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Ruikar 2007

  1. 1. Knowledge Management Research & Practice (2007) 5, 297–311 & 2007 Operational Research Society Ltd. All rights reserved 1477–8238/07 $30.00 use of technologies and techniquesfor construction knowledge managementKirti Ruikar1 AbstractChimay J. Anumba1 and The last two decades have witnessed a significant increase in discussions about the different dimensions of knowledge and knowledge management (KM).Charles Egbu2 This is especially true in the construction context. Many factors have1 contributed to this growing interest including globalisation, increased Department of Civil and Building Engineering, competition, diffusion of new ICTs (information and communication technol-Loughborough University, Loughborough, U.K.;2 ogies) and new procurement routes, among others. There are a range of Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow, U.K. techniques and technologies that can be used for KM in constructionCorrespondence: K. Ruikar, Department of organisations. The use of techniques for KM is not new, but many technologiesCivil and Building Engineering, for KM are fairly new and still evolving. This paper begins with a review ofLoughborough University, Loughborough different KM techniques and technologies and then reports the findings of caseLE11 3TU, U.K. studies of selected U.K. construction organisations, carried out with the aim ofTel: þ 44 (0) 1509 223 774; establishing what tools are currently being used in U.K. constructionFax: þ 44 (0) 1509 223 981; organisations to support knowledge processes. Case study findings indicateE-mail: that most organisations do not adopt a structured approach for selecting KM technologies and techniques. The use of KM techniques is more evident compared to KM technologies. There is also reluctance among construction companies to invest in highly specialised KM technologies. The high costs of specialist KM technologies are viewed as the barrier to their adoption. In conclusion, the paper advocates integrated use of KM techniques and technologies in construction organisations. Knowledge Management Research & Practice (2007) 5, 297–311. doi:10.1057/palgrave.kmrp.8500154 Keywords: knowledge management; case studies; KM techniques; KM technologies; U.K. construction Introduction The fact that ‘Knowledge Management’ (KM) has emerged only since the mid-1990s hints strongly at underlying dilemmas and fundamental issues. On the one hand, the apparent lack of interest in KM pre-1995 suggests that either the subject was thought unimportant or unmanageable. On the other hand, it is patently obvious that knowledge processes occurred in organisations pre-1995, and in one way or another were ‘managed’, whether or not these processes were formally labelled KM. Indeed, much of the recent interest in KM focuses on the discovery of existing informal knowledge processes such as storytelling, and existing knowledge structures such as informal communities of practice (CoPs), rather than the design of new processes or structures (Chataway et al., 2003; and Quintas 2005). In the construction context, the last two decades have witnessed a significant increase in discussions about the differentReceived: 29 September 2006 dimensions of knowledge and KM. Globalisation, increased competition,Accepted: 7 August 2007 diffusion of new ICTs (information and communication technologies) and
  2. 2. 298 Techniques for construction knowledge management Kirti Ruikar et alnew procurement routes are some of the factors that have bringing to market those products or services thatcontributed to this growing interest (Egbu & Robinson, differentiate it from its rivals. While most companies2005; and Quintas, 2005). may dismiss this statement as something of a truism, There are a number of definitions of KM that are only a few take proactive measures to ensure that everyapplicable in the construction context. Broadly, KM is an employee has both the means and the will to help theinnovative way in which organisations retain and reuse organisation realise its potential. Several industry sectorscorporate memory to gain strategic and competitive such as consulting, energy, automobile and pharmaceu-advantage. KPMG (1998) define KM as a systematic and tical have examples of KM success stories that differenti-organised attempt to use knowledge within an organisa- ate them from other in their sector (Sheehan & Poole,tion to transform its ability to store and use knowledge to 2005):improve performance. Others define KM as the processthrough which organisations can generate value from Booz-Allen and Hamilton (General Consulting): KMtheir intellectual and knowledge-based assets (Santosus reduced the time needed to find and access collabora-Sarmacz, 2001). More often than not, generating value tive information, resulting in savings of over $7from such assets involves sharing these with employees, million per year.across departments and even with other companies in an BP’s Virtual Team Projects (Oil and Gas): The global peereffort to devise best practice. It is, however, important for assist programme resulted in large savings in time, cost,organisations to recognise that KM is not only about effort and a significant increase in profit margins.sharing knowledge (Carrillo et al., 2002), it also involves Daimler-Chrysler (Automobile): KM has dramaticallyother processes. Nissen et al. (2000) tabulate and compare reduced costs by reusing OEM publications. Thisthe different KM lifecycles proposed by several research- benefit is in millions of dollars.ers and experts, which share considerable similarities. Hoffman-LaRoche (pharmaceutical): KM has significantlyThey call attention to the fact that although the KM reduced time to market for new drugs (1 daylifecycle is generally described as a sequence of activities, Approx ¼ $1 million in saving).in practice the process is iterative, as each activity is oftenrevisited numerous times. When broadly considered, Compared to the implementation of KM in otherhowever, KM comprises processes such as locating and industries, it can be argued that the nature of theaccessing, capturing and storing, representing, sharing construction industry, that is, fragmentation, one-offand creating new knowledge (see Figure 1), which have nature of its projects, disparate project teams and thebeen described by Kamara et al. (2002) as the most requirement for specialised skills make it a difficultcommonly used processes in U.K. construction organisa- obstacle to tackle in the KM landscape. KM in construc-tions and are hence used in the context of this paper. tion projects is a challenging task. The construction project consists of numerous people from differentThe value of KM in construction companies with different professional backgrounds suchThe long-term survival of any company is dependent on as client, architects, project managers, designers, siteits ability to generate and exploit innovative ideas, managers and workers. Furthermore, the project organi- sation is unstable over time and becomes often comple- tely exchanged from phase to phase during the project. Most project-related problems, solutions and experiences are usually not documented or stored in a system Locate and database and the process of capturing and storing them Access in usable forms is not easy. However, in-spite of these well-researched and documented barriers, the use of KM is gaining recognition with U.K. construction. In the changing world economics, the U.K. construction in- dustry with high overhead costs feels a pressing need to Create New Capture and differentiate itself in the global marketplace. To stay Knowledge Store competitive it is fundamental for the U.K. construction industry to differentiate itself from its competitors. Creating and maintaining better methods for managing organisational knowledge is fundamental for future survival and success (Sheehan Poole, 2005). It is essential that the industry differentiates itself by adding value to its projects. KM is a key feature for providing this Share Represent added value and needs to be implemented in U.K. construction. KM can help maintain the long-term competitiveness of the industry by helping its organisa-Figure 1 Knowledge management processes. tions to become faster, smarter and more innovative.Knowledge Management Research Practice
