The complexity of projects, and in particular emerging problems, cannot and are not able to be solved through traditional systems or process methodologies. The limitations of traditional tools and techniques that are deterministic and linear necessitate additional but complementary techniques to deal with the complex and dynamic evolutionary nature of ISD projects. Social processes, as distinct from formal structures, address complexity and drive innovation in ISD projects. Actors use knowledge based practices to create interleaved networks of expertise to clarify, brainstorm and innovate solutions. Drawing on an illustrative case study of an ISD project in an Australian Government Department we demonstrate how knowledge based practices were used to address emergent issues in the project and how the formal processes failed. However, the innovation was then re-incorporated into the formal systems to satisfy the rational, bureaucratic process requirements required in tightly governed projects. This clash of the formal versus informal represents a major theoretical and practical problem for knowledge, project management and ISD theory and praxis. We conclude by offering some suggestions on how to reconcile the irreconcilable.



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