Sunday, 14 March 2010

When it IS right to capture

Cast that net
Originally uploaded by DieselDemon
I know that knowledge is difficult to capture. I know it loses massive value with documentation. I know that it is better to Connect than Collect, given the option. I know that pull works better than push. I know that trying to capture all you know in a massive database is almost always the wrong approach to KM.

However note the ALMOST. There are circumstances where this may actually be the right thing, and those circumstances are where a small core of experts needs to distribute mature knowledge (ie knowledge that isn't going to change much) to a huge group of non-expert people.

Like in a global service company, for example.

Like in Schlumberger.

Schlumberger has once again been recognized as a Global Most Admired Knowledge Enterprise. This is the fourth time Schlumberger has appeared on the global top-20 list since the study’s inception 12 years ago. Schlumberger is a global oil-sector service company with 77,000 people of more than 140 nationalities working in approximately 80 countries (many of them with releatively few years in the organisation) supplying an array of high-tech equipment to very demanding customers. Providing product and support knowledge to the customer interface is key, but how do you do this for 77,000 reasonably inexperienced people?

Here's how Schlumberger describe their KM approach

"The InTouch database, which contains more than one million knowledge items and
receives 8 million views per year, is typically the first recourse for field
engineers experiencing a persistent technical problem. Since inception, the
InTouch system has improved response time by 95% for resolving technical
queries, and by 75% for deploying engineering modifications globally. These
reductions translate directly into improved operational performance and service
to Schlumberger’s customers"

Hmmmm - a knowledge database? A million knowledge items? SOunds like exactly the solution that people say "won't work" for KM.

However InTouch is not the only component of the KM system at Sclumberger. There's the access to the expertise as well - the tacit domain is covered. See below

"It also comprises a team of 125 dedicated InTouch engineers available to help
solve field issues one-on-one. These specialists, who “sleep with beepers and
cell phones,” have at least five years of field experience and are drawn from
all of the company’s product and domain segments. Their location within the
company’s research and technology centers gives them immediate access to the
scientists and engineers involved in developing the products and services in the
first place".

Also Schlumberger promotes Connect as well as Collect, as follows

"Schlumberger also supports 284 internal Eureka technical bulletin boards, many
of which log 20 or more discussion threads per week. “You have field and InTouch
engineers interacting through the InTouch system,” says Rosenbaum. “But you also
have field engineers helping other field engineers on the bulletin boards.
InTouch engineers routinely scan these discussion threads to glean information
and spot experienced contacts.”

And it's not just push from the centre - theres a learning cycle involved as well ....

"Increasingly, the flow of knowledge is cyclical, making it more robust than
ever. “Field engineers can flag content on the InTouch database that they feel
is outdated, to ensure it gets checked,” says Rosenbaum. “We’re using the power
of the people to keep our information up to date.”

and that push from the centre is personalised .....

"InTouch engineers also use the company’s extensive employee search capabilities
to identify people according to location, technical domain, level of expertise,
and job type. This enables them to push pertinent information to a selected
audience. If a piece of hardware needs a modification, for example, everyone who
may be affected by the change can be made aware of it".

Sorry for the massive quotes there, but it's very interesting to see a hollistic and integrated approach like this, but with a database at the heart. KM is all about horses for courses, and there are some courses where you need a powerful workhorse like InTouch, provided you have the other Km elements to support it.

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