  3. 3. Techniques for construction knowledge management Kirti Ruikar et al 299 Developing mechanisms to manipulate (capture, store, on experience and reflection, and remains tacit (Polanyi,search, retrieve) knowledge generated during projects has 1958, 1966). Conversely, knowledge also has a socialalways been of importance to construction organisations. dimension, being created and shared in social groupings,People and knowledge are the most important strategic within which tacit knowledge sharing occurs (Brown resources of an organisation (Fruchter, 2002). Managing Duguid, 1991). Related to its social nature, knowledge isthese people and knowledge effectively and using proper also created in specific contexts, and is to varying degreestechnologies to support them is key to an organisation’s ‘situated’ (Lave Wenger, 1991) or context specific, andsuccess. A large number of documents and drawings (i.e. may be ‘sticky’ and difficult to transfer or share (vondata) are generated within the design stage of a Hippel, 1994). As noted above, this reduces the potentialconstruction project. The rapid growth in the volume of for the simple and costless transfer of lessons learnedproject information as any project progresses makes it between contexts, such as companies or industries.increasingly difficult to find, organise, access and main- A popular definition by Ruggles (1997) describes KMtain the information required by users. Most construction tools as the technologies used to enhance and enable theprojects teams are established on a temporary contract implementation of the sub-processes of KM (e.g. knowl-basis and therefore maintain short-term business rela- edge generation, codification and transfer). He identifiestionship. Consultants involved in the same project are that not all KM tools are IT-based, as everyday tools suchsometimes thousands of miles apart and practicing as papers, pens and videos can be utilised to support KM.different working methods in accordance with their In fact, most authors use the term KM tools to refer to therespective roles in each project. Although the construc- technologies used for KM. In this paper, KM tools will betion industry is very project-oriented in nature, consul- used to describe both non-IT tools and IT tools. Totants (e.g. architects, designers) working on these projects distinguish between the two, the terms ‘KM techniques’are typically involved in several projects at the same and ‘KM technologies’ are used for ‘non-IT KM tools’ andtime. This further complicates the issues related to ‘IT KM tools’, respectively. The main differences betweenInformation Management on a project and affects an KM techniques and technologies are presented in Table 1organisation’s approach to capture knowledge. Efficient and discussed thereafter.and effective generated ‘knowledge’ is central to project While KM processes are often facilitated by IT,success and requires a commitment from all project technology by itself is not KM. Information technologystakeholders. What is important in providing a solution is concerned with information and not knowledge per seto the KM problem is the realisation of the fact that KM (Quintas, 2005). In the context of KM, both technologiescannot be considered in isolation as it is a combination of and techniques are equally important to support differentpeople, process and technology. Effective information KM processes. KM techniques do not depend on IT butmanagement ensures that the project data is accessible provide support in some cases. For example, knowledgewhen it is needed and is provided at a cost and quality sharing can take place through face-to-face meetings,that meets (or even exceeds) user requirements. Finding recruitment, apprenticeships, mentoring, training andthe correct documentation requires that the documents other techniques. The importance of techniques comesare provided, structured and maintained to a standard. from several factors. KM techniques are affordable toAll these factors make a compelling case for more most organisations as no sophisticated infrastructure isresearch into KM in the construction industry with required. Also, KM techniques are easy to implement andthe view to satisfying the requirements of quality, cost maintain due to their simple and straightforward nature.and time. KM technologies, on the other hand, depend on an IT infrastructure.KM toolsKM tools include both techniques (mainly non-IT tools)and technologies (IT tools). KM tools are not simplyinformation management tools as they should be Table 1 KM tools: Comparison between KM techniques and‘capable of handling the richness, the content, and technologies (Al-Ghassani, 2002)context of the information and not just the informationitself’ (Gallupe, 2001). For this research, both informal KM toolsknowledge processes and formalised KM initiatives are KM techniques KM technologiesconsidered with the aim of adopting an approach thatattempts to deal with knowledge, rather than any Require strategies for learning Require IT infrastructureproxies, such as information. Many accounts of KM More involvement of people Require IT skillsdefault to a focus on information management. Such a Affordable to most Expensive to acquire/view underestimates the richness of the subject of organisations maintainknowledge, and the opportunities a knowledge focus Easy to implement and Difficult to implement/ maintain maintainoffers for re-thinking business processes. Whereas certain More focus on tacit knowledge More focus on explicittypes of knowledge can be codified and treated as knowledgeinformation, much knowledge is personal, being based Knowledge Management Research Practice
  4. 4. 300 Techniques for construction knowledge management Kirti Ruikar et alKM technologies existing generic solution that matches the organisa-KM technologies rely on an IT infrastructure. Examples of tion’s requirements. Although similar to COTS, theKM technologies for capturing knowledge are Knowledge adapted solution is not packaged as a product that canMapping Tools, Knowledge Bases and Case-Based Reason- be marketed. Examples are online knowledge commu-ing. Although there is a debate about the degree of nities and virtual collaboration tools.importance of such technologies, many organisations Knowledge services – These are knowledge applicationsconsider these very important enablers that support the provided by a third party that hosts the application onimplementation of a KM strategy (Skyrme Amidon, the Web. The user accesses the service via a thin-client1997; Kanter, 1999; Anumba et al., 2000; Egbu, 2000a, b; (e.g. a browser). The main benefits are the waivedStorey Barnet, 2000) as they consume one-third of the software licensing fee and the avoidance of in-housetime, effort and money required for a KM system. The maintenance. Many organisations, however, do notother two-thirds mainly relate to people and organisa- find this option attractive because of associatedtional culture (Davenport Prusak, 1998; Tiwana, 2000). security and privacy issues. KM technologies consist of a combination of hardware Knowledge marketplace – Modelled on the E-businessand software technologies. Hardware technologies and NetMarket concept, several knowledge-trading placescomponents are important for a KM system as they form have been established. In a Knowledge Marketplace, athe platform for software technologies to perform and are third-party vendor hosts a website grouping togetherthe medium for storage and transfer of knowledge. Some many suppliers of knowledge services. Suppliers mayof the hardware requirements of a KM system include include expert advisors, vendors providing productpersonal computers or workstations to facilitate access to support services, KM job placement agencies, proce-knowledge, powerful servers to allow the organisation to dures for the evaluation of KM and portal software, andbe networked, open architecture to ensure interoperabil- research companies providing industry benchmarksity in distributed environments, media-rich applications and best practice case studies.requiring Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) and KM software technologies have seen many improvementsfibre optics to provide high speed and use of the public since the year 2000 due to many alliances, and mergersnetworks (e.g. Internet) and private networks (e.g. and acquisitions between KM and Portal tool vendorsIntranet, Extranet) to facilitate access to and sharing of (Tsui, 2002b). None of them, however, provide aknowledge (Lucca et al., 2000). Software technologies complete solution to KM. These tools are better describedplay an important part in facilitating the implementation within technology groups such as data and text miningof KM. The number of software applications has increased and groupware. Table 2 describes the different KMconsiderably in the last few years. Solutions provided by software technologies and their uses (Haag Keen,software vendors take many forms and perform different 1996; Haag et al., 1998; Tsui, 2002a, b).tasks. The large number of vendors that provide KMsolutions makes it extremely difficult to identify the mostappropriate solutions. This has resulted in organisations KM techniquesadopting different models for establishing KM systems. KM techniques do not depend on IT although theyTsui (2002b) identifies five emerging models for deploy- provide support in some cases. Knowledge sharing, foring organisational KM systems where one or a combina- example, is a sub-process of KM, which can take placetion may be adopted: through face-to-face meetings, recruitment, apprentice- ships, mentoring and training. The importance of KM Customised off the shelf (COTS) – This is the traditional techniques comes from several factors (see Table 1). and most popular way of deploying application Firstly, KM techniques are affordable to most organisa- services. Based on the organisational needs, the tions as no sophisticated infrastructure is required. Some applications will be identified and then examined techniques, however, require more resources than others against the functional needs of the organisation. A (e.g. training