Knowledge Management Cases in Asia/Knowledge Management Practice in Telecommunication Industry
Chang Mei Ying, WIndy; Chow Wai Ching, Vivian; Huen Mei Ying, Harmony; Lam Tsz Kwan, Katherine; Yeung Sum Sze, Cissie
- 1 Abstract
- 2 Introduction
- 3 Literature Review
- 4 Research Methods
- 5 Case Study
- 5.1 Purpose of KM implementation in P & W
- 5.2 Knowledge Management Pilot Project
- 5.3 Knowledge Management Real Practice
- 5.4 Knowledge Management Cycle
- 5.5 Knowledge Management Tools and Applications
- 5.6 Purpose of KM implementation in H&C
- 5.7 Knowledge Management Pilot Project
- 5.8 Knowledge Management Tools and Applications
- 6 Findings & Analysis of the Case Study
- 7 Conclusions
- 8 Acknowledgements
- 9 References
Having a rapid business expansion in the telecommunication industry, organizations have adopted systems in managing good knowledge so as to maintain as the competitive enterprises in the global market. In this study, we intend to explore how knowledge management (KM) took place in organizations when developing technology intelligence within the telecommunication sector. With best practice of KM research, we make focus on the study of human resources and technology as the major solutions to the KM issues. The results presented in this study are based on interviews with information professionals and corresponding research resources.
Hong Kong has one of the most sophisticated and successful telecommunications markets in the world (OFTA, 2007). In view of the rapid growth in market expansion, it comes up to be the leading business sector in Hong Kong’s development. Such that, organizations engage with good practices for getting benefits of high business rewards and large segment of potential customers. Good practices are adopted by successful companies which are able to create new knowledge and further transferred and fully utilized within the companies (Nonaka, 1991). Shared understanding of good knowledge gradually becomes the main perspective in business culture. By referring to the real case study of KM application in the telecommunication industry, we are able to examine how the management tools drive the entire business processes with effective KM strategies and resources allocation. With best practices located through interview meetings and research review, we are provided with important information for a comprehensive investigation.
On the other hand, having professional experiences from field observation, we date concentration on the development of the KM strategies in the telecommunication industry. As for further analysis of the strength and weakness of the KM implementation, we provide with related recommendation for improvement as well as the future prospectus for KM development in the industry.
Role of Knowledge Management in the Telecommunication Industry
Telecommunications has taken up a long development history in Hong Kong’s economy. Generally it is directly responsible for the growth of the service sector in the community. With state-of-the-art IT infrastructure and excellence world network built, telecommunication industry demonstrates its true worth to the Hong Kong society. Since 1995, telecommunication market in Hong Kong is open for keen competition. Following the expiry franchise of Hong Kong Telephone Company Limited (HKTC), the other three new companies (New World Telephone Limited, New T&T Hong Kong Limited and Hutchison Communications Limited) were licensed to provide local fixed telecommunication services on a competitive basis. Such that, a high range of quality telecommunication services are available in the market at reasonable costs. As to maintain excellent service and to survive in the competitive market, individual organization has developed a systematic approach leading to the achievement of ultimate business goals.
Serve as important business intelligence
Telecommunication industry is often described as the “Sunset industry” for the reason that of rapid growth in product innovation and technology development. Information transfer circulates around the market speedily which uphold most of the input for business activities and operational processes. In the competitive marketplace, business organizations have to keep updated with the global trend and current status about telecommunications in order to lead a significant position among competitors. In view of the business structure, telecommunications are featured with hybrid science of collaborations among people, process and technology. The key issue for business benefit is to integrate those three components with a standardized and favorable management system. The shared knowledge system provides workers a comprehensive way to capture knowledge from individuals to the whole enterprises, so that valuable information and skillful experiences within the companies are retained. Besides, intellectual capital from workers offers as knowledge experts for business activities and future development at different aspects. When facing business conflicts and production problems, the knowledge intensive process works with the case by providing effective solutions for performance improvement. In addition, business intelligence enhances communications among departments so that co-operative team production can be more integrated with strong collaboration from different divisions. Having a high degree of accuracy and accessibility for information enables the organizations to respond more quickly upon market changes and decision-making.
