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Title: Social web-based systems for supporting geographically dispersed project teams in the architecture-engineering-construction industry
Author: El Tayeh, Amjad
ISNI:       0000 0001 3443 6660
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2008
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The importance of knowledge sharing between project partIcIpants is well recognised. 'Literature in engineering and construction projects suggests that client, design consultants, contractors, manufacturers and speciality contractors ought to share knowledge from the early project stages. The exchange of explicit or formalised knowledge can through manuals of practice, handbooks, specifications and drawings, and digital databases. It remains a problem, however, how to facilitate best tacit knowledge-sharing and collaborative work across the boundaries of firms participating in a project. Tacit knowledge is intuitive, experimental, and based on heuristics and is shared through processes of socialisation. Socialisation is the conversion of individual into group tacit knowledge. Exchanges of tacit knowledge across firms' boundaries through processes of socialisation are important to ensure effective design processes and product design quality. Physical meetings and phone conversations unarguably facilitate cross-firm socialisation and collaborative work when project participants have different occupational backgrounds, experiences, and working languages, and may only work together occasionally. Yet, meetings can be hard to timetable and costly to run when project participants are geographically dispersed. Conference calls/phone conversations, in turn, are cheap but have limited capabilities for problemsolving. Further, both media do not offer asynchronous capabilities for socialisation. Interestingly, project participants are increasingly connected across firm boundaries through digital networks known as project extranets. These networks help project participants to exchange, document, and archive information digitally. While various project extranets emerged in the recent years, the range of services offered by project extranets providers is limited. In particular, few features are provided to support digital socialisation. This lacuna hypothetically creates added opportunities for digital socialisation. This research investigated how to leverage increasingly common web-based project extranets to support cross-firm socialisation within geographically-dispersed, or 'virtual', prClle(;t teams. In this context, enhanced digital socialisation across project participants could Do:sitivelv impact work collaboration. The research vvas grounded on an exploratory case in a capital programme. Empirical findings from the case study were analysed drawing theoretical constructs in computer-supported cooperative work and knowledge literatures. Findings suggested that available digital media are ill-suited to StUJPort socialisation, albeit the frequent use of e-mail due to the lack of better alternatives. crC)SS·<:it1cm of theory with the empirical findings informed the development of a ~Otlc(:ptual framework for guiding digital socialisation efforts. This framework underpinned ae'vel'Jprnellt of IDRAK - a proof-of-concept of a Rich Internet Application to enhance HS,U1Oln over the project duration. An implementation of IDRAK was instantiated to the early design stages of a building project. The instantiation was then used to test usability, including effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction. Test results yielded st,tti~;tic:ally significant differences between the performance of virtual and non-virtual experiments suggested that IDRAK facilitated socialisation and encouraged },.,~ '-~''';-'' collaboratively. It allowed for a levelling of status and eased Jcarnon since individuals' accents were not an issue. However, IDRAK made it manager to exercise authority and it was unable to capture nuances in and expression. The experiments suggested that more research is needed to positively impact team performance through, first, alternating between chat; second, documenting work conversations; and third, enforcing a communication protocol.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available