating that organizational leadership helps in promoting KMS usage and leaders are the one who can change the intentions of their teams regarding the use of a new system or process. Hypothesis 4, which states that leadership support is positively related to the perceived usefulness of KMS was positive, strongly significant and supported, = 0.45, t= 4.78, p<0.001,indicating that leaders are the one who can change the behavior of their teams through cooperative involvement, providing incentives & encouragement and by setting the examples for others.

through KMS, leaders can change the intentions of their team towards using KMS. The results of the study suggest that leadership support is helpful in developing continuous KMS usage intention. The results of hypothesis 3 are consistent with prior research performed (e.g., [15, 39, 44]). Fourth, we found that leadership role is important in creating employees belief that using KMS is beneficial for them. Leaders have a direct impact on organizational culture; they should actively participate in KMS building and usage, this cooperative involvement of the leaders will foster employees belief regarding KMS importance.

Few limitations of this study should be noted. First, this study only considers explicit knowledge management and the roles of leadership in promoting it using KMS. Second, we studied knowledge sharing from a knowledge users perspective as an indicator of KMS success initiative and knowledge processes are treated indirectly at a higher level of abstraction. Third, the data for this study was conducted from a single organization, although the participants of the survey were distributed globally but still the sample is relatively homogeneous.


In this study, we examined the role of organizational leadership in the success of KMS. The empirical results show that perceived usefulness of KMS has a strong influence on ones intention to use KMS continuously for knowledge sharing, while efforts are negatively related with perceived usefulness of KMS. Further, organizational leaders play an important role in developing knowledge sharing behavior using KMS, the role of leadership is critical in the success of KMS. The results of the study, we hope, will help and facilitate the researchers and practitioners to further evaluate the role of leadership support in KMS success, refine the KM practices and suggest the directions that need to be followed by leaders in order to promote KMS usage in their organizations.

In this study, we examined the role of leadership support in promoting knowledge sharing through KMS in GSD organizations. The empirical results obtained from the survey reveals some important findings. First, we found that employees who believe that using KMS is beneficial for them in performing their routine official work will use KMS on continuous basis; this finding is also consistent with prior research performed in (e.g., [15, 41, 42]). Second, we found that effort determines the behavior of a person to some extent and it is negatively related with perceived usefulness and is an obstacle in knowledge sharing using KMS. The results obtained from this study match with the previous research findings (e.g., [42]). Third, we found that organizational leadership play an important role in promoting knowledge sharing

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