requires more resources than face-to-face short-test period may follow to identify the most interactions). Secondly, KM techniques are easy to suitable application. Once an application is acquired, implement and maintain due to their simple and customisation of the standard features is performed to straightforward nature. Thirdly, KM techniques focus on integrate it into the organisation’s information system. retaining and increasing the organisational tacit knowl- In-house development – These systems are developed edge, a key asset to organisations. within the organisation, usually with external techni- KM techniques are not new; most organisations have cal help. Examples are Notes, Domino and Intranet been implementing these for a long time under the applications. This option is generally less attractive to umbrella of management approaches such as organisa- organisations for reasons such as the difficulty of tional learning and learning organisations. Using these establishing KM systems requirements, high-cost, risk tools for management of organisational knowledge and the complexity of developing bespoke systems. requires their use to be enhanced so that benefits, in Solution re-engineering – This involves adapting, with terms of knowledge gain/increase, can be fully realised. the help of KM consultants and technical architects, an Examples of KM techniques include brainstorming, CoPs,Knowledge Management Research Practice
  5. 5. Techniques for construction knowledge management Kirti Ruikar et al 301 Table 2 Some KM software technologies and their usesKM software technologies Description and usesData and text mining Technology for extracting meaningful knowledge from masses of data or text Enables identification of meaningful patterns and associations of data (words and phrases) from one or more databases or ‘knowledge bases’. Enables identification of hidden relationships between data and hence creating new knowledge. Used in business intelligence, direct marketing and customer relationship management applications.Groupware Supports distributed and virtual project teams where team members are from multiple organisations and in geographically dispersed locations. Enables effective and efficient communication and sharing of information for geographically dispersed project teams.Intranet An internal organisational Internet that is guarded against outside access by special security tools called firewalls. Used for storing, sharing, accessing and locating company documents and information such as HS standards, procedures, press releases, etc.Extranet An Intranet with limited access to outsiders, making it possible for them to collect and deliver certain knowledge on the Intranet. Useful for making organisational knowledge available to geographically dispersed staff members.Knowledge base Repositories that store knowledge about a topic in a concise and organised manner. They present facts that can be found in a book, a collection of books, websites or even human knowledge. This is different from the knowledge bases of expert systems, which incorporate rules as part of the inference engine that searches the knowledge base to make decisions.Taxonomies and ontologies Taxonomy is a collection of terms (and the relationships between them) that are commonly used in an organisation. Examples of a relationship are ‘hierarchical’ (where one term is more general hence subsumes another term), ‘functional’ (where terms are indexed based on their functional capabilities) and ‘networked’ (where there are multiple links between the terms defined in the taxonomy). Ontologies also define the terms and their relationships but additionally, they support deep (refined) representation (for both descriptive and procedural knowledge) of each of the terms (concepts) as well as defined domain theory or theories that govern the permissible operations with the concepts in the ontology. Both can be used as corporate glossaries to hold detailed descriptions of key terms used in an organisation. They can also be used to constrain the search space of search engines and prune search results, identify and group people with common interests, and act as a content/knowledge map to improve the compilation and real time navigation of Web pages.face-to-face interactions, post-project reviews, recruit- of a training programme relies on careful planning andment, mentoring, apprenticeship and training. Some of defined strategies.the KM techniques are more formal than others. On the Some other forms of KM techniques such as brain-one hand are face-to-face interactions that are useful for storming and CoPs rely on groups for collective ‘think-sharing the tacit knowledge owned by an organisation’s ing’ or problem solving. Brainstorming, for example,employees. It is an informal and a powerful approach requires a group of individuals to focus on a problem andthat helps in increasing the organisation’s memory, intentionally propose as many deliberately unusualdeveloping trust and encouraging effective learning. solutions as possible through pushing the ideas as far asFace-to-face interactions provide strong social ties and possible. The participants discuss ideas and then build ontacit shared understandings that give rise to collective these ideas. Only when the brainstorming session is oversense-making (Lang, 2001), which in turn leads to an are the ideas evaluated (Tsui, 2002a, b). CoPs consist of aemergent consensus as to what is valid knowledge and to group of people with different skill sets, developmentthe serendipitous creation of new knowledge and, there- histories and experience backgrounds that work togetherfore, new value. Training, on the other hand, usually to achieve commonly shared goals (Ruggles, 1997).follows a formal format and can be internal where seniors Members of CoPs may perform the same job or collabo-train juniors within the organisation, or external where rate on a shared task (software developers) or workemployees attend courses managed by professional together on a product (engineers, marketers and manu-organisations or experts. The successful implementation facturing specialists). They are peers in the execution of Knowledge Management Research Practice
  6. 6. 302 Techniques for construction knowledge management Kirti Ruikar et al‘real work.’ What holds them together is a common sense used as a platform for knowledge sharing, particularly inof purpose and a real need to know what the other large construction organisations with geographicallyknows. Usually, there are many CoPs within a single dispersed branches with diverse knowledge to and most people normally belong to more than Other popular technologies are document managementone. CoPs are sometimes referred to as knowledge systems (e.g. Documentum and Sage Desk), groupwarecommunities, knowledge networks, learning commu- (e.g. Lotus Notes, Lotus Quickplace, Live Link andnities, communities of interest and thematic groups. e-Room) and taxonomy tools (e.g. Autonomy). The use of these technologies may increase as collaborativeCase study rationale working becomes more important in the constructionKM is of particular significance to the U.K. construction supply chain. Extranets and electronic discussion forumsindustry, as effective management of corporate knowl- are used to a limited degree.edge can help organisations to improve performance and A limited number of studies seem to focus on theefficiency This is especially important given that time ‘explicit’ aspect of knowledge rather than the ‘tacit’and again several construction review reports have urged aspect. The issue of tacit knowledge and the verythe construction industry, U.K.’s largest industry respon- important social dimensions are often ignored. Yet, theresible for about 8% of GDP, to improve its performance is strong evidence to suggest that it is the tacit knowledgethrough novel ways of working (Latham, 1994; Egan, that contributes to organisational innovations and1998). Although there is growing awareness and interest competitiveness (Egbu, 1999; Scarbrough et al., 1999;in KM in the U.K. construction industry, it is evident that Robinson et al., 2001) and which is difficult to imitate.KM is still in its infancy in this sector (Carrillo, 2001; Hari Arguably, the importance of tacit knowledge is particu-et al., 2003). Construction organisations are often larly relevant in the context of the construction industryreluctant to invest in new initiatives or innovative where manual skills and other forms of accumulatedapproaches citing low profit margins often mitigating knowledge acquired through experiential learning retainagainst investment in research and development (Robin- their importance. There, however, seem a meagre amountson et al., 2001). of empirical studies conducted on KM in the U.K. According to a recent study (Egbu Robinson, 2005), construction industry. In order to investigate this argu-KM and its manifestation in the expertise of people is ment and supplement the information obtained from thenow seen as the greatest value of creation for organisa- survey (Carrillo et al., 2002), case studies were carried outtions. It is an innovative approach increasingly seen as a with five U.K. construction companies. The strength ofsource of