Enterprise social network (ESN) systems and knowledge sharing: what makes it work for users?

Publication Date18 November 2019
Date18 November 2019
AuthorAbhishek Kalra,Rupashree Baral
SubjectInformation & knowledge management,Knowledge management,Knowledge management systems
Enterprise social network (ESN)
systems and knowledge sharing:
what makes it work for users?
Abhishek Kalra
IIT Madras, Chennai, India, and
Rupashree Baral
Department of Management Studies, IIT Madras, Chennai, India
Purpose Enterprise Social Network (ESN)systems have emerged as the technology of choice to bolster
and support organizational efforts for harnessing embedded knowledge. However, a lack of understanding
about it limits the optimizationof its potential. Hence, this paper aims to assess the role of hedonicmotivation,
network externalities(NE) and top management support in conjugation with the unied theoryof acceptance
and use of technologytheory to understand ESNs usage for knowledge sharing.
Design/methodology/approach Data were collected from 187 ESN users through a survey
questionnaire and subsequently analyzed using variance-based structural equation modeling using the
partial leastsquares method.
Findings ESNs are used bothfor utilitarian and hedonic purposes. Furthermore,the results also bring out
the importance of externalities arising from an extensive network of users and complimentary services, as
well as support regardingresources and recognition from the top management toward reinforcingthe benets
of using ESNs.
Research limitations/implications This study advances earlierknowledge by assessing the actual
usage of ESNs for knowledge sharing. It takes into consideration multiple input variables, namely,
performance expectancy,effort expectancy, NE amongst others to best resonate with the key factors driving
its adoption and usage by an individual. However,because of the cross-sectional research design, causality
can only be inferred.
Practical implications The organizationsare recommended to have in place the measuresfor attaining
optimal usageof ESNs, and in turn, witness knowledge moves around in ways unfathomable.Steps should be
taken to develop tools andecosystems to provide users affordances for both increasingproductivity, as well
as opportunitiesfor gaining pleasure.
Originality/value This study is one of its kind effort to synthesize the knowledgeabout the ESNs in an
Indian context. It provides fascinating insights into the determinants of intention and usage of ESNs for
Keywords Knowledge sharing, Unied theory of acceptance and use of technology (UTAUT),
Enterprise social networking sites (ESNSs), Enterprise social platform (ESM)
Paper type Research paper
1. Introduction
The modern human industrial civilization is marked by a growing realization amongst
organizations about the importance of knowledge and technology as critical resources to
achieve sustainable competitive advantage. Knowledge, a fundamental asset for the
organization, resides in the human workforce of the organizations and needs to be
harnessed, indexed and shared(Reinhardt et al., 2011) for sustainable advantage. The role of
the technology herein becomes vital, as it accords the abilityto design and provide modules
social network
Received9 April 2019
Revised29 September 2019
Accepted11 October 2019
VINEJournal of Information and
KnowledgeManagement Systems
Vol.50 No. 2, 2020
pp. 305-327
© Emerald Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/VJIKMS-04-2019-0047
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
for leveraging the human interaction with different aspects of the knowledge process chain
(Christensen and Pedersen, 2018; Mäntymäkia and Riemer, 2016). Technology by allowing
people to create, collaborate, refer, store and share within the connes of the system,
therefore, acts as a sustainable knowledge ecosystem (Niall and Duane, 2017;Richter and
Riemer, 2013;Steiningeret al., 2010).
Successful implementationof a varying type of technological system, therefore, has been
a critical focus for majority of organizations to enable knowledge creation and sharing.
History is replete with examples of technologies that have emerged time and again to
revolutionize the way humans communicate and share information. The advent of social
networking systems/sites (SNSs) in the twenty-rst century marks a crucial milestone on
that very course. Boyd and Ellison (2007)dene SNSs as:
web-based services that allow individuals to (1) construct a public or semi-public prole within a
bounded system, (2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and (3)
view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system.
Rooksby et al. (2009), have classied SNSs into two signicant types: public SNSs and
enterprise social networking systems/sites (ESNSs). Public SNSs are hosted in the public
domain by commercial providers and the right to membership is usually kept open to all.
Public SNSs such as Facebook and MySpace are clocking memberships more than 100
million users (ComScore,2011). information systems (ISs) literature is abundantwith studies
that have signicantly focusedon the acceptance and consequent usage of these public SNS
or platforms both by individuals and the organizations (Al-Busaidi and Olfman, 2017; Boyd
and Ellison, 2007;Ellison et al., 2007;Kane et al., 2014;Moqbel et al.,2013;Wehner et al.,
2017;Wilson et al.,2012).
However, the present researchdoes not focus on the public SNSs and instead undertakes
a study of the enterprise social networks (ESNs) and their ability to support intra-
organizational knowledgesharing. ESNs, which have emerged only recently on the radarof
IS researchers owing to the non-conduciveness of public SNSs for intra-organizational
communication (Hathi, 2008). ESNs are hosted by organizations on their internal networks
and are exclusive to the employees of an organization thereby, bestowingthe organizations
with a considerable degree of controltoward concerns such as secondary data theft, breach
of privacy, corporate espionage and malware commonly associated with public SNS usage
(Leonardi et al., 2013; Mäntymäkia and Reimer, 2016). ESNs emphasize the development of
gregarious cross-connected relational networks among its users to provide them
unprecedented ability to collaborate, create and share knowledge (Gardner, 2013;Hacker
et al.,2017;Niall and Duane, 2017). The networked structure also accords them the ability
for crowdsourcing of ideas to solve complex problems innovatively. Further, owing to its
unique ability to provide for both synchronous and asynchronous communication, ESNs
allow users to undertake bothactive and passive collaboration. (Hacker et al.,2017;Kuegler
et al.,2015;Leonardi et al., 2013).
The adoption of ESNs at the workplaceis further bolstered because of the increased need
for interaction between geographically distant virtual teams (Treem and Leonardi, 2012;
Wehner et al., 2017). The constant need for information exchange amongst these teams is
aptly answered for by ESNs, which provides a less costly, mobile, standardized and user-
friendly interface with the abilityfor multiple system integrations (Von Krogh, 2012). ESNs,
as a result, has become the technologyof choice for intra-organizational communication and
a key enabler for facilitating knowledge sharing (Aboelmaged, 2018;Ellison et al.,2015;
Niall and Duane, 2017). A considerable emphasis in scholarly research has, therefore, been
laid on to understand and highlight the role of ESNs in facilitating knowledge sharing in

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