Keep along as good practice captured
Nowadays, most developed countries pursue the global trend to engage into information society. It is a society centering the information life cycle as the main economic activities and participating with activate promote of information literacy. With the processes of creation, use, distribution, maintenance and disposal, information circulations around the cycle play a significant role for economic growth and wealth making. Telecommunications tie with the global market and master the inventive technologic advancement. On the one hand, we make contribution in technology innovation and create new information, and on the other hand, we pile up information generated and make out knowledge accumulation. Information can be easily lost if we keep it without good practice and relevant management procedures. Organizations in the telecommunication community have increasingly adapted into cultural changes upon working behaviors and business performances. At present, KM is the key factor leading to industrial success. By bringing in professional experts and consultants, workers are educated with KM practices so as to support productive procedures and further achieve business goals. After inputting KM as the major production scheme, communications among workers improve and hence the understanding between departments. New discovery of production processes with KM concepts makes progress for business achievements. Such knowledge is reusable which flows around in the knowledge management cycle for generating new knowledge.
Manage relationships with key customers
In the telecommunication market, people are the core aspect in knowledge management application, from integrating numerous informative transactions to generating innovative business knowledge. For an ordinary telecommunication company, typically sales people work at the frontline in the business production and deal with customers providing high-quality services and in return, getting numerous business transactions. This kind of business production pattern depends heavily on the people issue and that the skills bearing from the sales persons place influences on the production progress and achievement. By the means of knowledge management, information is handled and stored with appropriate classifications so that it can easily be retrieved and transferred regarding different needs urged from workers. In the past, workers had to search out the information in persons and such cases really tool up a long time and even a high cost for business operations. Further, it hindered the processes of transacting customer orders to be followed and managed. In order to improve the productivity level in entire operation process, organizations get started with knowledge development and intend to maintain good relationships with their potential customers. Large amount of customer information shows a majority in business production resources. With effective handling procedure and organization support, knowledge-intensive process retains the important customer information as well as the consumption pattern as the indication for making strategic business decisions and future development goals.
Build up as valuable organization assets
The emergence of the knowledge management locates as the chief execution in organization assets and knowledge repositories within the telecommunication market. It is the main objective to capture the human capital into explicit knowledge and to be understandable and long-lasting. Among the telecommunication organizations, it is true that dynamic changes in workforce show a positive percentage compared with other industry. Workers in the telecommunication market get a high tendency to shift employment from one company to another, which indicate the possibility of human capital being carried away since staff resign and leave the companies. To maintain sufficient human resources and build up informative support for business production, KM gives out contribution making up company’s own knowledge base by turning implicit knowledge into explicit knowledge. Accumulated KM strategies tend to be reusable and serve as the organization assets. KM implementation ties with organization objectives and integrates with different communities of practices among knowledge experts from various divisions in the companies. Shared knowledge and business intelligence bring in the most valuable resources for improved business performance and competitive advantages against competitors in the market. The practice of KM focuses on the management of specific knowledge gained from different organizational experts, and also addresses the development and cultivation of the channels through which knowledge would flow along with. By understanding the regular functions of the KM cycle, organizations can streamline business process for co-operating with different related sectors of the market.
Before we look into the details of the case study we have done, we will first give a general introduction of knowledge management by introducing the definitions of KM. What is Knowledge Management?
Knowledge is not a new issue nowadays and many KM expertises have made excellent definitions to “What is KM”. The most well-known definition that we are familiar with is coined by one of the famous KM experts – Karl Wiig. Wiig (1997) said that “KM is the systematic, explicit, deliberate building, renewal, and application of knowledge to maximize an enterprise’s knowledge-related effectiveness and returns from its knowledge assets”. Knowledge management is defined differently in varied organizations. Malhotra (1998) made a new definition of KM in the new business world – “Knowledge Management caters to the critical issues of organizational adoption, survival and competence in face of increasingly discontinuous environmental change. Essentially, it embodies organizational processes that seek synergistic combination of data and information processing capacity of information technologies, and the creative and innovative capacity of human beings.”
This new definition of KM tries to go beyond the urgent solutions or uni-dimensional views offered by many others. It also intends to move the thinking of organizations’ executives towards the strategic, non-linear and systemic view of KM. Malhotra also discovered that there is always confusion between “knowledge” and “information” in the new business world. Knowledge and information are distinct entities. Those “dictated norms” generated by the computer systems is not a very accurate carrier of human interpretation for potential action, users usually cannot find the “knowledge” they really want. This confusion between `knowledge' and `information' has caused managers to spend large amount of money in technology ventures that have yielded marginal results.
