Huran An, P.E., left, project manager with the city of North Miami Beach water treatment plant, reviews the city's water production database with the city's water quality manager, Renuka Mohammed. Photos: North Miami Beach Public Services
Above: Loss of key operational staff due to retirement creates a knowledge gap. Below: Public services director Kelvin Baker, right, recognizes the value of sharing information to promote continuity within the organization.
Capturing Explicit Knowledge

The city of North Miami Beach (Florida) Public Services Department is in the process of implementing a knowledge management database for its water utility. The primary purpose for this database is to capture in electronic format existing documents that are currently filed throughout the department or documents that currently reside in noncentralized locations such as office bookcases. Also its purpose is to create a central location to store documents that are frequently accessed by department personnel via an electronic media that permits easy sharing.

“Efficient management of information is critical to the long-term sustainability of our organization's knowledge base,” said Kelvin L. Baker, public services director, city of North Miami Beach. “But even more important is the ability to preserve knowledge during an era when utility resources will be in great demand.”

Currently the knowledge base is populated with monthly operating reports, facility permits, operation and maintenance manuals, record drawings, consultant studies and reports, equipment data maintenance sheets, and reports for the division.

The water production database is very similar to an Internet Web site in that it has a menu listing at the left side of the Web page. An HTML platform was used to develop the database with Microsoft Internet Explorer as the browser software. The city hyperlinked documents within the database to allow manipulation and accessibility of information by pointing and clicking on the various text and reference indexes created. Additionally, links were created on the Web sites to the U.S. EPA and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to provide up-to-date access to all regulations. All drawings and reports were scanned in PDF format and are easily viewed using Adobe Acrobat Reader.

By placing the water production database within a secure network, critical information can be shared and accessed by the staff. This will significantly reduce the amount of time spent by someone trying to search and retrieve a document. Currently, the database is in its early developmental stages. However, there is no limit to the amount of information that can be easily captured and stored in such a database.

Perez is assistant director of public services for the city of North Miami Beach, Fla.