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How to build a global knowledge management system

February 10, 2006 14:52 IST

In a 'global world,' knowledge is crucial. It provides the basic framework to connect, collaborate, coordinate and communicate in a highly complex and competitive market place.

India has done fabulously well so far in this era. Thanks to nation's topnotch educational institutions, we have been leading our way into Nirvana in globalisation. Going forward it is up to the Indian companies to nurture its employees with training in new technologies, management mantras, concepts and ideologies.

In fact, many Indian companies do offer a decent career path and comprehensive training programmes as well. The only problem in all these training programmes is that they can be pursued only in India, the so called its off-site employees.

But companies fail to impart training and extend support in education to many of the employees working onsite at client's locations across world. The reason is the cost, effort and management of such a programme.

In this article, I would like to provide a solution, which could be adopted by firms to provide a seamless educational framework for its employees globally.

Knowledge Management (KM) has been a predominant trend in business in the recent years. Scaling-up research prototypes to real-world solutions usually requires an application-driven integration of several basic technologies.

Typical characteristics to be dealt with are: many logically and physically dispersed employees and knowledge sources, different degrees of formalisation of knowledge, possible conflicts between local (individual) and global (group or organisational) goals.

Leverage on Open source -- No need to re-invent the wheel

Many organisations already have adopted an open source revolution that is questioning if there will be anything like intellectual property (IP) in software.

We have already seen tremendous push towards the open source, where in companies have developed products and services at low cost, efficiently and quickly.

Organisations could leverage the following of open source and develop a seamless knowledge management system, wherein knowledge could be imparted to employees all over the world.

There are many content management systems (CMS) which are offered via open source licensing terms and conditions such as Mambo, Drupal, PHPNuke, DotNetNuke, etc., These content management systems are extremely flexible, in the sense that they can be customised based on organisational requirements.

Another advantage is that the open source contributors for these open source frameworks are very active and vibrant. So if there are any issues with the CMS, the contributors -- or as I like to call them 'ambassadors' -- keep plugging away with new features and making it bug free and preparing for deployment on production systems.

Organisations do not need to spend astronomical sums of money to build an employee-friendly knowledge management system. Moreever, any initiative in open source is good for the community, organisation and the entire knowledge ecosystem. Furthermore, building on the experience, such knowledge management system portals, will help companies remain competitive and excel in winning key customer accounts.

My advice to the companies is that in a knowledge economy and highly competitive world, we cannot afford to be complacent and ignore the onsite folks. Companies should be able to leverage technologies available and provide a comprehensive training curriculum for both onsite and offshore employees. Such an environment will help organisations tremendously.

Some of the advantages this offers are:

  • It creates a global knowledge ecosystem for the company.
  • It helps nurturing talent and reducing attrition.
  • It is easier to transition individuals on high worth projects.
  • It helps in transforming average resource to high caliber contributors for future projects in pipeline.
  • It helps in providing the resources for employees to be adaptable for demanding project assignments.

Conclusion

We are in a knowledge economy. Individuals compete with people all over the world. In the private sector, it is no longer necessary to belong to any particular race, caste or creed. To impact the bottomline of an organisation and an individual's goals and aspirations, the very basic necessity is to provide them with the basic requirements. And yes, knowledge management is as important as food, water and air.

In many global companies, comprehensive knowledge management system is already in place. The drawback is it has to be nurtured by the individuals only in majority of situations. For instance, majority of the knowledge base comprises employees' contribution such as case studies, lessons learned from projects, et cetera. Sure, I am not questioning the premise of a knowledge base, but the reality is not just about lessons learned after math successful projects.

What gets documented into a knowledge base is 'yesterday' in most of the organisations. We need knowledge management for tomorrow. It is also about what to anticipate in real projects of today and clients and how to mitigate proactively for unfavourable situations of tomorrow.

In the final analysis, it is all about transforming an unfavourable environment to a favourable landscape of immense opportunities that exceeds customer expectations in the competitive global world.

A word of caution to individuals: No matter what situation you are in, it is imperative that you keep pace with the changing 'global world' and remain competitive to survive.
Sudhi Seshachala