Although there are so many definitions on KM, they all have something in common. They are all concern about two dimensions of People and Knowledge. KM lies in the relationship between these two dimensions, mediated by various systems and processes. It is generally seen as “a comprehensive approach which recognizes the inter-dependency for the organizational effectiveness of people, the technology, the systems and processes within which they use it.” (Brelade, 2003) After introducing the core concept KM, we will now move to focus on the industrial background our study object lies in – telecommunication.
Knowledge Management in Telecommunications Industry
Knowledge management is critical to all kinds of industry which can help the organizations to consider how to capture the knowledge resident in the organization. Especially for the telecommunications industry in which its operation rely on hundreds of or thousands of knowledge workers all over the world, it is important for them to communicate and share their knowledge. Therefore, telecom companies nowadays are willing to make investments to capture as much knowledge as possible from their most experienced workers. Many large telecommunications service provides start to create a senior-level management position to ensure that KM activities operate effectively. According to Strouse (2001), large telecom companies such as British Telecom, AT&T, and Deutsche Telekomm have created chief knowledge officer positions, it shows the fact that the telecommunications industry believe that intellectual assets have value.
Strouse (2001) has also stated several components that are important to an effective KM system in telecommunications industry.
1. IT supports needs to be adequate in both scale and communications response time.
2. Database should include user-friendly search capabilities.
3. Tools in the search engine need to pinpoint the proper information when requested.
4. Processes need to support the facilitation of information retrieval and must be in place to assist in the creation of new information.
5. System performance metrics should be maintained in order to help to determine the criteria for new data to enter the system.
6. Type of data to be available must pass tests defined in the design phase, it should be limited to information that will increase the performance of employees or improve the customer’s experience.
7. Effective incentives and supportive core values should be encouraged to the most expert employees to share their knowledge.
People also always argue that the benefits of knowledge management systems appear to be too theoretical to measure; the following is an example of returns from implementing KM in telecommunication industry. Quantification of benefits is most obvious in customer service sectors such as sales and customer support department. For example, a customer service center could use a knowledge management system to help service representatives to identify the source of problems by listing troubleshooting measures that were successful in the past. Therefore, more problems are resolved with a single call in customer service centers. Telecommunications service providers have used KM systems to increase their sales productivity. Sales representatives tend to specialize in those services that they have sold successfully in the past. KM systems can assist to increase sales by providing information about services with which the sales representative is less familiar with.
Knowledge Management Tools and Strategies in Telecommunications Industry
US West (Lewis-Chan, 1998)
Firstly, we will examine how the telecoms giants – US West reacted to knowledge challenge: the majority of its 47,000 employees will be eligible to retire in the year 2002 taking the bulk of the knowledge in the organization with them. We will also look at what suggestions that the Global Village Labs (GVL) has given.
Before planning the details of KM solutions, GVL have set some business goals:
1. Work within a time frame. Try to complete all projects within three months.
2. Deliver 10x on every project—a $10 million bottom-line return for every $one million spent. Accordingly, every project must have a clear business purpose and the measures to show it has been delivered. Rather than only looking at the literal requirements, the group tries to work with its internal clients to determine what the systemic effects might be.
3. Reject projects that have no chance of succeeding and no clear business value.
Major problems existed in US West and GVL’s solutions:
1. GVL discovered that there was a backlog, an enormous amount of errors and rework, and lost revenue due to lost customers. Solution: GVL team started to pool and codifies the needed knowledge. They turned it into a corporate asset, and distributed the new ordering tool via the intranet.
2. Local knowledge of US West was stored in numerous systems. This resulted in unfulfilled orders and incomplete information leading to missed commitments. Solution: The data was pooled and access was given across the system, providing completeness and corroboration. Again, the tool was distributed across the intranet. Users were motivated because the system was easy to use. Missed commitments were reduced dramatically.
3. The 65 agents assigned to the helpdesk provide assistance on 130 applications across the company, responding to about 40,000 calls per month. Traditionally, calls were assigned to people who were experts on the specific application with the problem; they wanted to capture the expertise to solve these problems in a system so that more people could have access to it. Solution: GVL chose a Web-based Inference product to build the system on. It converted personal knowledge into a corporate asset. Statistics are recorded on which cases are most frequently invoked. This enables identification and elimination of the root cause of the problem.
