posted 1 Sep 2000 in Volume 4 Issue 1
Gateway to knowledge
In a follow-up to an article published in the February 2000 edition of Knowledge Management, Audrey Redshaw and Alison Footitt provide an overview of how the implementation of knowledge management throughout Barclays has progressed, looking at how the organisation has built on existing initiatives and how new opportunities have been explored.
Barclays has a history of over 300 years, but is keenly aware that the fast changing market-place requires Barclays to maintain high quality, competitive products and services if it is to continue to thrive.
To do this, Barclays must make the most of its most important resource – its people. By nurturing an environment that encourages the exchange of ideas and information the ability of the organisation to anticipate and respond to changing opportunities in the market place is improved.
Knowledge is largely cognitive and highly personal, while management implies structure and discipline. Knowledge is what is in heads and information is what comes out. Knowledge is recognised to be a corporate resource that is crucial to competitive position. It is vital to put in place the organisation and processes to manage knowledge systematically.
In short, Barclays sees knowledge management as a key success factor in the new century.
In the beginning....
Information Providers Group Seminars
Knowledge management was formalised in Barclays over eight years ago with the establishment of the Information Providers Group Seminars.
The seminars are held every quarter and attract representatives from all business areas. By informing the audience about new projects and best practice, duplication across the group is avoided and also internal expertise spread. The format for the seminars is a half-day briefing session, which includes presentations from three or four business areas with plenty of time for questions and answers. Summaries from the seminars are circulated and are available on the Gateway intranet site (the bank’s ‘one-stop shop’ of key business information).
An important aspect of the seminar is the chance to network with colleagues. It is difficult to put a value on some of this informal information exchange but savings have certainly resulted through, for example, closer work with suppliers to reduce costs. The next seminar due to be held at our headquarters in Lombard Street will include presentations from senior executives across the business.
Knowledge Management Working Party
The Information Providers Group Seminars typically attract 100 or 120 attendees – too large a number to achieve action. We therefore decided to create a smaller group with the remit of developing strategy for approval at executive level.
The Working Party was formed over two years ago and has a core of eight active members who have sufficient authority to influence knowledge management at a divisional level. The Working Party meets every month at the bank’s headquarters in London. Minutes and other documents from the Working Party are circulated to the chief executive and heads of business units to raise and maintain their awareness of the issues. As a group, the Working Party has formal links with other group-wide initiatives such as the Business Excellence Team and the Barclays Brand Programme. At a local level, many business units have put in place strategies, which have moved Barclays forward as a knowledge organisation.
Explicit recognition by the executive
The knowledge management reporting line has changed to one where the benefits of the initiative can be more easily disseminated. Barclays has a Chief Information Officer whose responsibilities include knowledge management initiatives.
The Business Intelligence Gateway site
Knowledge management can be thought of as a new wave of management thinking that will have a significant impact on how companies are run and therefore on the working lives of a great many people. It is being made possible via a combination of modern technology, which enables people to share and access information much more easily, and a growing understanding of how people can be induced or seduced to work together and share know-how in business
The Gateway intranet is available throughout the organisation and is the single most important point of all business information within the bank. As the name suggests, the site is a gateway into numerous business information sources and the aim is to facilitate the sharing of information and knowledge around the Barclays group.
The scope is information about competitors, customers, products and services within the markets in which Barclays operates. The strategy is to provide an information focussed interface onto the resources, rather than an interface structured around organisational design. The heart of the Gateway is an indexing model, which links numerous intranet sites around the group – the aim is to link, and not duplicate, existing data.
Figure 1 - the Business Intelligence Gateway site
The Gateway provides:
The underlying technology:
The Gateway team has a number of functions:
But is technology the whole solution?
No! The aim of the web site is not to replace human contact. The aim is to increase the ability of information teams to work together, and for users to find the correct person to talk to. At the bottom of each page within the Gateway there are details of the information owner for that page who can be contacted if anyone has any queries regarding the information on the page.
In addition, the Gateway links to the Barclays Yellow Pages database, Knowledge Bank. This is a ‘contacts’ database in which skills and experience are registered – the database enables like-minded people to talk to one another and exchange ideas and best practice. It also captures case studies on how projects have been undertaken, implemented and reviewed. This ensures that key lessons are captured and built on for similar project work undertaken in the future. A major advantage of introducing the Knowledge Bank is that it creates ‘space’ for teams to develop new products and services. It also encourages learning, saves on external consultancy services and encourages innovation.
Teams around Barclays are encouraged to contribute their own information to the Gateway, either in the form of publishing a small number of ad hoc reports or as a direct link between a team intranet site and the Gateway. The information published must be relevant to the Gateway concept and must have a clearly defined owner. All information must also be indexed (usually by the team producing the information) against the Gateway Indexing Model.
Searching the Gateway
There are three main routes into the Gateway:
1. Subject index – this is the primary means of access. The index is structured around seven top-level categories, each with a number of subjects below.
2. Keyword search – this allows searching for keywords in document titles.
3. Direct access. For anyone knowing exactly which source is required. Current sources include:
- News information – updated throughout the day
- Internal reports – produced by various teams around Barclays
- Competitor summaries – news, strategy, performance and brand issues for
major financial services companies
- Primary research – research commissioned by Barclays
- Published reports – reports from external sources such as Datamonitor.
Figure 2 - Gateway includes a number of information sources, including internal reports
The Gateway is user friendly and draws together a wide range of resources, which, before the Gateway, would not have been available to most staff. The indexing system increases the accuracy of searching and saves valuable time; the proactive notification element of the system is highly regarded. The Gateway encourages the sharing of knowledge and expertise and helps avoid reinvention of the wheel; it also saves cost by sharing source material and by avoiding duplicating the sources. It effectively distributes the wealth of internal knowledge to all areas of the organisation. The Gateway also has the advantage of being totally developed in-house – this has saved cost and provided a system that can be continually developed and modified to reflect changing business needs.
Within the Terms of Reference document produced by the Working Party members have identified the following key objectives. The team continually reviews these objectives to ensure they are aligned with the key business strategies of the organisation.
1. To undertake a comprehensive internal information audit. This will be a detailed survey around the group of information needs and resources
2. To further develop the Business Intelligence Intranet site to be the one-stop shop for all business intelligence information around the group. All Gateway developments will be aligned with knowledge management strategy
3. To align Barclays’ strategy for knowledge management with the planned Corporate University. This to be achieved by ensuring that the CU project team is well informed about KM issues
4. To work with existing group-wide projects ensuring that knowledge management issues are considered by the project teams
5. To push forward cultural change at all levels; this will ultimately include ‘Knowledge Sharing’ as a performance measure for all staff. Influencing culture will be achieved by presentations and reports to HR executives and by communicating in in-house magazines and so on
6. To promote Barclays externally as a knowledge managing organisation
7. To build an internal and external knowledge network by actively seeking those interested in knowledge management and sharing best practice.
We plan to push forward more knowledge management initiatives at a both a local and group level. In the words of our group chief executive, Matt Barrett: “In the past, the power that derived from information and expertise was hoarded. Now, we’re moving to a system where power is based on learning and where information and expertise must be shared and passed down and across and up.” Our goal will continue to be to support the business in its objective of being “... one of the best financial service groups in the eyes of customers, staff and shareholders”. We believe this is achievable by
Audrey Redshaw is an information manager in Barclays’ Economics Department. She can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Alison Footitt is the manager of Barclays’ Self Development Library. She can be contacted at: email@example.com