Devising a common vocabulary for a knowledge management university intranet.
For the past few years, the University of Natal has been using an HTML-driven InnerWeb as its intranet system. The advantages of database driven intranet technologies over static HTML pages are now well established. It was felt that the University should change to a database driven intranet system which would better serve the needs of the University community. The first part of this study was conducted to establish user perceptions and requirements of such an intranet. Results from this study suggested that the functionalities and needs expressed by participants are synonymous with functionalities offered by database driven intranets. The second part of this study was therefore to follow up and prioritise the identified requirements for the main intranet interface to establish a controlled vocabulary and investigate current debate on the possibilities and limitations of intranets as a knowledge management tool. Part of the study took cognisance of Stoke's use inspired research premise by adapting constructivist research philosophy as well as Van den Akker's development research strategy to guide the study. Eclectic mixed methodology as suggested by Reeves guided the research design for this study. Thus data gathering methods which included group and on-line card sorting, semi-structured interviews, category membership expectation tests and prototype validation were used to validate each stage of the development process. Data analysis procedures included using Microsoft Excel to calculate the total score assigned to each item for possible inclusion on the intranet, cluster analysis using IBM EZSort software, analysing interview transcripts using QSR NVlvo software as well as simple eye balling of the category membership expectation data. The initial 93 items for possible inclusion, which were identified at the first part of the study were reduced to 60 items. Some distinct themes, which were identified, include research activities, library, social notices, corporate notices, learning activities, University Policies and Procedures, student activities, staff activities and on-line collaboration . The results of this study suggest that it is challenging to establish vocabulary which is common to the majority of prospective users. Thus, some of the suggested vocabulary for category labels did not have majority consensus. This study also suggests that participants expect a process driven intranet, which offers multidimensional access points and multiple ways to navigate. This implies analysing same data from different viewpoints. Participants want more from an intranet than simple document publishing though a few can not see the intranet beyond a document retrieval tool. The study suggests that users have different needs which could be better addressed by offering customisation and personalisation functionalities to suit users' individual needs. Participants expect to use the intranet as a reliable institutional memory which offers seamless remote access to synchronous and asynchronous communicating tools, access to various forms of digital media, interactive on-line administration functionalities as well as access to on-line academic related activities.