can capture the knowledge of your workers into a data
repository and publish it on an Intranet. This can enhance
your company's knowledge and help you derive the most
from employee potential. by M.D. Agrawal
big challenge in today's business is how to leverage
explicit and implicit corporate knowledge. Dr Peter
Drucker said, "The world is becoming not labour
intensive, not materials intensive, not energy intensive,
but knowledge intensive. Knowledge and learning of organizations
is increasingly holding an important factor in generating
business values. The future is held in an organization's
Business success depends on the quantum of knowledge
rather than on physical assets and book profits. IT
has emerged as a crucial enabling factor that can be
used by a strategist and CIO for harnessing the power
In this article I will touch upon the networking strategies,
processes, and methodology that can be used to capture
tacit knowledge of employees, and will discuss a case
study with British Petroleum, where knowledge sharing
and networking introduced huge savings.
Harvard Business Review, March 2001, has a success story
of a 'human portal' at work in British Petroleum (BP).
The 'human portal' is an Intranet system that enabled
a network among 10,000-odd employees for sharing their
rich technical and professional experience. The portal
was able to establish a network community. Many other
companies like HP, Microsoft, and Chevron also use a
similar Intranet to leverage on the value of its networks.
There are currently two trends in KM (Knowledge Management)
software. The first and most prevalent trend focuses
on the capture of unstructured knowledge into repositories.
Search engines can be run on these repositories and
the results can be layered in categories in a Web-based
portal. If we step back to the idea of collaboration,
e-mail and other collaboration technologies become the
first line of opportunity prior to deploying knowledge-specific
solutions. The second trend involves the discovery of
expertise from documents or from the interaction of
people with information environments
There is a strong need to co-relate and integrate repositories
of implicit/tacit knowledge with explicit information
to leverage a BI (Business Intelligence) value system.
Most of the time we use our IT resources to capture,
mine and warehouse structured data, documents and information.
But we also need to harness the implicit information
that comes from knowledge in a worker's mind.
Value of an Intranet
One of the finest values of an Intranet and the Web
is that it facilitates collaboration and community working.
This may be considered a starting point for capturing
tacit knowledge and making a 'human portal.' Imagine
having employees in one office meeting peers in a remote
office, to brainstorm or resolve problems without incurring
any travel expenses. Imagine having geographically remote
companies performing application sharing, having virtual
whiteboard sessions, and sharing video and audio. Imagine
having the same level of collaboration with your customers,
suppliers, and partners.
BP's KM initiative went like this:
BP took a bottom-up approach, to develop a knowledge
directory that gained the support of the staff. The
product was known as 'Connect'.
Connect took the form of a searchable Intranet repository,
through which all staff could search for people with
relevant knowledge and experience. Additionally, they
could easily create a personal home page rich in content,
which in turn would be accessible to anyone with network
Vision for Sharing
strove for an environment where all employees could
easily search for people with a particular expertise.
All of them could create and maintain a personal home
page on the Intranet.
Since, the transfer of knowledge is all about people
and relationships rather than projects and resources,
the environments to support knowledge management and
people relationships play important roles.
and processes used in knowledge networking
- who enjoy defined knowledge management
roles and accountabilities.
- simple effective activities and business
- standard groupware technology.
- Knowledge management is a culture change
knowledge networking, mining and management process
has four distinct steps. They are knowledge creation,
knowledge capture, knowledge application, and knowledge
measurement. While knowledge creation can result in
either tacit or explicit knowledge, it is the process
of capturing and sharing this knowledge that makes it
available across the enterprise.
mapping and creation: Based on the understanding
of process dynamics and knowledge cycle, one can unearth
the hidden treasure of corporate-wide knowledge and
information. Using Intranet and e-mail, BP established
'Connect' with its technical staff. Using tenets of
the above methodology, employees across the globe voluntarily
shared information through simple home pages. The pages
had to be filled with
information like name, job title, team business unit,
of 'areas of expertise', and languages spoken. Employees
were also asked to share their internal and external
contacts and favourite Web links (internal and external).
The data collection process was made enjoyable and interesting
by asking people to upload their favourite photograph,
resume, audio clip, membership of networks, communities
of practice, and basic contact information like telephone
numbers and e-mail addresses. They were asked to respond
to questions like: What are you currently working on?
What areas have you worked on in the past? What subjects
might you like to be contacted about? What do you enjoy
doing? Is there any help that you need?
Using this information, a 'Yellow Page' directory on
the Intranet about employees experiences, categorized
in different subjects and technical disciplines was
conceived. BP is experimenting with a variety of approaches
to make knowledge sharing easier. Videos are made that
can be seen on the network; electronic yellow pages
can be searched in a variety of ways; people are encouraged
to list interests, expertise, and experiences. This
creates a virtual team and builds Intranet value. There
are 35,000-odd PCs on this Intranet. The corporate philosophy
is 'let a thousand, or a million home pages bloom.'
for capturing and recycling learning
six components of capturing learning
1) Learning before activity
2) Learning during activity
3) Learning after activity
4) Creation of knowledge assets to store
what we know
5) The creation and empowerment of communities
6) The creation of accountable knowledge
invitation was made to all employees of BP to ask them
to participate in the data collection drive through
e-mail. The information was categorized into repositories
of different communities of interest like health, entertainment,
computers, and environmental pollution. Relationship
and mentoring contacts among community members ensured
that the information was updated.
A three tier approach of technology, relationship, and
networking through personal meetings was used to build
a community of corporate 'Connect' of employees knowledge.
Application and derived Benefits
Intranet community members at BP regularly use the repository
to get in touch with employees with the right experience.
They can use e-mail in the beginning and video conference
later, if deemed necessary to consult personally.
The exercise has saved BP billions of dollars worldwide.
The intangible value is the corporate knowledge you
Think how much more powerful your company will be:
When you avoid making the same mistake twice.
When you don't re-invent the wheel.
When all successes are repeatable and sustainable.
When you shorten the learning cycle.
When every decision at every level is made in light
of the full
knowledge base of the organization.
So why wait? Leverage Intranet technology for generating
value out of your corporate hidden treasure of tacit
and implicit information and leverage profits without
any capital investment. You require zeal, a strategy
with support from top management, and a clear understanding
of unearthing hidden treasure.
Strategy at work
You can unlock the value hidden in your operational
knowledge in a three-step process.
Step 1 - Strategy develop-ment and implementation
The development of a strategy and implementation plan
allows you to chart a road map to deliver the hidden
value of what you already know and apply that operational
knowledge to transform your business.
Step 2 - Introductory training sessions:
The techniques of knowledge-enabled performance are
simple, inexpensive and do not need any special software
or hardware. Focused introductory training
sessions allow professionals in your organization to
develop the skills and capabilities of KM, enabling
you to create internal competence.
Step 3 - Professional empowerment:
Using experienced staff as coaches, mentors, and advisors,
your own professionals can integrate
the principles of knowledge-enabled
performance in your organization. You can apply KM tools
and techniques to focus projects and transform your
Agrawal is Chief Manager,IS
Refinery System, Bharat Petroleum Corporation, Ltd.