Wednesday 27 June 2007

Extacit - KM Blog of the week!

One of my favourite KM bloggers, Stan Garfield, has recommended my post on General Motors as his "KM Blog of the Week" here.

As a novice blogger and KM student, this is a great honour for me. I read many KM blogs daily and I have always found Stan's "Weekly Knowledge Management" blog a fantastic read.

The technique used in dissecting the case study was taught to us by Damian Gordon, my lecturer, at the Dublin Institute of Technology. It was a very powerful tool for understanding and comparing case studies. I intend to use it for analysing material during my dissertation later this year.

So, of course, I highly recommend adding the Weekly Knowledge Management Blog by Stan Garfield to your blogroll for anyone interested in KM.

Tuesday 19 June 2007

Case Study: Sony VAIO community

Sony VAIO community: Taking advantage of Online Communities for generating Innovative Ideas

[Robert Tietz & Prof. Dr. Cornelius Herstatt]

What is the case study about?
It’s about the potential online communities can bring to pretty much any business. This is shown on an example of Sony Corporation and its line of VAIO computers.

What is the organisation?
Sony Corporation is one of the leading electronic and entertainment companies in the world.

What are the technology issues?
For many, Sony is perceived a fashionista accessory rather than a working tool. It is often over-priced and under-performing and this is most likely the main technological issue for this company. It is now seen as becoming more of a fashion house than a technology innovator.

Who are the principal actors?
Sony brand, Sony support and outside people interested in Sony.

What types of data were collected?
It can be considered both qualitative and quantitative because Webforums (other name for the described online communities) are a great source of both.

From which sources did they come?
In this case, all the data is coming from the Webforum.

How was the data recorded?
It is saved in the database. Any forum software has a database behind the scene and this one is no exception. Since mvnForum is a Java based application, the DB can be any supporting JDBC interface.

What was the situation previously?
CRM and market research.

What innovations have been introduced?
It is not clear what innovations were introduced in the company’s main business but the online community creation can be seen as an innovation in itself.

What were the general outcomes of this innovation?
People interested in Sony VAIO products could come to the site and utilise the public Knowledge and experience. And it this mutually beneficial process they (outside people) could become a source of innovation themselves.

What new technology has been introduced for this innovation?
The VAIO online community was built by on mvnForum software and so is a Java based application using JDBC to communicate to databases. What databases are used is not clear and if there are some advanced database techniques used (like data-mining) is not known either.

What went well in this innovation?
· People came;
· People talked;
· People criticised;
· People suggested;
· Customers have become Prosumers.

Case Study: General Motors

The General Motors Variation-Reduction Adviser: An Example of Grassroots Knowledge Management Development

[Alexander P. Morgan, John A. Cafeo, Diane I. Gibbons, Ronald M. Lesperance, Gulcin H. Sengir & Andrea M. Simon]

What is the case study about?
The case is about the V-R Adviser – one of GM’s takes on KM. The project was meant to help in dimensional control in a vehicle assembly centre and it appeared to succeed.

What is the organisation?
General Motors is one of the world’s leading carmakers, having surrendered the top spot to Toyota only this year. It has about 60 assembly centres worldwide and plans using this system in at least some of them.

What are the technology issues?
The company is big and its environment is very heterogeneous spanning many locations and technologies. Also, the existing Knowledge is very often hard to structure and codify which poses additional challenges.

Who are the principal actors?
GM employees.

What types of data were collected?
Process documents, lessons learned (solved problems), observations, message log. Also, expert Knowledge was captured in form of cases.

From which sources did they come?
GM employees and their records and documents as well as work processes.

How was the data recorded?
Since the system was using a case-based reasoning (CBR), the collected data was organized in form of cases. It was captured by both externalization and combination processes.

What was the situation previously?
The problems could be fixed only by experienced staff and even they had to consult other colleagues and some documentation. Very often it required a lot of speculations on possible causes and fixes which nobody was sure about.

What innovations have been introduced?
The mainly tacit Knowledge existing in Dimensional Management team was captured and structured. It was done with help from within the user communities which were organised as Communities of Practice. The system popularity was largely based on the user acceptance of the idea itself and being part of developing this idea into something really useful.

What were the general outcomes of this innovation?
The system was deemed a success and was planned to both get improved and distributed to other GM locations.

Are there any legal, social or ethic issues associated with this innovation?
Overcoming Knowledge hoarding could be a problem for any KM initiative but in this particular case there seemed to be no mention of it which can be attributed to the taken “grassroots” approach where the idea was to promote KM bottom-top rather than top-bottom. Also, centralized control was intentionally sacrificed in favour of emergent sharing behaviour inside Communities of Practice each of which was driven by a dedicated Knowledge leader acting as an evangelist.

How has the organisation changed as a result of innovation?
Since the KM experiment was on a small scale, there doesn’t appear to be any immediate global impact on how the organisation is structured or doing its business. However, V-R Adviser, did an impressive job in its environment and was spreading across to other departments.

What went well in this innovation?
· The climate within the company was fertile for this type of KM initiative and the organisational culture seemed KM-enaled;
· Users accepted the system;
· Users actively contributed to the system;
· The bottom-top approach seemed to work well for such kind of KM tasks;
· The existing tacit Knowledge was largely externalised and preserved.

What is Knowledge Management?

This was one of the questions on my Case Studies in Knowledge Management exam in May.

Here is what I wrote:

There are many definitions for Knowledge Management (KM). Many of these focus on the capturing, organising and storing knowledge and experiences of individuals and groups and making this information available (sharing) to others in the organisation.

For me, the most important aspect of this is the sharing of information. Communication, collaboration and accessibility of the information are key to successful KM. I believe that the “freeing” of information, be it explicit (in documents, folders, intranets etc) or tacit (experts, experiences), to make it visible and accessible to all, allows an organisation to make best use of its intellectual capital.

Enterprise Search, Wiki’s, Document Management Systems, Web 2.0 Intranets, & Communities of Practice are some of the buzzwords associated with KM. All of these contribute towards the “learning organisation”, one which can learn from past success and failures to better its’ future performance. We have seen many examples of these implementations in the case studies during this module and throughout previous modules.

There is also KM at a personal level (PKM), organising ones’ own knowledge. For example, I intend to store documents, papers and conversations with my supervisor on a personal Wiki to enable me to chart my thoughts and progress during my KM dissertation. This will also allow me to implement my 3 key factors above – communication, collaboration and sharing of information.