By Marietta Nienhaus
This article seeks to answer two questions. First: How do successful companies leverage their knowledge to drive growth? Second: Which trends do we see in the market today related to knowledge management? When we talk about knowledge, we refer to the knowledge management concept that is defined as "… a discipline that promotes an integrated approach to identifying, capturing, evaluating, retrieving, and sharing all of an enterprise's information assets.” (Michael D. Koenig KMWorld, 2012).
These information assets may include databases, documents, policies, procedures, and previously un-captured expertise and experience of individual members of staff. While most companies have methodologies, processes and systems in place to gather information, with the purpose of reducing development, marketing, sales and delivery costs, only a few have been able to leverage their knowledge into the development of new services. For example, Fortune 500 companies lose roughly “31.5 billion a year by failing to share knowledge” (Babcock). A shocking fact, right? We are not only talking about the potentially high added value to the customer that is enabled though knowledge driven services, we also talk about the high margins that can be generated in the company. This means, if you get your knowledge management strategy right it’s a true win-win situation.
Where to Begin
Companies wanting to plunge into the knowledge management-related services ‘game’ need to first consider whether their know-how is worth selling and whether their capability can be put to the market in order to be used by others. This is exactly what a major truck and bus manufacturer did when they saw their market share from selling trucks and busses dropping. They realized how much knowledge and information they were already collecting from their vehicles and what great value that could bring to their clients. They then developed different propositions from this knowledge and began offering different services to their clients. An example of such a service was their fleet management system, which enables the truck’s raw data to be collected from the truck in real time and then translates this into simple and meaningful reports for customers. This service provided clients with information, such as predictive maintenance, information about the driving technique of their drivers e.g. fuel efficiency, excessive idling, and so on. Having this report in hand, the end customers can take corrective actions for the use of their trucks, improve the abilities of their drivers, or even replace drivers who don’t perform as expected, as well as reduce downtime due to predictive maintenance. By finding a way to utilize their knowledge and information, the organization was able to develop a new profitable line of service business, which opened new horizons to the company’s profitability. At the same time these new services give the client new insights, increasing their chances of success by assisting decision-making, facilitating learning, as well as by encouraging and nurturing cultural change and innovation.
Where to Go
Using knowledge management to make maintenance predictive is the next logical step in today’s connected world. This means that maintenance can become more efficient, both in terms of availability to the client, as well as in terms of cost. Predictive maintenance means that you will be able to address issues before the product goes down by acting on information from the product, instead of following a list of actions that need to be verified and checked. For example, in a mechanical assembly you can use sensors to record information on the way the assembly works. From the data stored you know the threshold where you must change the part. When the part reaches its defined threshold, you will be alerted by the system and so you will make the change only when it is necessary. What’s more, knowledge management is now extending its reach into environmental scanning and competitive intelligence, gathering knowledge from vendors, suppliers, customers and even the scientific and scholarly community. An example of this is IBM, which now provides consulting services to its clients with regards to business strategy, big data and analytics, managing transformation and organisational change.