competitive advantage enabling organisations case study research lies particularly when the aim is toto effectively, creatively and consistently use their obtain a detailed contextual view of a particular phe-intellectual capital/assets to improve business perfor- nomena (Yin, 1994), in this case investigating (andmance and customer satisfaction (TFPL, 1999). The informing) KM practices in construction organisations.transition to a knowledge economy has had an effect The objective of such a study is manifested in theon many industries. Professional service firms, particu- definition of a case study by Yin (1994) who describes alarly management consultancies whose primary product case study as ‘an empirical inquiry that investigates ais knowledge are among the first to make significant contemporary phenomenon within its real-life context,investments in the management of knowledge (Hansen especially when the boundaries between phenomenonet al., 1999). Industries such as construction are begin- and context are not clearly evident’. The weakness of casening to follow suit as knowledge is widely recognised as a studies, however, is that they are restricted to a singlepowerful asset and a source of competitive advantage to individual or organisation or just a few and therefore mayimprove business performance. not be representative of the general group or population A range of techniques and technologies can be used for and it is, therefore difficult to generalise from case studyKM in construction organisations. Some of the techni- research. Bearing this in mind, this paper does not set outques are not new, but most technologies are relatively to be ‘prescriptive’ but on the contrary, ‘informative’new and are still evolving. A survey of 170 U.K. relying on ‘deductive’ application of lessons learnt in ofconstruction organisations carried out at Loughborough context of an organisation and its unique characteristicsUniversity (Carrillo et al., 2002) indicated that CoPs is the and dynamics.most widely used technique for KM, particularly in large Case studies conducted aimed to establish the techni-organisations. Large construction organisations with a ques and technologies used to support key knowledgerange of specialist skills tend to have the need and processes in U.K. construction companies and the degreeresources to set up CoPs. Brainstorming, job observation of usefulness of these. This was done primarily throughand rotation systems, research collaboration, conferences semi-structured interviews with knowledge managers ofand seminars are also commonly used KM techniques. five U.K. construction organisations (see Table 2). Typi-Small construction organisations identified conferences cally, each interview lasted between 45 min to an hourand seminars as effective mechanisms for knowledge and each interviewee was supplied with a genericsharing and accessing to up-to-date knowledge in the questionnaire that was used as a guideline for thefield. Technologies, such as the Intranet are regularly interviews. The questionnaire included a list of possibleKnowledge Management Research Practice
  7. 7. Techniques for construction knowledge management Kirti Ruikar et al 303 Table 3 Background of case study companies and roles of intervieweesCompany Company type No. of employees Employee: role within companyCompany 1 Professional services consultancy 4500 E1: Knowledge Development ManagerCompany 2 Construction services organisation 4500 E2: Knowledge ManagerCompany 3 Infrastructure contractor 4500 E3: KM Programme DirectorCompany 4 Design and business consulting 4500 E4: Group Knowledge ManagerCompany 5 Construction services organisation 4500 E5: Knowledge Managertechnologies and technologies (see Tables 3 and 4) for using both electronic and non-electronic directories andmanaging the following KM processes: knowledge about suppliers (competency, responsiveness, etc.) is accessed by directly contacting employees who locating and accessing, have previously worked with the supplier. E-mailing is capturing and storing, also another effective technique used by most case study representing, companies to seek subject- or project-specific solutions. sharing, and E4, for example, sends a company-wide email requesting creating new knowledge. information or expertise on specific construction pro-In addition to the above questions, the interviewees were blems. Once this is responded to (or located), commonalso asked to identify how specific technologies and techniques such as face-to-face meetings can be used totechniques were selected. Interviewees were asked about access this knowledge.knowledge processes that occur naturally, such as thesources of knowledge for problem-solving and creative Technologies for locating and accessing knowledgework. This device sought to invite discussion of informal The degree of IT usage for locating and accessing knowl-knowledge processes as well as those that may be edge varies from company-to-company. Generally, IT isconsidered formal KM. The analysis of the data thus viewed as a ‘means to an end’. Also, these companies arecollated was done qualitatively. The remainder of this neither commercially conscious nor cost-conscious andpaper presents an analysis of the findings of these case prefer a low-tech approach to KM due to the relativestudies. difficulty in justifying the high costs of implementing specialised software tools (see Exhibit 1). This is especiallyLocating and accessing knowledge true if the net gain is small compared to the overall costWith regards to locating and accessing knowledge, the of investment. These results echo the findings of othercase study findings are hardly surprising where it was research studies (Egbu, 2000a, b), where it was seen thatevident that most case study organisations do not follow the set-up costs, maintenance costs and the level ofa formalised structure for locating and accessing knowl- expertise associated with some KM technologies prohib-edge. It is also evident that the effectiveness of locating ited their wider use in construction organisations. Mostand accessing knowledge relies on the knowledge and construction companies have a techno-phobic attitudeexperience of the individual seeking that knowledge. E3 a and adopt technology if only there are definite, quantifi-KM programme director, for example, points out the able business benefits which stretch across the company.significance of experience and describes how easily Only construction companies that view technology as aknowledge can be located when individuals working on forerunner in innovation have dedicated IT departmentsprojects are faced with problems similar to those with in-house software development teams to developencountered on projects they previously worked on. In software for supporting KM processes.such cases, project knowledge bases comprising project Search engines, intranets, extranets, e-mail and docu-logs and project reviews can be accessed by either ment management systems are some of the IT tools usedcontacting project team members or retrieving project to locate and access knowledge. Internet-based searcharchives. E3 points out the possible disadvantage new engines like Google are used by most case studyrecruits are at due to a lack ‘insider knowledge’ or companies to locate information that covers a vast rangeinexperience. Company 3 has effectively addressed this of topics from general day-to-day news items to con-potential issue by adopting the mentoring technique and struction-specific publications and reports. In most caseassigning experienced mentors for providing guidance study organisations intranets play an important role inand support to new employees. locating and accessing knowledge. Their use, however, As expected, there are a number of technologies and varies from company-to-company. Company 3 uses thetechniques currently available for supporting the KM company intranet to store internal information aboutprocesses of locating and accessing knowledge. The case the different company regions, internal vacancies,study organisations sometimes use a combination of staff notices and staff directories. Most case studytechnologies and techniques to locate and access knowl- companies use company-wide intranets for recruitment.edge. For example, information about suppliers is located Staff vacancies, for example, are advertised on company Knowledge Management Research Practice