ORANGE (Minogue-White, 2006)
Secondly, we will then look into what work have been done across the KM at a well-known international telecom company – Orange
Orange’s strategies to implement KM: Orange emphasize on the training and learning of staff appropriately within their multinational, highly complex, knowledge based organization. They want all their employees to be competent in which they aim to learn from experience on how to improve working practices, how to excel at them and how to pass learning on. The KM team in Orange had to look at the way in which training can best adapt to and support rapid changing needs. Orange’s story is an excellent example to reflect how to bring the disciplines of KM, training and HR together in a knowledge community, so that the organization can be more flexible and timely in meeting changing needs and build capability for continuous improvement. What KM team in Orange has done? The Orange KM team had uncovered a wealth of good practice and innovative learning techniques. They share the techniques with all training professionals at other countries and provide a channel for others to access.
Orange also makes use of the knowledge communities like joining forum to share professional techniques. In early stage, such events concentrated primarily on getting to know each other through understanding current challenges, budget issues, key knowledge areas and the range of learning techniques employed. But now, much exchange and sharing of approaches and resources occurred; it gives the members access to training and workshop materials throughout the group. Orange have developed large amount of relevant context and materials, therefore, members can take these materials and add this to their training portfolio at a greatly reduced cost.
British Telecom (Auckland, 1999)
Lastly, we will examine the KM challenge that British Telecom (BT) faced and how they combated the challenge. The challenge that BT faced is that they find difficult to retain the discipline of customer focus while developing rich and extensive knowledge sharing. The team recognized that the lack of knowledge-sharing was inhibiting the business. They also found that learning from other sectors’ previous projects, experience and expertise could speed up new projects. Through the mass customization strategy, innovative new products and solutions could be created.
Strategy 1: Top Down Communication. They inform the employee on strategy, business performance and market knowledge via internal conferences and intranet sites. They also changed the design of the corporate scorecard to align with the new strategy. To encourage the knowledge-sharing, they increased the reward given to sector managers for achieving organizational goals.
Strategy 2: Targeting Critical Communities. The KM initiative team in BT would target those communities relating to their industry and working in partnership with them, such as develop, implement and measure the right knowledge strategies, tools and techniques to enhance the value proposition to the business. They also work closely with several other business units within BT and establish networking with knowledge practitioners in other major corporations so as to ensure they learned from others and brought in the right help as required.
Problems have been solved by employing KM practices
“Knowledge management aims to exploit an organization’s information for greater productivity, new value and increased competitiveness, and also to encourage the exchange of tacit knowledge.” (Davies, 2000) The performances of an organization will be affected by the effectiveness of the knowledge management practices. “Knowledge management (KM) must be applied in the right place at the right time. “(Coleman, 1998) It is more efficient in the daily operations of an organization if the people can get the right information in the right time. In fact, it is difficult to create successful knowledge management networks. It “requires skilled managers that master social processes and that understand how people learn and share knowledge. The limited empirical knowledge on how knowledge networks are set up in high-tech organizations may result that issues and problems encountered during the set up process become overwhelming. If the problems are not tackled properly the outcome will be unsuccessful knowledge networks which only consume financial resources and undermine the trust for management.” (Schönström, 2005) “One KM solution is an extranet that supports the sharing of knowledge between departments and a client.” (Coleman, 1998) By using the extranet, the client can post the messages and comment the performances of an organization through the website of an organization. Also, the department can have a better understanding of the clients’ needs in order to provide the better services.
Future trends of Knowledge Management in Telecommunication Industry
Nowadays, the telecommunication industries will bring together “the disciplines of knowledge management, training and HR in a knowledge community enabled the organization to become more flexible and timely in meeting changing needs and build capability for continuous improvement.” (Minogue-White, 2006) In order to meet the changing needs in the market, the telecommunication industries will employ the KM practices as an element of training. Thus, the staff in an organization can have the deeper understanding in the concepts of the KM practices. Also, the concept of communities of practice (CoP) is also encouraged in the telecommunication industries. The groups of people can share the ideas and knowledge in order to put the duplication of effort on the same incident. Besides, not only the formal groups of people can share the ideas, the informal groups of people can also share the idea among themselves. “Knowledge communities had already proven to be a successful and popular method to share professional techniques in a number of areas (including legal, fraud and revenue assurance, security and finance).” (Minogue-White, 2006) According to Davies (2000), the challenge for organizations is to support such communities and make them effective. Moreover, the Intranet becomes commonly used as one of the KM practice in the telecommunication industries. Intranet plays an important role in the more effective exploitation of both explicit and tacit knowledge. “Tacit knowledge is considered to be a vital component in innovation and product development processes.” (Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995) It is difficult to articulate. “To transfer tacit knowledge is however difficult due to its dependence of the knower and the context where it was created.” (Orlikowski, 2002). By using the Intranet, people can share both the explicit and tacit knowledge through the Intranet, thus the people can get the updated information easily.
