Next Generation Management: Knowledge Management Strategy

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A knowledge management system enables employees to get the information they need when they need it. It can set in motion a virtuous cycle of data-based decision making as well as increased collaboration, innovation and professional development. For more, please see http://dell.to/17EtXYH.

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Next Generation Management: Knowledge Management Strategy

  1. 1. September 2013 NEXT GENERATION MANAGEMENT: KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT STRATEGY How Business Intelligence was able to “Do More” by knowing more A paper by Elizabeth Press
  2. 2. Managing the most strategic asset: Knowledge How business intelligence turned data into powerful ideas Knowledge is an asset whose worth is determined by the power of the ideas generated by its consumption. Successful managers have understood that skillful curation and structured sharing of knowledge can maximize their team’s influence and impact on the success of their company. Moreover, an effective knowledge management system enables easier onboarding of new team members and continuous learning for existing team members, which both improves the output of a team and motivates team members by enabling professional and personal development opportunities. A well-functioning knowledge management system ensures that the team has unified access to information and is designed to minimize wasted time searching for sources of information. Furthermore, a knowledge management system avails team members of each other’s knowledge and ensures that capability gains can be reused, thus empowering teams to work more efficiently and focus on ideas and new knowledge instead of information and knowledge already gained. As teams evolve, collectively achieve milestones and learn, the knowledge gained through experience is often relegated to conversations, other teams and even other companies as employees move on. A manager cannot completely control employee fluctuation. They can, however, ensure that knowledge and best practices are curated and managed in a manner that allows the team to onboard new members easily and continuously learn and generate ideas despite employee fluctuation. This paper aims to discuss the management of information and management of people, and how managers can change the culture, manage processes and use web-based technologies to implement a successful knowledge management system. This white paper is a case study in how Dell’s Business Intelligence organization built a knowledge management system that empowered the team and the wider organization to #DoMore by generating insightful and impactful ideas on top of information and industry-specific and regional knowledge they provided.
  3. 3. Scaling knowledge The path from data to wisdom got easier to trek Business Intelligence (BI) had become a thought leadership function through, among other factors, procuring highly skilled employees to research their respective industries, technologies and geographies and inform executive decision making. Many team members were working closely with their stakeholders, gaining a great deal of insight and efficiency in their function. In order to better communicate their ideas and capabilities to their stakeholders, as well as continuously learn, BI decided to implement a knowledge management system that would make processes, methodologies, best practices and information sources easily accessible to all members of the organization. BI sought to create a unified standard data source and information management upon which a knowledge management system could be built. The team agreed that they needed a well-designed knowledge management system and discussed the needs of the team members and their stakeholders and decided: Needs for information: • Team members needed quick and easy access to data as well as knowing where to get information. • Stakeholders also needed easy access to data – so they did not have to continuously email team members to forward along the data – as well as transparency as to the source and the structure of the data. Because the accessing the information and understanding the data sources was the team’s most rudimentary need in generating knowledge, and because the time spent individually trying to do just that was the greatest. The team prioritized creating more efficient access to information. Needs for knowledge: • Team members benefited from quick access to best practices, explanations and examples of methodologies, as well as finished projects and insights already gleaned. • Stakeholders benefited from a one-stop overview of BI capabilities, as well as easy access to market facts and knowledge about customers. The goal here was to both document processes and methodologies and make the team’s breadth of knowledge more visible. The team wanted to make results accessible to the wider organization and the learning curve for a specific role as easy as possible. Needs for ideas: • Team members wanted to be able to generate ideas in a timelier manner to elevate their strategic importance to their stakeholders and the wider organization. • Stakeholders benefited from team members who had more time to concentrate on high value activities. Ideas were integral to the team’s ability to produce impacting insight and promote a data-based decision making culture.
  4. 4. Transforming information into ideas was not as efficient as it could be. The steps between gathering information and creating ideas and insight were mapped and the activities were categorized into non value add and value add. Inefficient steps were highlighted with the goal of trying to eliminate them. Process mapping uncovered certain key inefficient steps that team members individually underwent when transforming information to ideas. The team therefore focused on minimizing communication steps and identifying and mollifying bottlenecks during the transformation of information to ideas. Measuring improvement needs: Before any improvements were implemented, the team made the following measurements: • Communication efficiency for both new and old asks • Time inefficiently spent on activities in the processes of transforming information into ideas Communication efficiency: The team considered each additional unnecessary communication step inefficient. The team also worked under the assumption that if a critical link was displayed on a centralized web-based forum, unnecessary communication would not occur. Time inefficiently spent on activities while transforming information into ideas: The team found two bottle necks that together comprised the majority of time inefficiencies. Thus the team decided to mark efficiency gains in those two activities as a priority.
