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Knowledge management

Posted by Avadhut on 25 March 2007

Its been a difficult week. Hectic. Conveying the benefits of a social collaborative/knowledge management tool to CEOs and CIOs is a difficult task, especially when you weren’t even hired as a IT guy. A 16-page proposal and 15-slide presentation later, I am still waiting for an answer.

Our current Intranet is like any other corporate Intranet—blogs, forums, company policies, FAQs, ISO information, wikis, the works. Yet, considering the number of people who actually “use” it, it can be positively considered a failure. Infact, the Web/IT team went as far as to setting the Intranet page as the home page on our browsers just to have us visit it.

What then drives people to successfully adopt an Intranet tool?

The successfull adoption of an Intranet tool depends less on the characteristics of the tool itself and more on the motivation people have to use it, which is ofcourse helped by a heavy dose of ease-of-use. Someone proposed that if we had employees participate in the Intranet itself, it could help adoption. So they put up blogs and forums. Did these blogs/forums really have a purpose or were they deployed just to keep us occupied, entertained? In my opinion, if the Intranet isn’t tied to a business goal, the organisation could end up with an expensive system that takes up server space but has no real purpose or returns. Most of the existing implementations are technology solutions and curtail the need for subjective interpretation of information and try to minimise criticism and conflicts in order to achieve conformance and compliance. Here, one needs to understand that what needs to be done with data and information and knowledge is best decided by the individual or group that is using the data. As a result subjective interpretation of data is a must.

Ours is an intensely knowledge-based firm.  Given the amount of expertise each person brings in, it was surprising to know that we were doing nothing to capture tacit information—we were losing crucial knowledge without even knowing it. Our Intranet would have to be a knowledge intiative, a social collaborative tool facilitating something—not just storing information but making sure that it is actually useful.  What should a social collaborative system achieve then?

  • Capturing tacit information
  • Connecting experts
  • Realizing reach and discoverability of people, processes, and projects.

The Intranet would not be powered by technology but people.

With all the hype surrounding “knowledge management,” its surprising to see so little being done about it by Indian companies. Infact a thorough research of Indian knowledge companies in conjuction with knowledge management revealed disturbing facts. Not only were there very few adopters, but most of them were involved in what they wrongly believed to be knowledge management—false positives.

However, one of the companies with an impressive array of innovative KM solutions is Satyam. Satyam’s KM is known as K-Window comprising a problem broadcasting and response system (K-Radio), a knowledge sharing forum (Pathshala), and a mobile interface to K-Window for associates on the move (K-Mobile). But what grabbed my attention was “Communities of Excellence” (CoE)—groups of people with specific domain area expertise to whom questions can be directed through K-Radio. These, I found were quite similar to my proposal of “equal communities.” You see, our organization has employees from varied backgrounds—experts in linguisitics, computer science, Phds in physical sciences, geologists, engineers, doctors, etc. Yet, they do little to apply thier domain skills expect in thier day-to-day activities. Thier representation in our organization’s knowledge base is negligible if not non-existent. There is so much that they can contribute, if only they were made aware of what the problems are. An Intranet should establish equal communities—HR, core associates, IT, Web, admin, etc. If anyone faces a problem, he/she should post it on the broadcasting service. These problems will then be e-mailed to the respective community members. They can respond by either replying to the e-mail or by entering the solution on the intranet site itself. Moreover, no matter how this communication takes place—e-mail or through the intranet itself—it will all be stored in a documented manner on the intranet. If tomorrow, someone faces a similar problem, he/she can either post a new query or search through previous solutions to see if they match his/her requirements. Question: Why go through all this when a person can simply ask another person to help him/her out. Answer: The proposed process give you not one but several solutions from different perspectives; it documents these solutions so that when tomo, the solution provider leaves the company, the solution itself is not lost; and repeated instances of the same problem don’t need repeated discussions as anyone can simply pull up the solution from the Intranet.

With regard to my difficulty in conveying the benefits of such a knowledge management/social networking tool as an Intranet, Krishna Koneru, Satyam’s KI intiative’s vice president says

Measuring knowledge is a tricky affair and attaching a ‘monetary’ value is subject to endless debate. Measure an employee’s contribution by assessing how frequently his/her document gets referred to and who uses the document.

and

There is no clear way of measuring return on investment (ROI) for knowledge management. KM investments, like investments in people and training, are long-term investments for a company.

Bang on! Now why didn’t I come across that quote before sending in that presentation.

P.S: Koneru’s quotes were from Satyam’s KM page.

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16 Responses to “Knowledge management”

  1. Yup, our company is big time into KM,however K-Radio and K-mobile are never before heard concepts for me. I am sure its in planning stage and not yet implemented. We do get those Paathshaala mails which all employees simply Shift+Delete.

    The biggest problem in our 40K+ strength organization is that employees dont know of all these KM tools. Its like this.. when I told my friends about Satyam Blog most asked me WHAT IS A BLOG. There are about only 3000 employees (which is just abt 8%) who actually blog in our company.

    The tool is very strong and has almost all features of wordpress but no one is aware of it.

