Wednesday, February 15, 2006

CoPs - building to formality

I just had a great chat with a couple of blokes from an international mining company (they're Aussies, a place near and dear to my heart) who are building their community effort as we speak. For several years as the mining industry consolidated and rode economic slow downs with cost cutting measures, these gentleman have fostered an "informal infrastructure" for their communities (they call them forums). Now that the industry is experiencing a huge upturn (fueled by demand for iron and coal in China, among other things), the company is struggling to meet capacity because of talent shortages and repercussions from previous downsizings. So, they are primed to evolve their informal infrastructure into something more structured and focused. We talked for nearly 2 hours about how to position communities, where to have the community center of excellence "sit" in the organization, and how to focus their efforts for maximum gain. Sounded like they were primed for success as the company has invested in an operational excellence group that reports to the CEO - a wonderful place to establish core community processes and tools.

The struggle, of course, is how to reconcile new, more formal CoP processes with the current methods of working that many like and enjoy. We talked about doing an assessment of key stakeholders and specific communities to discover the best of the current program as well as gaps that need to be filled. Additionally, they have an opportunity to link communities to the talent management issues (finding expertise, linking it together, identifying and embedding best practices, and improving personal networks) and growth needs (bring best practices to bear anywhere, anytime with greater efficiency if people are connected and content is appropriately collected). I think they need to focus on creating a few formal communities where it makes sense according to these two drivers and continue to support those informal groups that wish to keep operating.

One interesting question they had that I would like to get an answer to as well - are there any studies/metrics on how participation in CoPs affects retention of individuals inside an organization? APQCs study on CoPs last year asked study participants to survey their CoP members on their perceptions of value of the community. We had about 800 respondents, mainly from the best practice organizations we studied, so the results are very positive. I wrote an article that will come out in the March KM W0rld issue on the results of this - some of the info is below. However, we didn't get a clean look at how participation affects retention - anyone have anything out there?
  • 93% said their CoP has a clear, compelling business value proposition for participation,
  • 84% said their CoP has a senior sponsor,
  • 88% said business/line management supports the time spent on CoP activities,
  • 88% said business/line management recognizes the value of CoP output, and
  • 70% said their CoP has a communication strategy to promote outputs and results of CoP to outside stakeholders

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Consumer Electronics and KM - Where Are They

I have been working with my colleagues and IBM to launch an industry benchmarking council for the consumer electronics industry vertical. The intent is to focus on collecting metrics around 10-15 KPIs related to the service after sales process and then have the group continue to meet, share best practices, etc. around other pressing topics. As I was preparing, I read some amazing stats in "Irresistable! Markets, Models, and Meta-Value in Consumer Electronics" (by George Bailey and Hagen Wenzek) about the industry - it's expected to hit $130+B in revenue this year but their product margins are razor thin (in the 0.4% to 3% range). My favorite passage in the book said something like - global electronics companies have changed the landscape of the world by making communication ubiquitous and instantaneous, but now they have to change their business models to fit the landscape they created.

This got me to thinking - in 8 years of studying and working with organizations from Fortune 500, govt, and associations, I've never read about or worked with a consumer electronics organization on KM. Sure, HP, Microsoft, and Dell get written up, but I'm thinking about the Sony's, Pioneers, Ericssons, etc. My guess is that most are very engineering driven, innovation oriented companies, so where's the KM? I would imagine that the industry is facing many of the same pressures that Big Pharma is today with outsourcing, globalization, specialization, and compressed cycle times. Sounds like a perfect environment for communities of practice, best practice transfer, and expertise location to me. I'll be interested to find out more as we get organizations inside the walls here in the next few months.