PhD Thesis

My PhD thesis is titled “The Missing Link: Towards Connected, Flexible, Open and Productive Systems for Knowledge-Driven Organizations” and I completed it at the University of Auckland under the Supervision of Professor David Sundaram in 2015.

The abstract of the reseach is below. Please be welcome to get in touch if you have any questions.

Abstract

From fire to steam, from steam to electricity, and from electricity to information, technology has arguably moved step by step away from the natural world into ever higher levels of abstraction. Many see the next imminent move in the advancement from information-based technology to knowledge-based technology. Unfortunately, this advancement entails innumerable challenges, many of which remain yet unresolved. In particular, modern organizations, which attempt to utilize existing information technology (IT) to leverage and advance their knowledge-based capabilities, face many problems.

In this research, we identify four such problems: (1) that information is often a poor representation of rich knowledge-based capabilities, (2) that inherently restrictive organizational systems often poorly support unstructured knowledge work, (3) that cross-organizational applications are often poorly equipped to support fast-moving business networks, and (4) that sophisticated IT solutions often do not meet the situational requirements of knowledge workers and are thus frequently used in unintended ways.

Based on observations, theories, and suggestions in existing literature we propose four design guidelines, which aim at overcoming the aforementioned problems: (1) to enable composition of contextual linkages between heterogeneous systems (‘no data is an island’), (2) to establish sustainable organizations of information while at the same time allowing emerging and ad-hoc modifications to be made to this information base (‘order and chaos’), (3) to provide customizable, simple and modular systems to connect and share information across system boundaries (‘fluid integration’), and (4) to provide an infrastructure for organizations to develop, deploy and adapt context-specific applications for knowledge workers easily and quickly (‘rapid adaptation’).

To support these guidelines, we propose a simple model for the organization of data, the hyperdata model. This model organizes data as uni-directional, unlabeled graphs and emphasizes connectivity and flexibility. We further propose an application programming interface (API), the Nextweb API, which allows defining, querying and manipulating information arranged in accordance with the hyperdata model. We provide a reference implementation for this API, a cloud-based software platform named the Appjangle platform. This platform provides various unique benefits which align with the aforementioned guidelines.

Our work is framed by a design science research methodology, which centers on the interrelated activities of (1) synthesizing existing theory from behavioral studies into conceptual design foundations, (2) immersive software development tightly linked with the refinement of theory, (3) evaluation of developed systems using integration, systems, and acceptance tests as well as various implementation scenarios, and (4) the dissemination of conceptual contributions and developed software systems in generalizable, understandable and easily adoptable embodiments to practitioners and researchers alike.