Information collected and findings gathered for the study are mainly divided into two sections, interview questions and professional experiences.
We have conducted an informal interview with the General Manager of the department in the company, Mr. Chan, in 2007. Prior to his employment in H&C, he was one of the contributors in KM implementation of P&W. He has greatly contributed to our study and provided us with quality information about KM practice both in P&W and H&C. The interview questions are shown in the Appendix 1. Further description and investigation will be shown in the case study.
Having the opportunities working as summer intern in H&C, three of our team members gain a basic understanding about the ordinary operation process within the department. We have participated in various projects and take post in responsible for improved information management system. What we have observed can be input into the case study for research use. Besides, we hold some documentations in hand which are related to KM issues of the industry. We have asked for permission on the use of those documents from the department and Mr. Chan has also introduced us some useful business profiles about KM practice, both for organizations and the whole industry.
In this part, we would like to present our study and investigation on the KM implementation status with two large telecommunication organization, P&W and H&C.
As we understand that well managed customer and staff knowledge was the major competitive advantages among telecommunication, we target this industry as our project study and research subject. P&W has a long development history in the telecommunication market. It is the largest and most comprehensive provider of communications services in Hong Kong and one of the Asia’s leading performers in Information and Communications Technologies (ICT). P&W is often awarded with innovative technology and excellence business practice. For example, it supports the knowledge initiatives on the scale of the technology-themed Cyberport project and help make Hong Kong and IT hub around the international market. The company has employed KM practice which stimulates production progress and offers business intelligence to sales persons in order to provide high-quality services for potential customers. In this paper, we study how the extraordinary KM development brings in benefits to the company and turns into the good practice of the industry.
Having started its business in 1995, H&C is one of the newly established telecom companies in recent decade. Enjoying the most contemporary development in technologic creation and international communication network, H&C has been connected to China telecommunication market, making the first new fixed network provider in Hong Kong to offer direct telecommunications links with the Mainland. In view of the fact that KM practice holds as the key success factor to enterprise achievements among organizations in the industry, senior management in H&C believes that intellectual capital has its own value and they are willing to make investment for the KM implementation. As for the case, KM practice in the H&C positions at the very beginning stage, we aim at determining its KM procedures at current stage and compare its development framework with those in P&W.
Purpose of KM implementation in P & W
Competition was introduced by Hong Kong government in telecommunication industry in 1995, to instead of monopoly service provider for one century. Each of the new entrants can build their own network to provide new service at highly competitive prices. It is a great challenge for all the telecommunication companies to sustain and increase their market share for the dynamic changes.
Mr. Chan worked as a manger for pre-sales and bid management in P&W at that time, to lead around 70 staff in his unit. He was responsible of bidding for those landmark projects, such as Cyberport project, Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center project, etc. In the very beginning, He was not aware of KM concept yet, only assigned to increase the winning bid rate from 20% to 30%, or ever reach 50%, to reduce the high cost of bidding preparations. Normally, it takes 9 months to complete the whole bid process. Mr. Chan called it as knowledge intensive process, on which they have spent significant resources. The bidding preparation includes discussion with customer on tender specification before bid book publishing, potential competitor analysis, costing and return on investment estimation, technical solution determination etc. To avoid wasting time and human resources, they need to know how much possibility they have to focus those highly recommended tenders.
As a matter of fact, the bid team has done something related to KM all along, but without an explicit KM practice. When they won the bid, manager would praise the team members and use the constant strategy for the coming bid projects. If the team failed the bid, they would discuss and find reasons or elements that they had not prepared enough for. However, this ordinary after-review could not reflect the real situation, since staff may feel fear of the responsibility of losing the bid.