  5. 5. Designing a knowledge management system The customer-centric design was key to success A wiki was designed to minimize non value added processes and inefficient time. The structure of the wiki was designed to make key information publically available for the wider organization in an intuitive format. Sensitive information was accessed through links to web-based portals with the appropriate access rights. The benefits for: • Team members’ inefficient time was minimized and they became more available for value added tasks. Team processes and capabilities were documented, so new members and stakeholders had a unified reference for processes, team capabilities and methodologies. • Stakeholders had one unified place to access information. They did not have to engage in less efficient activities such as emailing around to find out where the information was. Moreover, sources of information and methodologies were documented and explained on the wiki, thus stakeholders and the wider organization had one source of truth regarding the fundamentals of BI information.
  6. 6. How the wiki was effective in making the necessary improvements: Before any improvements were implemented, the team made the following measurements: • Communication efficiency for both new and old asks • Inefficient time spent on activities in the processes of transforming information into ideas This section will show the improvements realized post-implementation. Communication efficiency: Centralizing the information in a web-based area and making all critical links available in this forum eliminated much of the email traffic centered on understanding how to locate and access information. How the wiki addressed the following sources of inefficiently spent time: Knowhow to present data/information: The wiki gathered best practices of data visualization for the most common requests and major sources of data. Furthermore, links to the content management portal showed real-life examples. Determine source of data/information: Not only were links provided to key data sources, but team members responsible for a certain data source or business area provided background and explanations, as appropriate. From information to ideas that influence the wider organization: A content management portal and social media platform were created to make the transformation of information into knowledge and then into ideas that would influence the wider organization more efficient. Once the team was able to concentrate on creating ideas, they needed to understand how to both curate and spread their ideas effectively. • The content management portal was created as a means of curating knowledge and analysis. Re-usability and ease of finding were primary goals of this tool. • The social media platform was used as a means of distributing new deliverables that contained knowledge and ideas in a timely manner to the wider organization. Thus this was a tool that enabled the team to spread their ideas and thereby increase their ability to influence the organization.
  7. 7. Focusing on ideas Prioritization and process management as a key skill Focusing on ideas and using the team’s insights to influence the wider organization required the team to evolve their way of working. Major adjustments that the team had to work through: • Focus on ideas instead of information necessitated prioritization: Although this was a positive change that allowed for more strategic tasks for most of the team members, focusing on ideas evolved the manner in which normal business was conducted. As requests became more strategic and idea-focused in nature, more intellectual input was necessary. Adjustment: Team members prioritized tasks with increased stringency based on their objectives, abilities and the needs of the organizations. • From tribal knowledge to formalized processes: Creating deliverables that communicated the team’s ideas clearly and answering requests became more process oriented in order to realize the efficiencies that the knowledge management system availed to the team. Adjustment: Given the centralization of critical links and explanations about the data sources, teamwork and collaboration became critical for keeping the wiki up-to-date. The power to Know More A virtuous cycle The knowledge management system was designed to be a flexible and organic infrastructure that would adapt to fit the needs of the team and the wider organization. Because the structure was both defined and documented, it was adaptable to the ever evolving needs of the organization. Moreover, as information became easier to access, ideas became the focal point of both the team’s activities and their culture. Innovation began to mushroom and various team members became involved in new ways to bring their ideas to the wider organization. Not only did virtuous cycle help professional development and team collaboration, but it also availed the wider organization of impactful ideas and furthered the culture of data-based decision making.
  8. 8. About the Author: Elizabeth Press (Elizabeth_press@dell.com) is the Global Business Intelligence Lead for the Telecom, Media, Entertainment & Web Tech industries and is based out of Berlin, Germany. She has a BA in International Relations from Tufts University and an MSc in International Economics and Business from the Stockholm School of Economics. Before coming to Dell, she worked in strategy consulting focusing on the finance & technology industries.

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