  8. 8. 304 Techniques for construction knowledge management Kirti Ruikar et al Table 4 KM technologies and techniques to support KM processesKM process KM technologies (Application software) KM techniquesLocating and accessing Experts Directory: AskMe, Sigma Connect, IntellectExchange, Expertise Recruitment Infrastructure Yellow Pages Data Warehouses: Syncsort: Libraries Web Crawler: Meta Search: MetaCrawler, SurfWax, Copernic Basic 2001, Livelink, Dogpile, Mamma, CNET Search Data Mining: Knowledge SEEKER, RetrievalWare, XpertRule Miner, Clementine Text Mining: SemioMap, Intelligent Miner for Text, Megapture Intelligence Knowledge Mapping – Concept Mapping: Knowledge Service, IHMC Concept Map, Knowledge Discovery Packages, Knowledge Discovery Tools by Lotus IBM, Livelink by OpenText Intranet/Extranet: Livelink, Instant Intranet Builder, iLevel, Search Engines: Google, Yahoo, FAST, Excite, AltaVista, Infoseek Taxonomy/Ontological Tools: Autonomy, SemioMap, RetrievalWare Suite Web Mapping Tools: Web Squirrel, WINCITE Electronic Document Management Systems: Documentum, BASISs, Dicom Electronic Mail: Eudora, Microsoft OutlookCapturing Word Processors: MS Word, WordPerfect Post project Reviews Case-Based Reasoning – Expert Systems: CBR-Works, Kaidara Recruitment Knowledge Bases: Assistum,, XpertRule Knowledge Discussion forums Builder Mentoring Knowledge Mapping – Concept Mapping: Knowledge Service, IHMC Training Concept MapRepresenting Mind Mapping Applications – Brainstorming: Mind Manager, The Brain Drawings Web Publishing: Diagrams Virtual Reality Tools: Maelstrom, 3ds maxt for Windows Notes Word Processors: MS Word, WordPerfect Concept maps Computer Aided Design: Autodesk products Spread-Sheets: MS Excel, StarOffice/OpenOffice Calc, Lotus 1-2-3 Knowledge Mapping – Concept Mapping: Knowledge Service, IHMC Concept MapSharing Web Publishing: Communities of Practice Communities of Practice: AskMe Face-to-face Interactions Intranet/Extranet: Livelink, Instant Intranet Builder, iLevel Discussion Forums Web-Based File Sharing: KnowledgeDisk, Briefcase Apprenticeship Instant Messaging: NetLert3 Messenger, Trusted Messenger, ICQ, AOL Mentoring Instant Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, MSN Messenger Training Integrated Groupware Solutions: Lotus (Notes, Domino, Sametime, Seminars QuickPlace), GroupWise, BrightSuite Enterprise, MyLivelink, Plumtree Conferences Collaboration Server, iTeam, iCohere Multi-Media – Video Conferencing software: MS NetMeeting, AbsoluteBUSY, eRoom, WebEx Training Centre, WebEx, Meeting Centre, WebDemo Electronic Mail: Eudora, MS Outlook, etcCreating new knowledge Data and Text Mining Brainstorming J Data Mining: Knowledge SEEKER, RetrievalWare, XpertRule Miner, Project team/Supply chain Clementine face-to-face meetings J Text Mining: SemioMap, Intelligent Miner for Text, Megapture IntelligenceKnowledge Management Research Practice
  9. 9. Techniques for construction knowledge management Kirti Ruikar et al 305 Table 4 (continued )KM process KM technologies (Application software) KM techniques Knowledge Mapping – Concept Mapping J Knowledge Service, IHMC Concept Map J Mind Mapping Applications/Brainstorm J Mind Manager, The Brain J Data Warehouses J Syncsort Exhibit 1 Use of technologies for managing knowledge processes At Company 1 we prefer a low-tech approach, because it can be very difficult to justify the return on investment on software tools, especially when you are going to gain a small incremental advantage in the end. We do use technologies for larger projects or tasks or where we could do with documenting all the data that is currently on paper. We generally go through the paper documents and assess what is useful, what is not, what is worth left in paper format (i.e. not worth the effort in trying to store it in electronic format) and what needs to be in electronic format. We have a team of in-house developers who only recently have created a central database of our internal telephone directory (which has as many as 4000 employee details). For a job of this scale, it is very easy to justify the costs that go into investing on document management systems as it is a mass investment that is beneficial to all employees of our organisation. We are very commercial and cost conscious. We do not shy away from technology, but only use it if we find an application for it.intranets to encourage existing staff who are seeking new commonly used techniques for locating and accessingchallenges within the broader organisation to apply. knowledge. When there is a need to learn more about aIntranet-based staff directories are used to identify and new area, companies access that knowledge throughlocate staff with specialised skills and expertise (e.g. subscribing to or purchasing written or electronic mediaTunnel design experts). Company 3 is developing electro- such as journals, newsletters and technical reports.nic yellow pages with links to staff Web pages displaying However, how effectively that knowledge is appliedinformation such as contact details, brief bio-data, areas of depends on the absorption capacity, competency andinterest, skills and specific areas of expertise. Such Web- ability of the individual/s seeking that knowledge.based yellow pages facilitate and simplify the task of The type of technique used to locate knowledgelocating and accessing company-wide knowledge. depends on the type of knowledge sought, for example, In Company 5, intranets hold documents such as project people are located by advertising and recruiting; andreports, company standard forms, HS standards, perfor- books and published documents are accessed usingmance indicators and other administrative documents libraries, subscription or purchase. Also, the effectivenesssuch as leave application forms and requisition forms. of these techniques depends on the market situation, forThese intranets provide external links to useful construc- instance, for companies with bad press the responses totion Web sites such as electronic construction journals and adverts/vacancies may be poor. Companies often adopt amagazines, and other similar knowledge sources. range of measures to access knowledge. Company 2, for Project extranets are being increasingly used in case instance, locates new knowledge by publishing vacanciesstudy companies as they are considered an important in company newsletters. The effectiveness of this systemproject knowledge base that can be easily accessed by can, however, be unpredictable as it can be difficult togeographically dispersed project teams. However, as gauge whether this information actually reaches everypointed out by E2, only authorised staff can access data project and/or department. Also, the most knowledgeablefrom these knowledge bases. In his view, often these people may not necessarily respond to the measures inadvertently restrict access to knowl- There are other examples of innovative ways in whichedge and therefore project information is only available knowledge is located and accessed. Company 1, forto those individuals directly involved in the project example, uses ‘creditation’ (a self-assessment mechanism)leaving companies with large knowledge repositories that using which members of staff grade their levels ofonly few can access. E2 highlighted the need for this expertise. Grades range typically from A to E, whereinformation to be readily available across project bound- A ¼ general awareness, C ¼ competence and E ¼ expertise.aries to avoid mistakes being repeated. A member of staff, for example, may view himself/herself as an expert project manager, with very good people skillsTechniques for locating and accessing knowledge who is skilled at building teams and elevating teamNot surprisingly, most case study organisations do not morale. Having assessed their own capabilities these arehave a standard procedure or system in place for locating then verified by their line managers to ensure the validityor accessing knowledge. Non-IT tools such as yellow of the claims and verify whether the staff memberpages, libraries and recruitment are some of the being assessed in fact demonstrates those skills and Knowledge Management Research Practice
  10. 10. 306 Techniques for construction knowledge management Kirti Ruikar et al Exhibit 2 Techniques used by company 1 to locate new knowledge We use several techniques to capture knowledge. Things that work are used and we do not have a structured approach for this process. As organisations grow larger we have the opportunity to choose who we want to employ to locate new knowledge. If you take the example of the health sector, for example, we might think it more appropriate to recruit a nurse to find out the ‘insides’ of the working. For example, what does a nurse do? What/who influence/s her/his work? What is a typical day in a nurse’s life? This knowledge adds a new dimension to the story. However, it is then my role as a Knowledge Development Manager, to transfer this knowledge to my colleagues or company in a way that is best understood by them.competencies. The final assessment report is distributed documents such as standard company policies andacross the company and can be accessed by those seeking procedures, administrative forms and design guides. Mostindividuals with a particular talent or level of expertise, case study organisations do not document informationfor example, staff demonstrating good people skills can about projects; however, most now recognise the valuebe particularly effective in situations where teams work- of such project knowledge and are adopting measuresing is essential. Such a skills database can be beneficial to for capturing and storing such data. They recogniseall and can provide to be an effective way of ensuring that the need for company intranets to hold more project-only the most efficient staff are used to resolve issues and specific documents describing projects, their perfor-pursue opportunities (Exhibit 2). mance (including successes and failures), recommenda- tions made at the end of the project, the performance ofCapturing and storing knowledge