Pacific Asia Journal of the Association for Information Systems


Background: This research aimed to examine the interrelations between ambiguity and knowledge asymmetry in Enterprise System implementation projects and determine how ambiguity and knowledge asymmetry affect the management of such projects. Enterprise System projects are a subgroup of knowledge-intensive business service projects. Literature regarding knowledge-intensive business service firms acknowledges ambiguity and knowledge asymmetry between the supplier and the client as essential characteristics of their relationship. However, insufficient empirically grounded research has been made to date to determine the interrelations between the two phenomena and their impact on the project management of knowledge-intensive projects.

Method: The research was based on a multiple case study method. Five cases of Enterprise System implementation projects were selected using literal replication until theoretical saturation was achieved. Data collection methods involved participant observation and analysis of documentation.

Results: Knowledge asymmetry was identified as a factor significantly increasing ambiguity in the projects subject to this study. As the project parties had different knowledge bases, the information transmitted by the sending party could not be appropriately interpreted by the receiving party. Co-production, i.e., joint synchronous work of the client and the consultant, was the means to overcome knowledge asymmetry and ambiguity. The phenomenon of problem-solution entanglement was also observed: the proposed solutions impacted the definition of the problems and vice-versa, which led to a revision and revisiting of problems considered to be already solved.

Conclusion: This research showed that knowledge asymmetry and resulting ambiguity had consequences for project definition, contracting, planning, and execution. Due to different knowledge bases, project parties could not interpret the information they received correctly. Therefore, synchronous work, resulting in an incremental reduction of knowledge asymmetry and ambiguity as well as constant reconciliation, revision and revisiting of problems and solutions, were necessary during the whole project life-cycle.