Re-Conceptualizing Information Systems to Support Communities of Practices: The Case of a Hotel Chain

Emmanouil Kaldis

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


This research aims to demonstrate the limitations of contemporary information systems (ISs) in terms of supporting effectively communities of practices. A number of ISs such as groupware, strategy management and business intelligence tools exist to support the practices of the members of an enterprise which take place across space and time. However, despite the notable progress of ISs, they are still grounded on the tacit assumptions of the mechanistic model, which has dominated organizational science in the last centuries. Jackson (2005) argues that the limitations of the ISs are derived from the organizational models they embrace, while Knight (2008) notes that ISs for the most part are still utilizing the original models employed to develop the first computer languages and management models.More specifically, contemporary ISs treat the organization as one whole or more recently as a network comprising of units with different backgrounds. In contrast, they do not conceive an enterprise as “a community of communities of practice” (Brown and Duguid 1991, Tuomi 1999). Furthermore, they do not treat initiatives for change as knowledge-use practices which can be potentially reapplied by the other community members. As a consequence, valuable knowledge either remains implicit or if captured, disintegrated across various information systems and thus cannot be reused easily for innovation. The limitations of the contemporary ISs have also been addressed in the IS field within a recent discourse between ISs and complexity. A number of authors in ISs have suggested the need of re-conceptualizing the fundamental design of ISs towards embracing complexity (Jacucci et al 2006, Merali 2006, Merali and McKelvey 2006). In fact, the concept of communities of practices is very relevant to the core idea of complexity theory: a self-organizing system in which order emerges from the dynamic interactions between agents that share a path-dependant history. The main research method used in this research to demonstrate the limitations of the existing ISs was the case study of a hotel chain. The hotel chain consisted of eight communities of practice which were dispersed across its six hotels. Using a number of sources for collecting data and the participant-observation technique, the research revealed that the ISs in place had not really embraced the concept of “community of practices”. The limitations observed were reconfirmed with the use of interviews with key stakeholders of the chain. A knowledge management system (KMS) was then developed aiming to support more effectively the communities of practices within a hotel chain. The KMS was applied in the hotel chain and follow-up interviews with the same stakeholders took place. The KMS brought considerable benefits in terms of supporting the knowledge transfer between the members of the communities of practice within the hotel chain. The intervention of the headquarters to promote change was reduced while organizational cohesion and the pace of change increased significantly.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationhost publication
Place of PublicationEdinburgh
PublisherUniversity of Edinburgh
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2012
EventFirst Mini-Conference on Knowledge and Learning: Charting New Waters and Building New Bridges - Business School, 29 Buccleuch Place, Edinburgh
Duration: 30 Mar 201231 Mar 2012


ConferenceFirst Mini-Conference on Knowledge and Learning: Charting New Waters and Building New Bridges
CityBusiness School, 29 Buccleuch Place, Edinburgh


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