individual project partners and any other informationThe practice of capturing and storing corporate knowl- considered to be of value. This knowledge base is viewededge is beneficial to companies as it provides valuable as being of considerable value, especially for futureinsight into project knowledge and may be re-used for projects.future projects as applicable. Such practices of recording Some case study organisations are more confident invaluable experiences in electronic (or other) formats can their ability to use technologies than others. Company 3,be useful to avoid repeating past mistakes. By capturing for example, uses intelligent data capture (and manage-tacit knowledge it is possible to retain corporate memory, ment) systems to capture and store Health and Safetyas the inability to do so risks loosing it for good, especially (HS)-related information. The system not only main-when senior members of staff leave or retire. This can tains records of HS incidents, but also helps to carry outcreate a void that cannot be filled easily. Once knowledge statistical analysis of captured data and establisheshas been captured it is vital to ensure that it is up-to-date. patterns and commonalities, that is makes sense ofCompany 1 holds periodic reviews and appraisals to recorded data. This, for example, is related to the typeensure that only correct knowledge is stored. The other of incident that occurred, whether this type of incidentcase study organisations, however, do not adopt a definite occurs only for a particular type of sub-contractor orstrategy to ensure validity of the knowledge stored. E1 and project. Such an analysis can provide valuable insightE4, disagree that there is a need for a defined strategy. In into a project’s successes and failures.their view, individuals can use their experiences, discretion Some case study companies (Companies 1 and 5) haveand judgements to ensure that a piece of information or in-house software development teams that focus ondocument is accurate. Only if it is deemed accurate will it automating existing processes. Sometimes, the outcomebe used or referred to. Adopting such a ‘discretionary’ of such development is a highly sophisticated andapproach, however, relies on the individual’s ability and specialised software tool. The case study organisations,therefore limited in that respect. To others (E2, E3 and E5), however, believe that such tools are often developed bytechnology can be used to prompt reviews and revisions. IT staff with little or no knowledge of construction. Thus,For example, in order to ensure that a published document the resulting tool, although technically sound, may notis up-to-date, the initiator/publisher of the document can necessarily facilitate the current process. It is thusset a review date to automatically prompt checks on important for software developers to understand thevalidity and accuracy of the data published. This, however, processes and working methods of the end-users fordoes not ensure that the document is updated. whom these tools are intended. There is, therefore, a need for more interaction between end-users and soft-Technologies for capturing and storing knowledge ware development teams as this can equip the develop-Technologies used for capturing and storing knowledge ment teams with a better understanding of the end-userinclude word processors, knowledge bases and case-based requirements and therefore develop a tool that best meetsreasoning tools. Word processors are commonly used for the user needs.knowledge capture and storing. In most case studycompanies, information is captured and documented Techniques for capturing and storing knowledgeusing software applications such as MS Word or Excel. Case study findings indicate that the techniques usedThis information is made available to all company vary not only from company to company, but also fromemployees over the intranet. Typically, these are generic department to department. In most companies there areKnowledge Management Research Practice
  11. 11. Techniques for construction knowledge management Kirti Ruikar et al 307no standard procedures for knowledge capture and word processors, for example, MS Word. Spreadsheets arestorage. Capture and storage of knowledge is seen of also used widely for numerical data (e.g. statistical data)value to companies/departments with repetitive work and sometimes this data is represented graphically usingprocesses and practices. charts and figures. Post-project reviews, discussion forums, mentoring and Most case study companies do not use specialist IT-training are the KM techniques that are widely used to based tools such as knowledge mapping tools. Such toolscapture and store knowledge. The effectiveness of the are considered complex, cumbersome and restrictive. Intechniques depends on several factors including the their view, process mapping relies more on the expertisenature of work, type of construction company and its and experience of individuals undertaking the exercisesize, among others. A technique may sometimes be rather than the software tools used (see Exhibit 3). Ineffective in one office of a company but not in another. their view, most software tools provide very littleCompany 5, for example, uses a technique called peer intelligence or logic that is required to put together thementoring that works well in their small offices because information obtained. They rely on people to provideall staff members know each other on a personal basis. the correct information. For specialist tools withThe same technique, however, was less effective in the embedded ‘intelligence’, the implementation costs arecompany’s regional head office where most staff were often very high and not easily justified. There is alsounfamiliar with the others’ roles and responsibilities. a level of risk involved in using new technologies,Company 5 observed the importance of ‘social networks’ especially, if they have not been previously reviewedand interactions for project success. for their effectiveness. This is a risk most companies are Another technique used by construction companies is not willing to take.that of post-project reviews where project team membersevaluate the project and identify the key success factors Techniques for representing knowledgeand problem areas (e.g. causes of bottlenecks, how these In most case study organisations, the use of knowledgeissues were addressed, by who, their impact on the mapping techniques is common compared to that ofproject schedule, budget, etc.). Such meetings are technologies. One of the most common techniques forminuted and the review reports archived for future mapping company processes and procedures involvesreference. Company 5, for instance, organises regular brainstorming sessions during which discussions are heldproject reviews both during the project and after and the information obtained is recorded by placingcompletion where project diaries that record the lifecycle ‘post-it’ notes on white boards. The effectiveness of thishistory of projects are maintained. Currently, Company 5 technique relies on the experience and expertise of staffdocuments these review reports on paper. E5 stressed involved in mapping the processes. Company 3 maps itsthat such stored data (in paper format) is of little or processes by interviewing individuals involved in theno value, if it is not available to others ‘when they process to identify what they do, how they do it andneed it and where they need it’. Company 5 hopes to when and why. The data is represented in the form ofresolve this issue by maintaining electronic records ‘skeleton’ or ‘fish bone’ diagrams to which attributes arethat are available to all using the company intranet or added. This is then documented in the form of charts andother information sharing applications. At the end of mind maps. At the next stage resources (human,the project, reports are filed manually for future refer- financial, etc.) necessary to perform individual tasks areence. If this technique is to be effectively utilised, identified including who is/are responsible for or linkedadequate time should be allocated for those involved to the tasks. These processes are streamlined till all thein a project to participate. It is also crucial for post- linkages are established in the resulting process map.project review meetings to take place immediately Company 3 views this process of knowledge mapping toafter a project is completed as project participants be helpful in capturing and representing knowledgemay move or be transferred to other projects or about company processes and procedures in a formatorganisations. that is easy to understand and read.Representing knowledge Sharing knowledgeKnowledge may be represented either graphically or Knowledge that has been captured and stored can be oftextually using different techniques and technologies. little or no consequence if it cannot be shared withKnowledge mapping, for example, involves graphical others. The various technologies and techniques used byrepresentation of organisational procedures and pro- case study companies to share knowledge are discussedcesses. Also, company procedures and standards can be below.documented and represented textually either on paper orusing technologies. Technologies for sharing knowledge Most case study companies were conventional in theirTechnologies for representing knowledge use of technology primarily because of its impact onIn most case study companies, knowledge about proce- organisational culture. More often that not, technologydures is documented and represented using standard adoption was met with resistance from staff who were Knowledge Management Research Practice
