Knowledge transfer in globally distributed teams: the role of transactive memory

Ilan Oshri, Paul van Fenema, Julia Kotlarsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper explores the role of transactive memory in enabling knowledge
transfer between globally distributed teams. While the information systems
literature has recently acknowledged the role transactive memory plays in improving knowledge processes and performance in colocated teams, little is known about its contribution to distributed teams. To contribute to filling this gap, knowledge-transfer challenges and processes between onsite and offshore teams were studied at TATA Consultancy Services. In particular, the paper describes the transfer of knowledge between onsite and offshore teams through encoding, storing and retrieving processes. An in-depth case study of globally distributed software development projects was carried out, and a qualitative, interpretive approach was adopted. The analysis of the case suggests that in order to overcome differences derived from the local contexts of the onsite and offshore teams (e.g. different work routines, methodologies and skills), some specific mechanisms supporting the development of codified and personalized ‘directories’ were introduced. These include the standardization of templates and methodologies across the remote sites as well as frequent teleconferencing sessions and occasional short visits. These mechanisms contributed to the development of the notion of ‘who knows what’ across onsite and offshore teams despite the challenges associated with globally distributed teams, and supported the transfer of knowledge between onsite and offshore teams. The paper concludes by offering theoretical and practical implications.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)593-616
Number of pages24
JournalInformation Systems Journal
Issue number6
Early online date17 Feb 2008
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2008


  • knowledge transfer
  • transactive memory
  • globally distributed teams
  • expertise


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