Branding, Branding, Branding!

April 27, 2007

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As any marketer will tell you, A large portion of a products success depends on it’s brand value. The same holds true for a Knowledge Management initiative.

There is no doubting that you have a good product, otherwise you wouldn’t be taking it to the market ( being presumptuous here ) . However to ensure its success, you need the brand. Once people start associating KM in your organization with something prestigious the interest in it will automatically increase.

Strong KM practices can be run into the ground because of a lack of branding. Unlike most other job functions Knowledge Management has to be sold to the general public. You need to approach your employees like customers.

There is another reason for branding, as with most KM initiatives there is invariably a rewards and recognition program tied to it. When an employee is recognized as a knowledge contributor , the prestige is much greater when there is brand value associated with the award.

The underlying idea behind Branding is to increase awareness and promote its use, there is also the added benefit of the “wow” factor.

One of the biggest ways of doing this is to ensure that there is senior management presence in most of the award ceremonies. The idea that automatically gets conveyed by this approach is that in order to get recognized by the top brass you need to be a Knowledge Contributor.

There is a lot that needs to go into an initiative like KM, but branding is something that almost always seems to lose out…


Rewards OR Recognition ?

April 16, 2007

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One of the biggest challenges in Knowledge Management these days is getting people involved in the process. Unlike other initiatives which use a mix of the carrot and stick approach, KM can only be promoted using the carrot.

Now the challenge is, what motivates the average users to contribute towards the system? Is it the rewards or the recognition? From what i’ve seen its a balance between both.

However, for the long term sustainability of any KM initative there has to a be focused move from a rewards based system to one of recognition. For one, its cheaper , second and more importantly, studies done in corporates have shown that the single largest motivator amongst employees is recognition by their peers and superiors.

Knowledge Management is that perfect platform that enables even the youngest of employees’ to show case their ideas and talents on a corporate platform. It ensures that if you are good at what you do, your voice isn’t lost in the crowd. This, i feel is the biggest selling point of KM to the average employee.

The driving force behind KM implementation for an organization is a little different. Numbers speak volumes, and unless corporates see a monetary benefit towards implementing a KM initiative, chances are they’d rather invest the money somewhere else.

So, the method with which you decide to promote Knowledge Management in your organziation depends entirely on your people. Rewards will only get you so far.


Choosing the RIGHT technology for KM

April 11, 2007

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This is a question that a lot of you might have battled with at some point in time and if i’m not mistaken continue to do so. Before we get into the “meat” of this post let me sum it up for you , there is NO right technology for KM.

While we all agree KM is more of a cultural initiative, there is no doubting that without a solid technology backbone chances are you’re heading down a dark road.

I’ve reviewed a large number of applications that claim to provide the perfect KM solution, and guess what? they don’t. No surprise there for those of you who’ve spent time trying to find an application that suites your needs. Please feel free to disagree with me, and if you’ve stumbled upon that “Perfect” KM tool do leave a comment. I’m sure the rest of my readers would love to get their hands on that information, as would I.

Traditionally speaking, a large percentage of corporates seem to have gone the Microsoft way. Starting at Sharepoint 2001 then migrating to 2003 and now 2007. The reason this is the case is because unlike certain other very specific applications like documentum which cost the earth, Microsoft’s Sharepoint is a lot cheaper and integrates extremely well with all its other products. Let’s face it, MS Office Suite is the basic technology foundation upon which almost every company works on.

I’m currently working on a MOSS 2007 deployment, and while this isn’t my first choice for a KM product, certain constraints ( like those i mentioned above ) prevent me from going in any other direction. Though, i was pleasantly surprised to see certain major improvements in the technology (There are a number of posts on MOSS 2007 in my blog if you are interested).

At the end of the day, If you want an application that is simple and easy enough to use – get one that provides the very basic features right out of the box. However, if you have more specific requirements i’d advise you to develop one from scratch.

This is a balancing act, if you have a great technology team to back you up its probably a good idea to go this route. I’m certain you’ll find open source applications that cater to your every requirement. Its just a matter of integrating them to ensure that you get a functionally seamless tool.

Would also appreciate it if you could leave comments on the various tools that you’ve used and the benefits and drawbacks you’ve observed.


ROI for Knowledge Management

March 26, 2007

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As with every business venture , unless there is a solid case built on the ROI chances are the initiative wouldn’t get the backing of the executive team. It’s a numbers game, and without a clear indication of some benefit, in terms of a dollar figure, it get more and more difficult to justify the costs.