Knowledge Management Pilot Project
To improve bidding performance, Mr. Chan invited one of his friends, a KM professional from Cambridge University, to present KM concept to the high level of management. Getting justification and budget for initial approval, they got started to undertake a KM pilot project in bidding team first. The consultant conducted a systematic survey to study how well the employees have done with respect to supporting KM in terms of collecting, storing, classifying, distributing, harvesting and reusing the knowledge.
Conducting the first survey within the bid team, the consultant only rated 30s score from total 500 score, which was far worse up to the standard. When the consultant conducted the second survey on the 3rd months after introducing and applying KM methods, the bid team got 50s score, and then 100s score after 6 months. Finally, they achieved 200s score on the 9th month. Most importantly, the bidding performance has been improved since the implementation of pilot project.
Knowledge Management Real Practice
The success of pilot project convinced Mr. Chan and senior level of management to implement a comprehensive KM practice within the entire P & W, from bid team to product sales and marketing department, customer service department, and engineering department as well. “We have shifted ordinary management level to extraordinary management level after KM practice.” Mr. Chan said. This top-bottom awareness of KM prompted the project easily in the whole organization. There are at least three types of staff evolved in the bid process in P&W, like sales, bidder and technical expertise. Once the bid was completed, the KM facilitator would conduct interviews with structured questions to collect comments or experiences from each related individual. Then the KM facilitator codified and categorized the information into specific project file. Except confidential information like financial records, the conceptualized content would be released in knowledge base for sharing among all the related staff.
The role of KM facilitator is neutral. It does not matter whether the interviewees’ comments is positive or not. The KM facilitator can validate their understanding of positive comments, and conceptualize the lesson learned from negative side as well. They need capture the tacit knowledge from interviewees into codified explicit knowledge, and teach staff to use the KM tools, more significantly, to stimulate the trust and knowledge sharing culture in the company. KM practice is a continual and on-going process to form knowledge pool. The KM facilitator usually set a short term target on a 6 or 9 month basis, to get quick result as soon as possible, and then repeat again to accumulate the knowledge into knowledge pool. Optimally, KM project is to streamline business process. However, KM staff need recognize the potential improvement method on each element in KM cycle first, and then, business process reengineering will come naturally to find the core knowledge of company. After two years KM practice, P & W became the only company in Hong Kong to win The Top Ten Knowledge Management Award in Asia.
Knowledge Management Cycle
Following a unique designed KM cycle, organization takes advantage to motivate business performance and streamline production process. Intellectual capital is first captured among workers which then turn into common practice and company expertise. With growing knowledge base such as database system or portal network, captured knowledge is stored properly with various classifications and then further shared within the organization. Every department in the company has its own knowledge base and experts. With better communication between departments, collaboration can be more easily carried out for large business projects and knowledge from different experts can suit for different needs derived from various business events. After that, knowledge generated will be documented, making the tacit knowledge and know-how of experts to be available to each other through KM education in the company. Knowledge harvesting is an approach allowing a wider use of existing knowledge to a much wider range of people. Capable case study of KM practice in the company will be codified as best practice showing around at the portal network and KM system. Once particular project was completed, the KM facilitator conducted interviews to review evaluation and measure the usefulness of knowledge being codified. Lastly a knowledge pool is formed through accumulation of critical knowledge.
Knowledge Management Tools and Applications
P&W use a wide range of tools in knowledge acquisition, codification and dissemination. Technology is used in order to meet the needs of communication, collaboration, learning and navigation. For example, Microsoft Word Processing is commonly used to create content, Microsoft Project is used to monitor project schedule, and XML-based protocol is used for communication networks. Ultimately, P & W use Portal as a means of KM platform. The Portal has enabled the staff to access Project Library, Discussion forum, E-learning, Subscription Alert, Taxonomy, Yellow Page and other functions.
The Best Practice would be formulated where more than 10 projects have been completed under the same subject, which is determined as the most efficient way to provide business solution by line manager in each discipline. When a new or less experienced staff dealt with the similar project, they can locate The Best Practice to find the method and solution for reference. If only a few projects have done before, the portal also provides Lesson Learned from previous works. If the project has not been encountered at all, staff still could locate Yellow Page to contact the experts for advices. Discussion Forum is used for post questions and responses. The staff was able to post his request on any technical or managerial issues; any other colleague could suggest possible solution in forum. Moreover, the staff could call a weekend gathering in forum, to count the people for entertainment booking. The frequent interaction among staff has encouraged the trusted and friendly relationship in the organization.