  12. 12. 308 Techniques for construction knowledge management Kirti Ruikar et al Exhibit 3 A knowledge development manager’s view on knowledge mapping technologies ‘We do not use any special tools for knowledge mapping. Sectorising our business has made mind-mapping that much simpler for us. An example for a mind mapping exercise would be for me to sit down and consider our company, Company A, which has 19 branches. Then consider each branch one at a time – say the health sector. Then trying to identify what are the processes involved in this sector and then cajole the people in the health sector to articulate the client needs, for example, how many beds are needed for this department, how many patients can occupy one bed in a day (e.g. say three patients per bed), how many beds are occupied in a day and so on and so forth. This information can only be obtained from people like ward nurses, and other hospital staff who have worked there. The information thus obtained can then be mapped out and then it is all about finding the nodes and identifying what procedure needs to be followed at what stage and who all are needed for the same and/or whom/where it can be obtained from. For knowledge mapping exercises experience can play a very important role as it gives you the ability to second guess. If you take me for instance, I have worked as a QS for about 20 years and am in my current role for the past 10 years. If I were to map the process for ‘a typical day in the life of a QS, my experience in working on practically all types of projects gives me the ability to map out the process even better and apply my knowledge to second guess the next step/s and who does what at what stage. The mapping process itself is quite a lengthy one. You cannot expect the individual to do it for you, as they are far too busy and do not have the time to articulate what it is that they exactly do. It is up to us to find that out and present it in a way that illustrates this complex process in a logical way. There are mind mapping technologies in the market, but at the end of the day they are only a means to an end. They rely on you to provide the correct information and don’t provide you with that intelligence or logic that is required to put together that information. Too many people in the industry believe that you can get a piece of software and solve all your KM issues. If only it were that simple. Also these technologies come at a cost. The more sophisticated the tool, the more expensive it can be. Now it is not easy to justify the high costs incurred if the usage is not very high. We should be able to justify the costs of implementing these tools. Sometimes the tool may be relatively new in the market and hasn’t been reviewed externally. In such a case it will be an expensive risk especially if at the end of it all we find out that tool was no good. That’s just money thrown away and that is not how businesses work.’directly affected by the implementation. This draws the nature of the knowledge itself and its degree ofattention to the importance of a strategic approach to sensitivity. Company 2, for instance, has a policy tointroducing changes. According to Company 1, for record information about every sub-contractor andexample, if the use of multimedia presentations for supplier they contract and their performance on promotions is demonstrated to staff, and they This information is documented and access is restrictedsee the benefits of it, there is a good likelihood that they to in-house staff only. This documented information iswould emulate it themselves. If, however, the change is beneficial to company-wide staff for selecting sub-imposed, it is likely that it would be met with resistance. contractors and/or suppliers on future projects. ThisThus, companies that plan to implement changes need to saves the effort of carrying out sub-contractor or supplierconsider not only what the change is going to be, but also reviews before every appointment. In the next phase ofhow it will be orchestrated. implementation, Company 2 is considering making this The most commonly used technologies for sharing information available to relevant supplier/sub-contractorknowledge (both internally and externally) are technol- organisations with the view of critically examining theogies such as Web publishing tools, intranets, extranets data collected and identifying areas of improvement. Inand emails. The type of information shared using their view (Company 2s) such practices encourageintranets, varied from company to company depending continuous improvement among supply chain memberson their level of IT competency. Typical examples of the through knowledge sharing.type of information that is available on company Another widely used technology for knowledge sharingintranets include electronic company newsletters, adver- is the use of online collaboration tools or projecttisements, job vacancies, journals articles standard com- extranets for managing construction projects. Accordingpany forms and project reviews. Some companies adopt a to Company 2, collaboration tools facilitate improvedproactive role in informing staff about upcoming events coordination between project partners and enable devel-through e-mail notification. Externally, knowledge about opment of long-term relationships between projectcompany services or products is disseminated by publish- partners. This increased collaboration encourages knowl-ing on dedicated company websites. Additionally, some edge sharing among project teams. The effectiveness ofcase study companies (Companies 2, 4 and 5) use this tool largely depends on the commitment of thepromotional methods such as multimedia presentations project partners. Company 3 runs virtual communitiesto clients for marketing the company’s services and using a Web-based extranet tool, which provides aproducts. Others are actively involved with organisations framework for running the community. It enablessuch as CIRIA, BRE (Building Research Establishment) or specialists to get together and operate open interactivesimilar industry outlets to market their services to forums. Thus, companies can set up communities ofconstruction audiences. like-minded people, either from within the organisation The above examples draw attention to the type of or outside and also invite people to join the virtualknowledge companies share. Typically, this depends on community and/or share experiences, ideas andKnowledge Management Research Practice
  13. 13. Techniques for construction knowledge management Kirti Ruikar et al 309documents. Technologies such as extranets function Creating knowledgemainly as ‘facilitators’, rather than drivers. Since the The case study organisations do not adopt a structureddevelopment of such virtual communities is still in its approach for knowledge creation. The approach is mainlyinfancy, it has been difficult to evaluate their usefulness ad hoc. Most case study companies were opposed to theand effectiveness. idea of developing a formalised structure for creating new knowledge. In their view creativity is best when left fluid and flexible. Having a rigid, structured approach forTechniques for sharing knowledge knowledge creation can inhibit creativity. In their view,The most common techniques used by construction companies can adopt a structured approach if the needcompanies to share knowledge include face-to-face inter- arises, but when left fairly unstructured, knowledgeactions and discussion forums where knowledge is shared creation accommodates levels of enthusiasm, time anddirectly through dialogues and discussions. Different commitment from those participating. Also, the type ofchannels of communication can be used for sharing approach adopted can vary according to the type of theknowledge. For sharing knowledge about a company’s business operations. In construction companies withcompetency, for example, company magazines or news- repetitive operations, there is some evidence of aletters can be distributed either electronically or in paper structured approach for knowledge creation and also aformat. Typically, these newsletters include information continuous improvement culture. They are constantlyabout a company’s projects, services and activities. It measuring performance and reviewing what actions needshould, however, be noted that the growing popularity of to be undertaken to improve the process from one projectelectronic media, its relative cost effectiveness and the to another and thus the business performance. Also, inspeed of delivery are driving companies to favour such situations the investment costs are easier to justifyelectronic media for sharing knowledge. as the process improvement is faster and clearly visible. Some other techniques for knowledge sharing include However, for projects that are