08 July 2014

Traditional KM has lost the plot

For the past two decades or so, KM has grown into an established practice, especially in large organisations where the need for capturing, re-using and sharing valuable knowledge is a challenge proportional to the size. Some organisations even appointed a Chief Knowledge Officer. The KM community has had numerous successes and agreed on best practices and standard tools and techniques. The goal of KM could be defined as leveraging value-adding knowledge produced and/or utilised throughout the organisation, in order to achieve and sustain competitive advantage.

But where does this valuable knowledge resides/originates from? It resides/originates with/from the minds of an organisation’s extended workforce (employees, contractors, strategic partners) (*). What organisations therefore need is for this extended workforce to share this knowledge as easily as possible, in order for any valuable knowledge to be used at the right time by anyone anywhere anytime. In other words, what is needed is an organisational culture conducive to such pervasive knowledge sharing: A collaborative culture. This is particularly important for organisations thriving on continuous innovation.

So, considering the above, one would think that the KM community should have been not only welcoming but indeed driving social collaboration. Social collaboration is about facilitating (to the point of commoditising it) and encouraging (rewarding/recognising) the sharing of valuable expertise, knowledge, insight, ideas, across the organisational natural and artificial borders (geographical, functional, hierarchical, operational, etc…) or in other words, breaking down the “knowledge silos”.

Strangely though, a large number (I think the majority although I do not have any verified data to support this) of KM professionals did not directly contribute to the introduction of social collaboration within their organisation (even less took the lead for it) and once implemented, refused to accept it as a part of KM. It is as if they are collectively stuck in a worldview where KM requires well defined and rigorous structures and processes in order to deliver any value.

The value of a given piece of knowledge is context-dependent. In other words, its value is realised when an individual - or a group of individuals – applies it the right way in the right place at the right time. The larger the Organisation, the more difficult it is to expand and replicate throughout the Organisation the value generated by traditional KM within specific business units or activities. The only way to unlock and leverage the dormant valuable knowledge throughout the organisation is to provide integrated collaboration tools for everyone and establish a collaborative culture. The former consumerizes knowledge sharing internally, and the latter normalises it through adapted behaviours and recognition and reward mechanisms.

An Organisation’s KM community must be fully aligned with social collaboration initiatives because they are the best equipped professionals – in terms of experience and expertise - to make these initiatives realise their full potential soon enough to gain significant competitive advantage.

(*) A relatively popular school of thought considers that knowledge can in fact only reside in our minds. Once we attempt to extract it and code it for sharing and re-use, it becomes information. If philosophically this view is worth debating, in a business context, it does not help anyone understand better the challenges faced by KM. On the contrary it tends to confuse the issue so I personally prefer assuming that valuable knowledge can indeed be passed on in a coded (written) form.

03 April 2011

The multichannel challenge

I have not written on this blog since July 2010.  It is not that I was struggling to find topics, but more a lack of time: my current interim contract with Matches Fashion and the adoption of an adorable child finally becoming a reality just took their toll on my spare time.   
In the April 1st edition of Retail Week, I read an interesting supplement with same title as this post (in the print version) that motivated me to start blogging again.  This supplement contains a lot of good comments but I will highlight a few here.
Ok, it’s a word now, so we can write “multichannel”, no longer having to write “multi-channel”.  Every one in retail is now more than just talking about it, as it must have a prominent position in every retailers strategy.
 But critically, retailers are finally understanding what multichannel really means.  It’s not just about adding one more channel to market, it is about providing integrated and seamless services to your customers.   A transaction can then involve 2 or more channels ideally at no extra costs and in a very flexible way.  
Darryl Owen, the SAP head of retail for EMEA, provides a short list of must-haves for a multichannel software solution:
·         Centralised data, including master data and transactional data.This is about full and true integration between all systems supporting the various channels.  One system must be the holder of the single truth.
·         Real-time IT infrastructure.As technology enables customers to be always connected, they will expect real-time information with all channels.   So if your tills poll once/day, here is one priority for you to change.
·         Accurate data analytics.Reporting must be consistent throughout the channels.  This means for instance that each customer or each product have the same unique identification across channels.
·         The ability to think ahead.This is absolutely key for success and competitive advantage.  Your systems and business processes must be fully flexible to associate existing channels differently or incorporate new channels no one has even thought of yet.  
I would like to comment on the “multichannel shopper” article as well:
 <<In December, Deloitte surveyed 2,000 multichannel consumers to find out about their shopping habits. Shoppers’ expectations are shifting as quickly as their behaviour. Deloitte head of multichannel Colin Jeffrey says: “What one retailer offers as a new service quickly becomes the expected. Customers will struggle to understand why others don’t have the same.”
The research showed that on average multichannel customers spent nearly twice that of their store-only peers, with multichannel customers spending an average of £130 per transaction compared with £67 for store-only transactions and £113 for internet-only customers.>>

