The Emergence of Boundary Spanning Competence in Practice: Implications for Information Systems' Implementation Use
New York University
McGill University - Desautels Faculty of Management
NYU Working Paper No. 2451/14121
Knowledge Management (KM) literature has centrally focused on organizationâs ability to build practices that integrate diverse expertise across professional, organizational, industry and other boundaries. In this paper we investigate how an organizational competence in boundary spanning emerges in practice. We draw on the concepts of boundary spanner and boundary object and on the practice-based view of KM in organizations to understand the emergence of boundary spanning in practice, which we define as relating practices from diverse fields. We contrast data from two qualitative, longitudinal field studies to draw our conclusions. We argue that for boundary spanning to emerge in practice a new joint field, which unites agent in a common pursuit, needs to be produced. Engagement of agents in this practice partially transforms their practices in local fields so as to accommodate the interests of their counterparts. Those agents who engage in negotiating the nature of this new field become boundary spanners-in-practice. Through their engagements in the new joint field and diverse local practices boundary spanners-in-practice produce and use objects which become locally useful and acquire a joint identity through their use â" boundary objects-in-use. Through data analysis we find, first, that nominated boundary spanners and designated boundary objects do not always become boundary spanners-in-practice and boundary objects-in-use. Second, we outline the conditions necessary for boundary spanners-in-practice to emerge, including the need for them to become legitimate, albeit peripheral, participants in the practices of the fields that they span. Thirdly, we show how boundary spanners-in-practice use their symbolic, cultural, social, and economic resources (capital) to build the new joint field. Finally, we examine the tensions involved in a) the nomination of agents as boundary spanners and artifacts as boundary objects; b) the growth of the new joint field; c) agentsâ choice in investing in the new joint field; and d) spanning one at the expense of another kind of boundary. We conclude by drawing implications for IS implementation and use.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 49
Keywords: Boundary spanning, boundary objects, boundary spanners, boundaries, practice theory, Bourdieu, Knowledge Management, organizational learning, IS implementation, IS use, client-consultant relationship, intranet, roles
Date posted: October 9, 2008