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Identifying knowledge boundaries: the case of networked projects

Juani Swart (Based in the School of Management, University of Bath, Bath, UK)
Philippa Harvey (Based with the Joint Propulsion Team – DTL, Ministry of Defence, Bath, UK)

Journal of Knowledge Management

ISSN: 1367-3270

Article publication date: 13 September 2011




In an interconnected world, projects span boundaries bringing together multiple organizations that enable cross‐boundary teams to contribute their collective knowledge assets. Herein lies the theoretical and managerial challenge; to date no‐one has identified the “knowledge boundaries” of projects. This means knowledge resources may be duplicated or ineffectively managed, impacting on project and organizational success. This paper seeks to demonstrate how “knowledge boundaries” can be identified and to illustrate how knowledge can be more effectively and efficiently used by cross‐boundary projects.


The research question: “How can the knowledge boundaries of networked projects be identified?” was addressed through a set of case studies spanning the Ministry of Defence (MOD)/Defence‐Industry boundary. Individual and shared knowledge assets, and the interrelationships between them, were identified via parallel coding of interview data and the analysis of the survey results. The knowledge boundary of the networked project was therefore determined and its interconnections and managerial implications unraveled.


Knowledge boundaries, as opposed to project or organizational boundaries, define the self‐sustaining knowledge core required by a project to access and use all the complementary and interconnecting knowledge it needs. Project knowledge is a linked, interdependent typology that spans boundaries; it must either be managed across boundaries, or all the organizations involved must invest over the odds to maintain it. Project team members need differently shaped knowledge but with enough overlap to communicate effectively thus linking knowledge together.


The paper introduces the “knowledge boundary” concept to define the self‐sustaining knowledge core a project requires to access, and use, all the knowledge it needs. Projects that understand their knowledge boundaries can use knowledge far more efficiently and effectively than those that do not.



Swart, J. and Harvey, P. (2011), "Identifying knowledge boundaries: the case of networked projects", Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 15 No. 5, pp. 703-721.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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