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Articles > The 8 Cs of KM success: Learning from the IT sector
The 8 Cs of KM success: Learning from the IT sector
Madanmohan Rao, June 10, 2003
Infotech companies feature very prominently in the list of winners of awards like the annual Most Admired Knowledge Enterprises (MAKE) awards. Successful global IT companies owe their success in large part to highly effective and efficient knowledge management (KM) practices and cultures.
I find that a useful framework for describing the key ingredients of KM success is the 8 Cs framework: connectivity, content, community, culture, capacity, cooperation, commerce, and capital.
In other words, successful KM practices can be facilitated by adequate employee access to KM tools, user-friendly work-oriented content, communities of practice, a culture of knowledge, learning capacity, a spirit of cooperation, commercial and other incentives, and carefully measured capital investments and returns.
Let us see how this framework can be used to analyse the successful KM practices of the following IT companies: EDS, EMC, Fujitsu Consulting, Hughes Software Systems, i2, IBM, I-Flex, Infosys, Inktomi, JD Edwards, MITRE, Novell, Open Text, Oracle, SAS, Sun Philippines and Xerox.
All these IT companies have robust connectivity for employees to the intranet and thereby to standardised KM tools, knowledge repositories, and communities of practice. KM at Fujitsu Consulting got off to a bumpy start partly because of lack of standardisation of connectivity and KM platform. Many companies have also identified wireless connectivity as the next level of knowledge mobilisation to workers like sales staff. Open Text has launched Livelink Wireless which is already being used by its sales staff on the road. Information mobilisation and real-time expert contact via PDAs and SMS are high priorities at SunPhil
The featured IT companies have all evolved sophisticated strategies to manage content. These include EDS's Techlore technical knowledge repository, EMC's Knowledge base for tech support, Fujitsu Consulting's ProjectFinder, i2's Knowledge Base and Project Workbench, knowledge asset editors at Infosys, and i-flex's Project Closure Documents (PCD). SAS has formally-designated knowledge support officers who assist busy employees in creating, editing and translating knowledge assets.
All KM savvy companies have sophisticated top-down and bottom-up strategies for large numbers of communities of practice, such as EDS's 114 communities of practice, Fujitsu Consulting's Knowledge Underground, Oracle's Professional Commu-nities, and Open Text's Competitive Intelligence For-um and Customer Dashboard.
A culture of knowledge-centricity and innovation right from the top levels of management was present in all these companies. EDS has a Knowledge Management Office and an innovation engine portal for employees to submit innovative ideas, EMC aims to have KM culture ultimately nurtured via peer pressure. IBM conducts extensive research on KM and formulates concepts like the Cognizant Enterprise Maturity Model, i-Flex has the QPati quiz program and K-Webcast conferences with experts, Infosys uses mottos like "Learn Once, Use Anywhere."
Building capacity for knowledge-centric behaviours received strong support all across. For instance, EMC has formal training programs, Hughes Software Systems hosts KM workshops and a day-long knowledge-sharing event, and i-flex invests heavily in software process certification for its employees.
QAI India recommends the use of external consultants for capacity building in KM. Inktomi provides its knowledge workers with training on cost-performance activity, Unified Modeling techniques, statistical charting processes, and job rotation opportunities to understand knowledge impacts on performance measures and productivity gains.
Forward-looking IT companies promote a strong culture of internal cooperation between employees and business units, and external cooperation with industry consortia and universities.EDS conducts collaborative research with a US business school, HSS taps into external sources of knowledge such as industry consortia and collaborative research with universities. Open Text has a Knowledge Management Advisory Board with representatives from about 20 of its top customers, Oracle plans to extend KM beyond the enterprise via the Oracle Technology Network and Oracle Partner Network, and Xerox is active in sponsorship of KM forums and participation in consortia on learning, knowledge and productivity.
Many companies have a mix of commercial and non-commercial incentives to price and reward knowledge contributions.
Infosys has devised Knowledge Currency Units (KCUs) whereby employees can award points to knowledge assets posted by their colleagues, and can also earn points when their own posted knowledge assets are utilised or ranked by their colleagues; these can be encashed into gifts at a local e-tailer.
Substantial investments were made in the KM systems of the featured companies, and strict metrics adopted to assess RoI (return on investment). Xerox's Eureka is credited with solving over 350,000 problems annually that otherwise would have been recreated by other customer service engineers wasting both parts and labour as they try to find a solution parts and labour savings are in excess of $15 million annually, with increased customer satisfaction.
In a summary, paying close attention to all the parameters of the 8Cs framework has helped IT companies develop successful KM practices.
The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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