Knowledge Management Through Information Technology
by Petter Gottschalk
2002, Fagbokforlaget, 563pp
Professor Charles Oppenheim
Dept of Information Science
Why, you might wonder, is a book on KM being reviewed in JILT at all? The reason is that the author, a Professor of Information Technology at the Norwegian School of Management, has made law firms the primary focus of his case studies.
The book has been well researched, with hundreds of citations at the end. The author reports some original report on attitudes to IT carried out by the author that should certainly be of interest to some readers.
Despite the apparent relevance, though, I must admit I found it a little disappointing from an academic's view point. There are two fundamental problems with it. The first is that it has little to do with Knowledge Management as is, and much more to do with the management of IT and of information systems within organisations. The second is a heavy reliance on companies' press releases, which are reproduced in an uncritical manner. Some of these are now out of date, for example the claim that Ryanair would be interested in 'running British Airways' subsidiary 'Go'. Some of the press releases reproduced are slightly ambiguous and contain irrelevant material, such as 'Law Firm Grette is since January 1 a merger of Smith Grette Wille with Glad, Arno, Meyer & Co.' This would not matter if the press releases constituted a tiny part of the book, but they seem to represent a major component, which I don't think is really necessary.
Scattered throughout the book are questions to the reader of the type you would expect to find in a student textbook. However, the style is that of a book aimed at managers. I have little doubt that managers would be insulted by the questions constantly being thrown at them. There are many case studies thrown in as examples throughout the text, but frequently they are not relevant to the text that surrounds them. Thus for example, Dow Chemical, Hoffman La Roche, Heineken and Ford Motor are amongst the case studies on the chapter on law firms. Much of Chapter 10, which is meant to be about knowledge, is about information management. There are several Web pages reproduced, but rarely do they add anything of value to the book.
The book is well typeset, and has relatively few spelling mistakes. There are a couple of factual errors, such as the claim that information retrieval started in the 1980s, when it started more than a decade earlier. Some text is repeated in different parts of the book. The author claims that IT has a positive impact on client satisfaction with law firms, but provides a Figure, which argues the contrary.
Overall, the book offers some useful insights into IT strategy in law firms and their clients. This, and the reports of original research are the positive features of the book and if the use of IT in Norweigan law firms is your particular area of interest, then this would be a useful buy.
This is a Book Review published on 16 August 2002.
Citation: Oppenheim C, 'Knowledge Management Through Information Technology, by Petter Gottschalk', Book Review, The Journal of Information, Law and Technology (JILT) 2002 (2) <http://elj.warwick.ac.uk/jilt/02-2/oppenheim.html>. New citation as at 1/1/04: <http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/law/elj/jilt/2002_2/oppenheim/>.