Being a multichannel retailer is first about providing new convenience to existing customers rather than increasing sales.  However, as Deloitte’s research showed, multichannel customers tend to spend more.  So for instance, when using a click & collect in store service, a customer might purchase additional products while in store collecting the order placed online.

A key point to realise is the speed of change with multichannel customer behaviours.  Success will not be about playing the crystal ball game about what is to come, but to transform the organisation’s systems, processes and culture, so as to be as flexible as possible to adapt to any new technologies and customer behaviours while remaining competitive.

09 July 2010

Knowledge management is the process of leveraging organizational knowledge

In their paper "Strategic planning for knowledge management implementation in engineering firms",

Ravi Shankar, (Ravi Shankar is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Management Studies, IIT Delhi, New Delhi, India.), M.D. Singh, (M.D. Singh is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Motilal Nehru National Institute of Technology, Allahabad, India.), Amol Gupta, (Amol Gupta is a Student in the Department of Computer Science, TIT&S Bhiwani, Haryana, India.) and Rakesh Narain, (Rakesh Narain is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Motilal Nehru National Institute of Technology, Allahabad, India.) seem (have not yet read it) to define Knowledge Management the way I have done since 2005 (hence the title of this blog!):

<<Knowledge management (KM) is the process of leveraging organizational knowledge to deliver long-term advantage to a business and is based on a business strategy that involves engineering various knowledge-centric business processes and developing organization structures to support these. These, in turn, require technology to capture, codify, store, disseminate and reuse the knowledge. Successful deployment of KM is not a simple process. This paper suggests that a major reason for the failure of many KM projects is the absence of a well-defined strategic plan to guide implementation. This paper discusses the strategic planning needs of the KM deployment process, and develops a framework that could be used specifically by engineering firms to guide the KM implementation process.>>

I have also argued in several posts that KM cannot truly succeed if it is not adressed strategically.

13 June 2010

Scaling up with social media: luxury brands have a natural advantage.

Jeremiah Owyang recently did a presentation on how companies can scale up with social media technologies.  Do read it.  His starting observation is that customers (let alone prospects) will always outnumber a company's total workforce (let alone the ones formally responsible for customer relationships).  Since social media puts companies in "direct" contact with a growing number of people, they are in danger of counter-productive social media initiatives leaving most customers or prospects frustrated for lack of response from the company to their queries/issues/concerns.

Jeremiah suggest 3 good strategic solutions to this problem:

  • Using all the voices in your ecosystem (the Rings of Influence) not just being the only ones to talk.
  • Develop more customer to customer technologies that leverage your customers to do your marketing, sales, and support.
  • Invest in Social CRM systems, while immature now, they will eventually help companies respond in real time –and maybe even anticipate customer need.

 Reading this, I realised it was confirming my position that luxury goods and services companies are the best suited for an effective social media strategy: their ratio "number of customers/number of employees" is by nature the lowest!  So, they can realistically connect with a large number of customers by involving all their employees for instance.  Luxury brands can be more in control of what is being said about them in the socialsphere than FMCG brands. 

02 June 2010

A hint that Burberry is on the right track about social media integration

 In my last post, I wrote that I didn't know of a retailer that is yet offering a fully integrated multi-channels experience.  I have however just discovered that Burberry's own social media site might indicate that they are on the right track towards this full integration.  The site allows a Facebook account connection (in fact imposes it) before uploading your own trench coat pictures.  This of course does not mean that Burberry will implement this type of integration on its ecommerce site but it's a start.

PS. I am not suggesting that a Facebook account should necessarily give you access to all ecommerce sites! Social media is not just about Facebook for a start, and a social media strategy should not be application dependent anyway.  If the technology might still need to be defined, the goal is clear however: offering an integrated and consistent multi-channels customer experience and follow each customer as a unique individual through all channels.