Winberg, Simon. An Embedded System Artefact Organisation and Adaptation Knowledge Management System for Embedded System Product Prototyping. PhD Thesis. Department of Electrical Engineering, University of Cape Town, 2010.
This thesis presents an innovative approach to knowledge management (KM) from the perspective of embedded system (ES) development, a form of development that is highly knowledge intensive and depends on specialised forms of knowledge obtained from a variety of complex knowledge artefacts. This study follows an experimental methodology that involves integrating a knowledge management system (KMS) into ES product prototyping projects, in order to facilitate KM of a specific form of knowledge, namely embedded system artefact organisation and adaptation (ESAOA) knowledge. ESAOA knowledge is produced during ESAOA activities, which concern organising artefacts that are used to construct an ES and techniques by which engineers adapt and learn from these artefacts. The focus of this thesis is narrowed to determining an effective structure for the ESAOA KMS that facilitates successful completion of ES implementation tasks. This thesis consequently contributes to KM research at a meso level of operations.
The research methodology involved constructing an experimental KMS, named the ESAOA KMS, which comprises a structured collection of knowledge worker roles, processes, and artefacts together with a collection of support tools. A pilot study was first performed to gain insights into research methods and the KM needs of the users. These research methods were published in order to improve them further and to confirm their validity. Next, an initial version of the ESAOA KMS was built. This KMS was applied by development teams in the context of ES prototyping projects. The data obtained from this experiment were evaluated to develop a refined version of the ESAOA KMS, and to draw conclusions for this research.
Findings from this research included the following: defining different forms of ESAOA knowledge; establishing evaluation methods for KM of ESAOA activities; identifying conditions that enable a KMS to facilitate ESAOA activities; assessing the factors that affect ESAOA KM activities; determining different types of KM needs that occurred in projects, and showing that the ESAOA workspace approach was an effective means to integrate the knowledge worker roles, processes, artefacts and support tools of the ESAOA KMS.
The conclusion of this thesis identifies situations in which the ESAOA KMS was found to be beneficial, as well as conditions where the KMS was of little use or possibly added to the difficulty of completing ESAOA activities. Generally, for the projects investigated in this study, the ESAOA KMS was of the least benefit to users during simple activities (a term defined in the thesis, which essentially relates to tasks where the needed knowledge was obtained in a trivial manner or produced by following easily remembered or routine procedures). However, users working on complex activities (which are activities that draw on knowledge obtained previously in the project through prior non-trivial procedures) made extensive use of the ESAOA KMS. In such situations, the ESAOA KMS was shown to provide benefit to these complex activities. In particular, the ESAOA workspaces improved conformity of artefact classification and location, and assignment of the KMS roles made it easier for team members to assign responsibilities, to divide knowledge work among each other, and to guide knowledge production.
Further research plans that follow on from this thesis include broadening the scope of the ESAOA KMS to support additional phases of the development lifecycle (e.g., the requirements phase), conducting a study focused on KM for ES innovation, and establishing a method for incrementally phasing the ESAOA KMS into longer-term on-going projects.