E-learning is used for teaching sessions under different disciplines, e.g. new sales training, new product presentation or new service demonstration. Every staff can download the teaching material to acquire primary knowledge on their own. This self-directed function let staff arrange learning plan according to individual schedule, to save the cost to held physical session once and once again.
Subscription Alert is a kind of personalized assistance to deploy the information to staff account after setting preference. Once there was new knowledge released under the subscripted discipline, staff could receive the alert to locate the contents at the earliest. E-mail is designed to compose and send the message among staff, and attach the files with a message. Furthermore, Group Calendar allows the staff to schedule their meetings, and detect if meeting times conflict occurred.
Purpose of KM implementation in H&C
H&C established in 1995 and committed to satisfy customer’s need with better services by building the fibre-optic network. Nowadays, H&C is also the largest "fibre-to-the-building" telecommunications network in Hong Kong. With the growing scope of services provided and the dealing with several hundred thousands of customers, sharing of knowledge is being concerned. And the KM concept penetrates among H &C in recent year since Mr. Chan is transferred to this organization. The first department that KM is implemented is Sale and Marketing Department. This is because of the department head, Mr. Chan, have a strong passion on putting KM into practice.
Sale and Marketing Department is divided into several divisions, such as Product Development division and Logistics & Business Intelligence support division. They work together to promote and operate of the local communication services including IDD, Internet Broadband and Voice. Therefore, each division within the department is closely co-related. Mr. Chan is strongly believed that efficient flow of knowledge sharing could enhance the daily business process and also providing a better quality service to customers.
Knowledge Management Pilot Project
Though there is a strong initiative on introducing KM into H&C, large investment is needed in this project. Therefore, Mr. Chan would like to prove the success of the KM to Top Management by starting the KM application in the Sale and Marketing Department. He stated that each unit in H&C actually already had its own function KM, but there is a lack of integrated strategy of a enterprise-wide KM, which is an extra-ordinary KM. Referring to his explanation, ordinary KM means each units just satisfy their own immediate information need. Actually, those information could be pooled and share among whole organization in order to shorten the business process time. He thinks this is a common situation and obstacle faced that newly KM developing organization may faced. Therefore, he wants to change the pattern of existing culture of knowledge transformation. He would like to develop a trust and willing to share relationship among employees. A software called “let’s share” and “e-learning” platform are introduced with his aims. Detailed of the software and platform will be discuss in following part. Also, a project of building a comprehensive data mining system is in processes. This system could systematize and synchronize whole department selling information and thus could generate an immediate, accurate and updated report upon manager’s request. In the field of telecommunication activities, the best use of advanced information technology has become the major contribution to the great turnover and huge information flow among the organizations. Accurate and efficient information dissemination is the essential factor in developing global markets against all kinds of competitors.
Knowledge Management Tools and Applications
As mentioned above, “Let’s Share” software is introduced to promote the knowledge sharing among employees. It is a collaboration tool. It enhances the communication and information sharing among employees. For example, people share on the same desktop view or presentation materials simultaneously though they are located at disparate area. They can co-operate to edit on the same document/power-point slide at the same time and thus enhance the knowledge sharing. With the “Share File” function of this product, sharing computer file are no longer limited by the means (E-mail, Compact Disc) and also not limited by the time (Using MSN Messenger, ICQ as transferring tools, then wait for the receiver online). People are sharing the information at any time, anywhere. Thus, a stronger and closer relationship built. It is assumed that the uses of the “Let’s Share” could facilitate the communication among employees and also change the existing culture of knowledge transformation.
In additions to the “Let’s Share” software, an “E-Learning” platform is also introduced. This is particular useful for training despite the time and place the staff want to learn about the product. The “E-Learning” platform captures the existing knowledge (i.e. Product concept, selling script and demonstration), codify and make them be available to all potential users. This self-learning concept is endorsed so as to shorten the problem-solving process and save the company resources ultimately.
Findings & Analysis of the Case Study
By reviewing the case study of P&W and H&C, we understand more about the real practice on implementing KM into organization. And thus several success factors for KM practice are generated.
