posted 12 Sep 2001 in Volume 5 Issue 2
KM country focus
This month Simon Lelic talks to Gülgün Kayakutlu and discusses the impact knowledge management has had in Turkey.
Less than two per cent of Turkey’s 70m population regularly use the internet while the average annual income per person is less than $3 000. In a relatively unstable economy the overwhelming majority of businesses are small or medium-sized employing less than 100 people. It is unsurprising therefore that knowledge management has yet to make any real impact in the country although it seems things are beginning to change albeit slowly.
Global Knowledge Management was formed in 1997 by Gülgün Kayakutlu a graduate in computer and industrial engineering of METU State University in Ankara. The company’s aim according to Kayakutlu is to introduce knowledge management concepts through training and consulting services although Kayakutlu realises his organisation faces a difficult challenge.
“We cannot really say that knowledge management has started in Turkey ” he says. While KM courses are offered in PhD programmes by a number of universities in the country Kayakutlu believes the main reason for the slow evolution of knowledge management concepts is the lack of documentation on the subject that is produced in the vernacular. Similarly although Kayakutlu is aware of a handful of companies that were planning to initiate KM programmes this year the country’s economic slowdown has prevented any real progress.
Instead more attention seems to be focused on document management particularly since the arrival of Microsoft in the market while customer relationship management is also attracting both interest and investment. A survey conducted by the CRM Institute Turkey of 400 marketing managers for example found that 48 per cent saw customer relationship management as a way to increase profitability. According to Kayakutlu most still see KM as an unnecessary luxury deemed too expensive and lacking in short-term returns.
Media coverage also seems to be limited as Kayakutlu points out. “Technology magazines form the only section of the media interested in knowledge management ” he says. “Popular newspapers radio and TV channels are still not capable of differentiating between the concepts of information and knowledge.” But while internet usage is also restricted concentrated as it is around the three big cities of Istanbul Ankara and Izmir Kayakutlu believes the growth of this channel in Turkey will yet prove vital in the wider dissemination of KM concepts and ideas.
Just as important will be the development of e-commerce in Turkey a sector that has also suffered recently but one that Kayakutlu feels is crucial if Turkish companies are to invest in new technologies and management concepts. The key here in Kayakutlu’s opinion is that multinational companies take a leading role. Lotus for example was expected to set the early pace in the introduction of KM technologies but has not been as active as first predicted. “The most promising project ” says Kayakutlu “is being handled by the Union of Chambers of Commerce which is working towards creating a standardised e-business infrastructure.” He believes this will go a long way to helping smaller businesses understand the electronic marketplace while forthcoming legal regulations on internet use may also instil greater confidence in the use of the web as a means to share knowledge.
That customer relationship management is gaining credence as a management discipline is also encouraging. Admittedly uptake remains limited but the number of companies that have initiated or are budgeting towards implementing CRM processes is as Kayakutlu says increasing. That the CRM Institute Turkey exists at all is testament to this as is the growth in the number of seminars on the subject for example those run by Oracle and HP.
E-learning too is becoming more popular in spite of the number of people that do not have regular access to the internet. Predictably the universities have been at the centre of this development with both Bilgi Private University and METU offering courses from last year onwards and Anadolu University introducing e-learning programmes in 2001. Again take-up has so far been limited but the first step has been made.
Knowledge management clearly has a long way to go in Turkey but Kayakutlu is guardedly optimistic. The early signs are there that both academic and corporate organisations are beginning to realise the potential the discipline holds. And aside from anything else Kayakutlu realises that Turkish companies need to become more innovative taking advantage of the knowledge at their disposal if they are to succeed in an international market.