Now the reason i started up this post is to get an idea of how companies , if at all, calculate the ROI on a knowledge management initiative. Based on my experience, figuring out where the knowledge is and getting it to flow is tough enough, adding a number value to it seems next to impossible . Sure , there have been methods where people have attempted to calculate it. But the question of a methodology robust enough to calculate the ROI of a KM intiative doesn’t seem to be here as yet, then again i could be wrong.

So, if any of you have managed to implement an accurate ROI calculation in a KM environment i’d love to hear about it. Do leave a comment , against this post so other people can get involved in this discussion.


Driving Innovation

March 21, 2007

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In order to drive innovation in your company you need to have an innovative way of tackling the rewards and recognition system, which is the cornerstone of any such initiative.

Considering employees do have needs for achievement and status, definining and creating systems and processes that rewards employees based on their innovation would be an ideal way to tackle something like this. However the issue of how a structured rewards and recognition system encourages employees to change their behaviour must also be studied in depth before one is rolled out.

There are certain things you must look at as an organization if you want to foster an atmosphere of innovation. These basics will give you a foothold with which you could promote innovation in the organization.

The first step would be creating a team that maps out a innovation road map for the company, its framework, goals and expectations.

As discussed earlier, since the rewards and recognition program would form the cornerstone of this initiative. Consistent acknowledgement of those who contribute ideas, knowledge, and time must also be done. It is also very important for the senior management to recognize innovative design teams and champions, while peers should typically nominate and recognize teammates for their contributions to the overall effort.

One of the biggest motivators of innovation for an employee is recognition, so while implementing a rewards program ( monetary or otherwise ), keep in mind that for the long term success of the program you need to make innovation self-rewarding. Being perceived as an expert by peers and the management acts as a huge incentive to employees.

It is also important to provide recognition to volunteers, change agents, and model innovators. Associating names with such changes and improvements automatically increases the employees self-worth and willingness to engage in future endeavours.

“Spread the word” – is a great way to increase visibility across the organization for success stories and the people behind them. The benefits of a medium like this would include greater buy-in for the initiative.

And finally, linking innovation to the core cultural values of the organization should be the last step. Only once this is accomplished can you call the organization a true innovator.


Leadership Expectations…

March 16, 2007

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For any initiative to succeed and be accepted across an organization it requires some serious leadership buy-in. This is more so in the case of Knowledge Management. There are certain things that leaders can do to promote the sharing of knowledge in the organization.

Tie your initiatives to your vision: Create and publish an integrated mission, vision, and values statement that endorses and sustains learning and transfer. It’s very important to showcase success stories at each executive meeting. Unless there is a clear indication of progress the executive backing for an initiative like this will quickly die out.

There has to be an emphasis on re-enforcing management commitment to identifying new ideas and removing barriers to progress. This has to be built on top of a robust rewards and recognition program, and most importantly, make sure you have the right people working on this.

The management as a rule is always looked up to for direction, and its the same with knowledge management, lead by example and show commitment to learning through action. Tell employee groups that the most important thing is to share and use best practices.

Once this has been accomplished start rolling out these initiatives across the rest of the organization.


Addressing Cultural Issues

March 15, 2007

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“Go the distance alone” – competitiveness is one of the biggest challenges to a Knowledge sharing culture. Unless you’ve been raised by Marxists, chances are competing with your classmates and colleagues has become a full time job for you. Schools and colleges stress individuality and competition, not collaboration and sharing, and so does the corporate world.

Knowledge Management is based on the foundation of selflessly sharing information. Now as naive as that sounds, it does work. There are certain challenges that need to be overcome however, that goes without saying. The biggest of these, as you probably guessed, is getting employees to part with their knowledge and share it with their peers.

The question i’m always asked when i propose this is ” Why should i share what makes me unique and valuable to the organization?”. A very serious concern that needs to be addressed. Unless the senior management changes their outlook on what makes an employee valuable, the culture of knowledge hoarding will continue to thrive.

So what makes an employee valuable, really valuable, to an organization? Well, if he manages to teach his colleagues to replicate this methods for success. Unlike most other initiatives Knowledge Management isn’t something that can be driven using a carrot and stick approach. Threatening or forcing KM down your employees throats would be the most counter productive move you could ever make. This will virtually guarantee that any future KM endeavors are regarded with scorn and dread.

While rewards are a direct means of getting a KM initiative off the ground, recognition and benefit are the actual factors that sustain KM in the long run.

What can you as managers and leaders do to facilitate a knowledge sharing culture in your organizations? Simple though it sounds, the best way is to recognize knowledge sharing and reward it.