Towards Effective Project Management and Knowledge Transfer Enhancement: A Novel System Capturing and Modelling Knowledge Acquired in a Software Development Practice
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AbstractThe practice of software project management evolves alongside emerging new technologies such as advances in new tools and resources in Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and machine learning applications. This thesis evaluates the ways in which a small software development unit, characteristics of other small enterprises, has embraced emerging trends in the development of digital technologies in order to establish and maintain successful practice. A qualitative research approach was adopted to elicit an understanding of the critical knowledge acquired as the unit developed and its members become effective practitioners. The research identifies and analyses the acquired knowledge that underpins successful practice, and uses the results of this analysis to propose a support system to enhance future practice. This is a challenge is that there is limited evidence of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) engaging in knowledge management (KM) or in organisational learning (OL) initiatives. In developing projects, smaller software development organisations rely on implicit knowledge and Agile to resolve complexity. Consequently, and specifically in a small business, the development of this bespoke system, represents a novel approach to Knowledge Management (KM) and Organisational Learning (OL). Projects were identified as key sources and locus of development, innovation knowledge, skills, know-how and learning within the unit. This outcome has reinforced the proposal for a links-based system around individual projects. As in Chapter Nine, the system is as a web-based repository of project templates. The templates capture key insights into critical decisions and significant advances in current practice that arise from work within individual projects. The proposed system captures the unit’s knowledge. In addition, it provides an accessible resource that not only supports critical reflection and decision making but also retains key aspects of organisational learning (OL) and know-how. Further, while complementing continuing implicit learning, it has the further benefit of maintaining organisational resilience where individuals’ skills may be lost or where the unit faces high staff turnover. Moreover, the system can serve to induct newcomers to the unit. Accordingly, for a small software development unit with no prior knowledge management initiative or system in place, the research’s immediate contribution is through modelling, capturing and representing the acquired knowledge. This thesis provides insights into the management of software project knowledge through web technology. The prototype was successfully designed, implemented, evaluated and made available to the research unit working group. Such a system provides an effective measure for application at organisational and project levels, the evaluation of practice and the reuse of project knowledge to improve performance and effective practice. A further contribution made by this research is in revealing the range of the acquired knowledge, the know-how and the soft skills that complement the technical skills of software development within the research unit. The set of know-how and soft skills could be valuable where measures for effective professional practice are required. The analysed data revealed the range of capabilities the members developed to enable the application of implicit knowledge. Such insights, perceptions, and understanding enabled them to engage with clients, as well as manage risks and changes, assist key business processes and, importantly, deliver projects successfully. These skills contribute to the members’ individual professional development and capabilities. These might be termed Confidence, Relationships, Communication and Self-Management, Cooperation and Teamwork. Similarly, the research revealed the range of Know-How the members have developed. This range would include Understanding of Business Processes, Experimentation and Problem Solving, Reusing of Project Knowledge, Establishing and Marinating Quality, Project Time Estimates, and Learning from Project Failure the thesis also highlights the additional range of critical knowledge encapsulated within projects. This knowledge specifically related to Business Processes, Business Domains, Client and Working Environment. Such contextual implicit knowledge is part of the critical knowledge the practitioners acquired. Consequently, a model of successful practice within the unit was then built upon facets of this salient knowledge. An evaluation provided feedback on the system and assessed its suitability for the research unit. The unit members were satisfied with how the prototype restricted the key elements related to their knowledge and practice without duplicating information and acknowledged that it was the knowledge management system that best suits their needs. A focus group meeting with another similar software development unit highlighted and validated commonalities and differences in experience and in the nature of the individual organisations. The findings suggest that the proposed approach to recognising and utilising knowledge for transfer, reuse and consolidating effective practice is, potentially, extendable to similar domains. Continued research would explore the wider generalisability of this approach. Further research would explore extensions or revisions of the prototype that might further clarify the benefits and limitations of such an approach as well as providing a model for knowledge management in similar small-scale environments. This research might also serve as a template or road map for the implementation of KM initiatives elsewhere, such as start-up companies where there is a lack of software development expertise. Furthermore, the proposed system could serve as a model for the development of comparable systems in organisations where projects form the core of their work.
CitationFannoun, S. (2021). Towards effective project management and knowledge transfer enhancement: A novel system capturing and modelling knowledge acquired in a software development practice [Unpublished doctoral thesis]. University of Chester.
PublisherUniversity of Chester
TypeThesis or dissertation
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