Organizational Study of Web 2.0 Tools on Construction Design Teams
Web 2.0 tools such as instant messaging, blogs, wikis and social networking are emerging technologies that many AEC companies are actively evaluating and implementing as business and/or professionally oriented tools used to support work-related information-sharing and problem-solving. These applications can encourage the sharing of unstructured information, augment the highly structured processes managed by current enterprise applications, and positively affect interactions across geographic, functional, and organizational boundaries, as team members need to collaborate on activities such as new product development and knowledge sharing. Yet, little rigorous research exist to understand how these Web 2.0 tools are used in practice to enable effective distributed collaboration and to improve design team performance.
This research project will examine the effects of introducing Web 2.0 tools for team collaboration in construction design tasks. In particular, this study will focus on studying the social interactions among team members engaged in work packages with and without the use of Web 2.0 tools. Using interviews and surveys, the research will examine how collaboration occurs in construction design teams, the conditions under which particular Web 2.0 tools produce various outcomes, and the implications of these. The measurement and comparison of the changes in social interactions and resulting changes in social structures will be conducted using methods of social network analysis. Because meaningful social network analysis requires sampling of all the members of a given network, the research project will concentrate on comparable work packages that involve at the most 40 to 50 people. In particular, the research will involve a first set of interviews and surveys to evaluate the network of task-oriented as well as informal interactions among members of work teams before the introduction of Web 2.0 tools. Similar sets of interviews and surveys will be administered after the implementation of these tools, which together with logs of their usage, will provide the background data for social network analysis and performance evaluation.
The results of the project will have impact on both construction management and technology. From the management perspective, it will identify behavioural and structural changes that Web 2.0 create in team collaboration, highlight the attributes of the individuals and tasks that are most suited for effective use of these tools, and finally inform how these technologies affects the overall team performance. From the technological perspective, this research will help Web 2.0 vendors to optimise the various Web 2.0 tools to construction tasks taking into account behavioural and structural characteristics of teams, and to create new knowledge management products based on social interaction data.
Soong Moon Kang
Department of Management Science and Innovation
University College London
London, WC1E 6BT