Success factor of Knowledge Management
Bring abstract to practical
At present, KM is a new and quite abstract concept in Hong Kong commercial society, which could raise confuses within the organization. As existing business firm has operated its enterprise under a long-established working culture. Workers have already adapted to the traditional management style and business environment. Therefore, it is hard for them to accept the emergence of new KM management. From that case, Mr. Chen suggested us not to take the name of KM into account, rather than regarding it as part of general management. To promote KM into the business operations, the senior management should be the first group to believe that KM could bring benefits to the company. Without a firm faith and strong belief of KM success, it is definitely a barrier leading to business failure. All the senior managers should have the common goals and get the same consensus into the KM implementation. After that, the firm can hold different seminars and learning talks to promote KM. By means of different stages or phases, KM concept is progressively promoted to different divisions or departments within the organization. Once the whole organization became familiar with the KM procedure and system, the KM concept can be introduced gradually in width and depth then
Patience, Passion and Persistence of Management
Patience and persistence is the key for a successful KM practice. From the P&W cases, it shows us the facts that KM will not promise an immediate financial return. Therefore the patience of senior level of Management is critical. The most failed KM projects are quitted within the first year. No matter what reason caused the failure, it would be far more difficult to re-start the project in the coming years. Therefore, a small scale of pilot project can be implemented on a trial basis. Once the experiment is successful, KM manager can convince the senior level of management to finance and support the KM project. Also, passion for KM practice can drive the KM project to achieve the result. It takes long time to see the achievement. Multidisciplinary nature of KM brings a challenge for the KM facilitators, who need devote themselves in varied field such as cognitive science, sociology and information technology. Lack of passion, the KM practice would easily cease on any obstacles encountered. On the other hand, the more people participation in KM practice, the more value KM can generate. That is why most KM application adopted in the big firms, since small sized enterprise can share the experiences in more informal way.
Corporate cultural can either courage or discourage knowledge sharing. In the interview, Mr. Chan gave us two examples from his experience. One is to do with a non-profit institution, in which most staffs were serving as social workers for various volunteer communities. Those staff truly took pleasure to share their knowledge, but reluctant to be rated as the best practice. Another case referred his current working field, where staffs have striven for the best performance, but possessing concern to share their knowledge. Hence, the need for building knowledge sharing culture shows the extreme importance in KM practice.
According to Davies (2000), the challenge for organizations is to support knowledge communities and make them effective. To deal with this issue, ‘Let’s Share” and “E-Learning” platform are introduced by H&C, with the support of communities of practice (CoP) concept. Effective incentives and supportive core values should be encouraged to the most expert employees to share their knowledge (Strouse, 2001). CoP is encouraged in the telecommunication industries in the future KM development trend. We believed that the usefulness of informal knowledge sharing have the same weight with formal sharing. Instead of forcing people to share their knowledge with each other, the informal way could prevent the large resistance from employees. Encouraging the knowledge sharing informally enables the groups of people easily absorb and accept the idea of sharing their knowledge voluntarily in order to put the duplication of effort on the same incident.
Learning from the real case study, literature and KM text books, maintaining the continuity sustainability of Knowledge management is a long term task. It is concluded the successes of a KM project in organization are depends on the involvement and contribution of all the parties, especially strong initiative and passionate Top Management. The inter-related characteristics of KM create the complexity on real world practice. In order to develop an Enterprise-wide KM, an integrated view must be adopted. Not only should the theoretical and technology aspects be pay attention to, but also the cultural adoption and education among the participants (i.e. staffs within the department and whole organization).
Thank you for Mr. Eric Chan sharing his wonderful experience about performing the KM project with us and also the valuable data provided from staffs of Sales and Marketing department. Besides, thanks for the graceful support from our course lecturers and follow classmates. Finally, gratitude is expressed for the contribution of our group mate.
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Interview Questions are shown as follow:
1. When did you adopt Km program in P&W?
2. How was the development of KM in P&W?
3. Why do you start KM program in H&C?
4. Can you describe the current status of the KM application in H&C?
5. Have you come across any difficulties? How do solve it?
6. What are the benefits and weaknesses of current KM practices?
7. Which elements in the KM program do you think are the most important for H&C? During the implementation, is that element cost you most heavily?
8. What is the future plan of KM development in H&C?
9. Can you share some interesting KM cases related to telecommunications industry? As a vice-chairman of the KMDC, how you feel about the prospectus of KM development in Hong Kong?