This study

The subject for consideration is a European Union e-Learning Action Plan (DG/EAC/21/01) funded project that revolves around the creation of a European SME e-learning network (ESeN)[1]. The project has sought to engage with SMEs in order to equip them with emerging knowledge management tools, so that they may become more effective users of information communications technology (ICT) in their decision-making. The project involves a business school as the main partner with collaborators from six EU countries, comprising a mix of academic and business partners, all of whom were experienced in the use and application of virtual technologies.

It is possible to see that the partners serve a dual role, in the first instance they sit on the project steering group and at the same time they are involved in building relationships with SMEs within their local area. In terms of networks it can thus

be seen that the six partners play a role in two networks of importance to the project - the network of partners (facilitated by the business school) and the network of local SMEs (which each partner is responsible for facilitating). Although the proposition for the project was e-learning for SME managers, our unit of analysis here is the network of steering group partners. The project developed a web infrastructure to support online collaboration between the partners but, despite the fact that the project was about e-learning technologies, found it was little used. The ESeN partners were, however, required to work together to deliver the projects outcomes. This collaboration was therefore supported by project steering group meetings with e-mail communication in between and some occasional video conferencing. In addition some steering group members had their own pre-existing relationships and used face-to-face conversations either outside the formal steering group meetings or on other occasions when they met for different projects or meetings.

Table I summarises the communication channels available to steering group members and indicates their relative degrees of "project legitimacy" and "project usage".

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