repeated over longerhosting events for which experts are invited to deliver durations (say five years), the justification of costs cantalks and share their knowledge. The question and be difficult. Some of the technologies and techniquesanswer sessions that follow are often used to obtain used to create new knowledge are discussed opinion on current and impending problem.Other techniques of knowledge sharing include publicis- Technologies for creating knowledgeing company products and services through press releases Among case study companies there is very little incentiveand news articles in construction journals and maga- to use specialised technologies for knowledge creation.zines, sponsoring construction events such as confer- The common consensus was that it is difficult to justifyences, lecturing at universities to target future the ROI (Return on Investment) for using ‘expensive andconstruction professionals. fancy’ tools for actual profit improvement within their Company 4 extensively uses CoPs for knowledge organisations. Most companies believe that there is moresharing. According to Company 4, most communities value in using standard software applications like MSare subject-specific communities, for example HR, fi- Work Suite.nance, etc., and employees use these communities Only companies with a defined knowledge strategyirrespective of the projects they are involved in. Member- have begun the process of implementing technologiesship to these communities is voluntary. In most cases that can aid in the process of creating knowledge. Onepeople are willing to join such communities because they company (Company 4) has developed a knowledge Webneed to find answers to their questions and acquire help within its intranet. Using this tool, queries can be postedand guidance from peers. However, the success of this onto the intranet that in turn can be viewed by users oftechnique depends on the attitude of the different the intranet. Relevant people can respond to thesemembers of the community. Questions asked by mem- queries, just contributing to new knowledge. It is,bers of the communities need to be viewed objectively by however, seen that there is currently very little incentiveall, no matter how basic they may seem. There have been for staff members to respond to such queries andinstances in some communities where some questions responses are currently being received from only aput forth by one member were viewed as ‘mundane handful of enthusiastic staff members. In order toquestions’ by another. Such an unconstructive attitude is improve the response rate there is a need to incentiviseviewed as derogatory which discourages participation in staff. Company 4 has addressed this by incorporating KMthe community and is thus detrimental to its success and into their appraisal and rewards scheme. In their view,functioning. rewards need not be of financial nature. Recognition and Apprenticeship, which involves a ‘learning by doing’ promotion can be the means through which good KMapproach, is another technique that is used to share practices are rewarded.knowledge. Companies view this technique to be bene-ficial both to the apprentice and to itself. A fresh Techniques for creating knowledgegraduate, for example, can bring in a ‘fresh approach’ A majority of the case study organisations tend to useand new ideas into the company. techniques such as brainstorming sessions, and face-to- Knowledge Management Research Practice
  14. 14. 310 Techniques for construction knowledge management Kirti Ruikar et alface interactions for knowledge creation. In addition, could benefit from the documentation of the efficacyknowledge communities and workshops are also used of different techniques and technologies for KM inextensively to support knowledge creation. Techniques given contexts, together with a framework forsuch as project close-out meetings are also used. At evaluating the performance of KM techniques andsuch meetings, client feedback (e.g. recommendations improve performance or service-delivery) is encour- Organisations only adopt KM technology if there areaged. definite, quantifiable business benefits that stretch across Another technique adopted by Company 1 is a the organisation. The case study organisations believetechnique called ‘knowledge profiling’ for which people that KM technologies are often developed by IT staff whofrom different client sectors (e.g. the Health Sector) are have little or no knowledge of construction processes andsurveyed to establish what they do, why/how they do it therefore, the resulting tool although technically sound,and what they know. This is not a formal assessment of may not necessarily facilitate the current process. There-people skills and capabilities. The main objective of fore, it is important for developers of KM technologies to‘knowledge profiling’ is to understand the day-to-day fully understand the processes and working methods ofworking (including procedures followed, resources used, the end-users for whom these tools are developed.etc.) of staff members and documenting this information Furthermore, cost, flexibility and functionality are con-in an accessible format that can be used by all – thus sidered as the three factors that influence their decisioncreating new knowledge. The knowledge thus created to select technologies, with cost being the most impor-gives a better understanding of the different processes tant of the three. It is essential that KM technologyand procedures involved to perform routine activities and providers take the ‘cost’ issue into account if they are tocan be used by anyone who is new to that activity. sustain long-term competitiveness. A consistent story unfolds from the case studiesSummary and conclusions discussed in this paper. Many of the insights recordedThis paper began with a review of KM technologies and are both confirmed and extended by the findings. Fortechniques. It then investigated with the help of case example, it is evident that the case study organisations dostudies the integrated use of these KM technologies and not adopt a structured approach for selecting KMtechniques for managing knowledge in U.K. construction technologies and techniques. They are therefore, openorganisations. From the case studies it is evident that the to interpretation. Also, way these techniques are selecteduse of KM techniques for managing KM processes is more does not link the selection process to the organisationalcommon compared to KM technologies. This is in spite of goals for implementing KM. The current approach isthe fact that a myriad of technologies are currently mainly ad hoc and reactive to short-term business needs.available to support the different KM processes. This In some case study companies, for example, speciallyfinding is hardly surprising, given that KM techniques are appointed members of staff review different KM technol-affordable to most organisations since very little sophis- ogies and select the ones that best meet their businessticated infrastructure is required. Also, KM techniques are needs. In construction companies with repetitive opera-easy to implement and maintain due to their simple and tions, however, there is some evidence of a structuredstraightforward nature. KM technologies, on the other approach for knowledge creation. Such ‘impulsive quickhand, depend heavily on an IT infrastructure. There is fixes’ may work in the short-term; however, there is aalso a level of scepticism associated with technology need for planned long-term strategies that not only takeadoption, especially in construction companies, which into account the immediate business needs, but also thecould be attributed to the fact that there is a general lack business’s emerging needs. Clearly, construction organi-of understanding of the potential benefits of KM sations need to recognise that KM technologies andtechnologies. Most organisations view technologies as a techniques are necessary for addressing their KM problemmeans to an end and are therefore reluctant to invest in and it is imperative that in any given situation they adoptspecialist KM technologies. Given that most case study an integrated approach for using KM techniques andorganisations do not fully understand the potential technologies. A careful analysis of the requirements forbenefits of technologies and techniques for KM, they KM is vital in this regard.ReferencesAL-GHASSANI AM (2002) Literature review on KM tools. Technical Report, BROWN JS and DUGUID P (1991) Organizational learning and communities July 2002, Department of Civil and Building Engineering, Loughbor- of practice: towards a unified view of working, learning and ough University, UK. organization. Organization Science 2(1), 40–57.ANUMBA CJ, BLOOMFIELD D, FARAJ I and JARVIS P (2000) Managing and CARRILLO PM (2001) Mergers and acquisitions in the construction Exploiting Your Knowledge Assets: Knowledge Based Decision Support industry: an exploratory study. PhD Thesis, Loughborough University. Techniques for the Construction Industry. BR382, Construction Research CARRILLO PM, ROBINSON HS, AL-GHASSANI AM and ANUMBA CJ (2002) Communications Ltd., UK. Survey of knowledge management in construction. KnowBiz ProjectKnowledge Management Research Practice