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[cdn-nucl-l] The no-brainers of knowledge management
Posted on itbusiness.ca on March 19, 2002 and at:
A lot of good points for management of the nuclear business...
The no-brainers of knowledge management
3/19/02 5:00:00 PM - How Canadian organizations are putting themselves
at risk as senior employees with insiders' expertise retire from the
by Gary Hilson
The economy is emerging as the underlying driver of knowledge
management adoption, but industry experts warn that many Canadian
enterprises aren't coming along for the ride.
According to a panel presented by Smart Toronto Tuesday comprised of
representatives from Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, PricewaterhouseCoopers
and Hewlett-Packard (Canada) Ltd., implementing a knowledge management
(KM) strategy involves and affects a number of stakeholders - the
customer, the employee, partners and suppliers.
KM refers to collection and sharing of information between employees,
customers and partners, and perhaps even more notably, the leveraging of
intangible information, unique to one organization, that is often found
only in the heads of employees.
"Fundamentally, the bottom line issue that everyone is talking about is
cost reduction," said Lisa Taylor, e-business team leader with
Mississauga-based HP Canada's consulting group. "How do I reduce my cost
while maintaining the same levels of service or even increasing levels
Despite the cost cutting challenges now, added Taylor, it is still
important to be able to retain the skilled employees so that the
organization is strong when economic conditions improve.
KM solutions usually involve many self-service features that enable
users - internal employees, for example - to access information they
require via an intranet portal.
While technology is an element of a KM strategy, it can't be championed
by the IT department alone, said Doug McCuaig, vice-president of
e-business services with Cap Gemini Ernst & Young. The affected business
units must be involved in any KM strategy, but an organization's IT
department can be a key facilitator in that they can say if the
technology is available and evaluate whether or not the risks involved
are mitigated, he said. A CIO or CTO can also speak to the acquisition
costs of any KM-related technology and what its total cost of ownership
"The biggest challenge over the last five years is technology people
have to be business people," said McCuaig. "They have to be an
interpreter of technology and what it can do to enable, and they have to
understand the business rationale as much as the technology."
Taylor said there are three key areas of leadership that have to come
together to make a knowledge management strategy successful - the
business lead (whoever is in charge of the affected business function,
the vice-president of sales and marketing, for example); the CFO, who
can say "Does this fit with overall corporate priorities of everything
else that is going on?"; and finally, the CIO or CTO, who can say
"What's the appropriate use of technology in order to achieve the goals
of both the lines of business as well as the financial objectives.
"Those three senior executives are coming together provide the entire
picture," Taylor said.
Heidi Amponsem, principal consultant with PricewaterhouseCoopers, said
there a two change cycles at work with an KM initiative - on one side is
the organizational change, which affects people and processes, and on
the other is the knowledge cycle, which happens closer to the technology
and structure side. Both of these cycles must be managed concurrently,
she said, in order for KM to be successful.
"Knowledge management is here and it's here to stay," said Amponsem.
However, adoption of KM in Canada has been slow, the panel agreed.
"I'd say we're not adopting it," said McCuaig, who calls himself a
"productivity buff." Canada is still lagging the U.S., he said. "I think
that we have a huge challenge. I think we're slow adopters of technology
. . . and slow adopters of innovation."
There are some success stories, McCuaig acknowledges, but also said that
there are some large Canadian organizations that will soon be facing a
mass exodus of employees due to retirement, taking the knowledge in
their heads with them.
"In Canada we hear a lot of discussion about knowledge management," said
Amponsem. "I think a lot of companies and governments want to embrace
it, but are just too fearful to get started on something - everybody
wants to have a complete solution all at once, and it's just too big
that no one can start."