Knowledge for more efficient water management
Taking care of water and ensuring access to this basic resource for life is one of the Sustainable Development Goals set in Agenda 2030. To achieve this, innovation and the development of new solutions and processes that are more sustainable and efficient are key factors. In this search, knowledge plays a fundamental role.
The application of specialist knowledge accumulated over the years is one of the reasons that explain the success of ACCIONA’s Water business. It is precisely this shared knowledge that leads to innovative solutions and being a pioneer in the digital transformation applied to the water sector. The management and digitalization of this knowledge has been, and continues to be, a priority for the company, an activity channelled through the Knowledge Management Department.
The combination of the company’s traditional resources, its intellectual capital and documented or explicit know-how has become one of its major competitive advantages. This intangible capital is made up of the experience and talent of the people who work there, the value of the company’s registered trademarks, copyright, patents and other intellectual property rights, collective know-how, systems, management techniques and history… Preserving it and making it available to the company is vital to extract all its potential.
Managing knowledge involves having a well-defined strategy, with people and technologies that facilitate its organisation and access to it. If any of these elements fail, the structure wobbles.
The strategy: how is knowledge managed and digitalized?
As well as specialists and experts in water treatment, ACCIONA has a specialized team in the treatment of information and knowledge. Its mission is to identify and work on different elements of knowledge so that they can be initially captured and updated, and then localized in a range of applications.
An essential activity in knowledge management is the identification of key units that describe and contextualize knowledge. These units are used to build and maintain a terminological classification (taxonomy) that facilitates the incorporation and integration of information into systems and applications where it can be exploited and consulted.
Knowledge is understanding what is behind business decisions: knowing what, who, when and where regarding actions to be taken
This identification and contextualisation is done by breaking down knowledge into descriptive units that correspond to an activity, discipline, state, work element or type of document (metadata). Each of these descriptive units or metadata needs to be accompanied by a coherent list of descriptive terms or values. These lists of descriptors and metadata, which are always agreed with the experts of each discipline of knowledge, make up the thesaurus or common language of the business or speciality, which stays – and is updated – in an application that can be consulted by anyone in the company.
Additionally, the knowledge management team defines and functionally maintains the applications or tools in which the documents or elements of knowledge are kept.
An essential activity in knowledge management is identifying key units that describe and contextualize knowledge, to build a taxonomy
First, it is essential to have a good understanding of the need that led to the development of the application or repository, and from there, decide the metadata and descriptors (of the thesaurus) that should be included, as well as the security that has to be applied (i.e., who can access that knowledge, and when) and, if required, adding the flows of approval or document review.
Structures are also created and maintained, always in line with the company’s processes, in order to keep the evidence generated in the document manager during project implementation. These are kept in digital format, in accordance with the paperless culture promoted throughout ACCIONA.
People are a key element in ACCIONA’s Knowledge Management Strategy.
The transfer of tacit knowledge (held in the minds of the experts) to explicit knowledge (formalised in texts and documents) that can be shared is something that is continually worked on in task forces or committees, selecting and updating key information and preparing documents that contain the criteria, standards, procedures or working models that can be used to carry out projects.
To take advantage of the synergies that can exist between all the business divisions there is a platform that records lessons learned
Documents on lessons learned are also generated and then reviewed by experts (technical leaders). All the documents that emerge from these processes are classified according to the thesaurus and are available in different applications. Some other developments, such as the panel of experts, enable the collection and consultation of experts’ answers to technical questions key for a field of expertise.
Technology evolves very quickly and has a direct impact on knowledge management, particularly in the areas of cooperation, search engines, the development of databases and data mining.
The ongoing work to process and organise knowledge is a fundamental and essential element for the digital evolution. This facilitates the integration of tools and applications thanks to the consistency of metadata with common values, allowing the application of semantics-based algorithms and smart systems that facilitate the extraction and exploitation of information and data with ever greater precision.
Once the IT developments have been completed, the knowledge management team sets about trying it out, configuring advanced searches and training, and the format it will be used in (management of change).
An example of this are some of the most recent projects started in ACCIONA to manage information, facilitate knowledge transfer and foster joint work within the company.
If it is well designed and adapted to the company’s business processes, a document management platform ensures the reliability, integrity and accessibility of documentation related to a specific project.
In ACCIONA, both the adaptations and the developments made on the platform in line with ACCIONA procedures comply with the requirements of the UNE-ISO standard on document management, so that the documentary evidence of day-to-day work, described through metadata, can be recovered at any time and from any place, applying rules for their conservation or eliminating them in line with the Corporate Policy on Document Retention.
ACCIONA is a multinational company with activities covering truly diverse sectors such as construction, the management of urban services or water treatment. To take advantage of the synergies that can exist between all the business divisions there is another platform that records lessons learned.
This platform stores knowledge of all the business units of the ACCIONA group. It also gathers contractual and legal recommendations that can be useful in certain projects.
Another way of collecting specialist knowledge is through combinations of terms commonly used in certain frequently used documents. Using state-of-the-art technology, algorithms have been created that can detect combinations and sequences of terms that facilitate fast access to key information in very long documents. Specialists in relevant knowledge review the material to improve results.
This internal metasearch engine allows access to any document in ACCIONA’s internal application. It also has filters that enable guided and filtered searches to locate documents in a more efficient manner.
Digital record of input and output of documents
When a printed document reaches the office, it is scanned, entered and classified in an application linked to the document manager, and is then sent to the recipient electronically. This represents a considerable time saving, which is particularly important when handling documents that need a quick response, such as legal and administrative requirements.
Global challenges such as water management require innovation and knowledge. Managing this knowledge in the best way and making it available to everyone is not an option but a need, and in ACCIONA we have been doing this for years.