Wiki‑Based Knowledge Management in a Transport Consultancy, a Case Study

Authors

  • Robbert in 't-Hout
  • Jos Vrancken
  • Pieter Schrijnen

Keywords:

municipal traffic and transport planning, wiki, social software, knowledge management

Abstract

Developing a Municipal Traffic and Transport Plan (MTTP) is a long lasting and complex process. Many different disciplines are involved, as well as many stakeholders. The process may take more than two years. The larger municipalities in the Netherlands mostly develop their own plans. But for the medium sized and smaller municipalities private consultancies play a major role in the development of the MTTPs. This article describes a case study concerning improving the MTTP development process in such a consultancy. The company did reasonably well in the field, but could do better: a part of the knowledge present in the company wasn’t shared well enough, especially the exchange of knowledge and experience between senior and junior consultants which needed improvement. To improve the sharing, a wiki was developed. In interaction with the consultants a structure was proposed, allowing them to add the information they valued relevant for the development of the MTTPs. The wiki appeared to reveal not only explicit knowledge, but also tacit knowledge. On top of that, the tacit knowledge often was personal, subjective, and even divergent. The juniors were more eager to work with the wiki than the seniors. There still exists a difference between the generations in their ability and readiness to use ICT tools. Sharing the tacit knowledge, revealing the subjective perspectives of the consultants was confronting the company with its implicit learning styles. The staff of the company believed they worked with objective knowledge, and that only such knowledge was relevant in planning and decision making. The wiki revealed that the subjective aspects actually played a role within the company. After some interactions with the manager of the department, the structure of the wiki was adapted. One part of the wiki was meant for explicit, objective knowledge; the other part for tacit, subjective knowledge. Arrangements were made to create the role of moderator for the themes in the wiki ‑ seniors that could decide how to deal with the subjective information. The conclusion of this case can be that wikis aren’t just neutral tools. They need to be tuned to the learning styles that are available within the community that will use the tool. Pilots can help in revealing the way organisations deal with knowledge management. The article follows the chronology of the project. It starts with a short picture of the process of developing an MTTP and with a summary of the learning theories used to assess the challenges of the company. The article proceeds with the design of the wiki and the introduction of the first layout. It then describes the reactions from the consultants and the manager, and the adaptation of the wiki. The article ends with some conclusions on the way wikis can be designed.

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Published

1 Oct 2010

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Section

Articles