    The admin posts the hot topics for debate on the main page. In march first week (womens day) the topic was ->

    Voice of Women

    What are the top two things that you like about being a women employee in Satyam?
    What are the top two things that you feel need improvement?

    It was such a hot topic and u know women …given a chance they will write essays on it. but only 11 women and one guy responded to it.

    The reason … LACK OF AWARENESS of Blogging in the organization.
    However the 11 women who responded to it were from different geographical locations..thats important. Its not like employees from the same dept are blogging.

    Satyam’s another KM initiative is a concept called as IDEA Junction where u can post any idea which u think will be beneficial for the organization. Some employees post really wonderful ideas which they get from their experience in other organizations.
    But again it has the same problems of lack of awareness.

    I really liked ur idea of bottom-up strategy for spreading awareness. I am going to suggest Admin of SatyamBlogs this for sure…

    Keep up the gr8 work..

  2. I guess not all they say on the website is true. With a 40K+ workforce, Koneru needs to stop focusing on enriching the KM with new features and start empowering the people. It is so easy to get lost trying to improve technology without really thinking how it can help the people.

    But I don’t think K-Mobile and K-Radio are in the implementation stages, coz’ news about these two (along with Pathshala) has been appearing in newspapers since 2006!

    With a demographic distribution like that of Satyam’s, its essential for all KM tools to be integrated such that discovery of one tool leads to the discovery of another, the tipping point as we call it. Like how when you know one person in Pune, you invariably end up knowing several others (I have ended up being best friends with your school buddies :)).

  3. As an afterthought, even your comments ooze of anti-feminism! LoL

  4. BTW Sunday evening…and i am still in office..working.. an unrealitic project delivery date of 7 April. Screwed till that auspicious date.

  5. Ergo said

    Ya know, for a country (India) that is known all over the world as a source of great software technologies, engineers, and IT solutions, I find an appalling gap in the manifestation and implementation of these very resources within the country itself. When you think that Satyam employees (an IT company) themselves have never heard of blogging, when you see that wifi has still not caught on in India, and when you see that so many process-driven systems in India still function on paper and DOS, it’s stretches my believability to accept that this country has a wealth of IT resources. Well, why dont’ I see any evidence of it here!? While in chicago, I noticed packs of IT Indians huddled together in crammy apartments or computer labs. Have they all gone abroad?

  6. seemajoshi said

    A lot of companies have legacy systems with huge amout of data collected at the back-end. The main crux is to be able to analyze it.U Spoke about tacit information and information that could be collected for organizational purposes. What question arises in my mind ,can such systems be useful to analyze this data which is captured in a more easy way. If so , how?

  7. Avadhut said

    Seema: Is this the question you were trying to ask me during dinner the other day? Let me try to expand your question: “How and more importantly why should legacy systems be transposed to a social networking framework?” If what you are looking for is additional analytical capabilities alone, I think adding more modules to legacy systems themselves would be more beneficial. Presently, I can’t think of anything other than realizing a single sign-on system for the entire organization. But your question is interesting and I have decided to look for an answer. The next blogpost maybe then…

  8. seemajoshi said

    yes initially adding features to the legacy systems seems like the first solution.. But maintaining the system after updations is also a added cost. Moreover i feel ,the purpose of collecting all this huge data should be that,it indicates a potential loss or profit. For this pupose the data should be easily analyzable. If u are try to sell this idea in your organization,then i guess configuring this system to a more result oriented interface would be like hitting the bullz eye for ya . Just a suggestion nothing more..

  9. Seema-> One more suggestion. Give Manmit the task of R&D on this 😉

  10. seemajoshi said

    Kiran:- This is not the place where u should be tell me this :)))))

  11. Seema, you seem to ‘ave gotten me wrong. My proposal had nothing to do with legacy systems. I am rather happy with where they are. My system, instead, aims at tapping sources of information knowledge industries like yours and mine often overlook—thier own employees. We, as employees, carry out our day-to-day activities on the legacy systems installed in our organizations. Agreed. However, do these legacy systems allow for innovative usage or capture the brainstorming employees do online through thier blogs, the ideas they share with thier fellow employees offline, etc.? The answer is “no.” A huge and resounding no. KM systems like the one I have proposed aim to capture information that otherwise is un-exposable. The KM I propose is, currently, completely independent of legacy systems, and I don’t see any reason, yet, as to why they should be integrated.

  12. 2 mails to the System Blogs Admin (He is in the KM Dept. )asking him more on K-Radio and K-Mobile. No answer.
    They were never implemented in our organization. I am sure. Otherwise whenever I mail him asking for something he responds within half day….

    sab client ko chutya banane ke liye hain…oops!! he is sitting behind me!!

  13. Avadhut said

    He he! You want me to send you newspaper cuttings citing both of them as organization-wide tools? Just so you could have some fun with the Sys. Admin? 🙂

  14. Pink Imp said

    i dont like u anymore x(

    u never reply to our comments! u like kiran more than me and charl..SNIFF

  15. Kiran said

    Hahah… read Pink Imp’s comment today!!.. 🙂

  16. […] public links >> linguisitics Knowledge management Saved by jenniferhanono on Mon 22-12-2008 Annoying Brits. Saved by debaird on Mon 22-12-2008 16 […]

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