posted 26 Oct 2007 in Volume 11 Issue 3
Measuring the impact of KM
By Jerry Ash
The idea that data, information and knowledge represent a sequence is one that tends to make KM theorists go ballistic. However, it might be time to duck your head and read on
The prevailing antagonism towards data management and information management, say many experts, is largely the result of KM’s fight to differentiate itself from, rather than among, the three practices.
It’s perfectly true that KM’s mission is far broader than simply converting data and information into knowledge. But one important aspect of KM is indeed to bring data and information to life and to put it to good use in the knowledge-driven enterprise.
Teradata Corporation, which completed its spin-off from NCR on October 1 2007, is ranked by the Gartner Group as the global leader in data warehousing and analytic technologies. The company helps customers capture data and information created through interactions with customers, maintain it in active data warehouses and use analytic technologies to leverage that data in order to help clients work “faster, better and smarter”. Indeed, the company’s tagline is “Raising Intelligence”.
Furthermore, Teradata’s professional services consultants help companies think about information and knowledge to improve their business models – and they don’t have to look far to find a KM model.
In fact, they are already part of one at Teradata, which runs one of the most highly regarded KM programmes in the world.
As with many companies dabbling in the emergence of knowledge management in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Teradata experimented in KM with mixed results.
Then in 2004, the then-division of NCR launched an all-out KM project with steering committee, strategy and budget to match its grand ambitions. The strategy was to drive business practice at Teradata with the tagline “Knowledge for Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere.”
The project, it was envisaged, would benefit Teradata associates, customers, partners and shareholders, by enabling them to:
make better decisions;
leverage 25 years of data warehouse experience;
increase efficiency; and
improve delivery and support of Teradata solutions.
A KM team was formed, which included a programme manager/director, process lead and an entirely new position – a Knowledge Practice Owner (KPO). The Teradata programme is now referred to as Knowledge Enablement (KE) and the team is the KE team.
Knowledge practice owners
Initially, six KPOs were to be appointed to cover key domains (that is, key industries served) and the positions was posted as virtual (that is, any location), since the KPOs would be traveling the globe to support internal and external consultants worldwide.
However, it became clear there were different needs and issues in different regions and therefore KPOs were assigned strategically to regions instead.
The KPOs support regional and industry-focused teams by providing expertise on the knowledge management processes and how they work. Knowledge management also provides content management support to assigned knowledge domains.
For example, support for a retail industry knowledge domain includes such things as:
Support of key primary and mega-project repository setup (collaboration sites);
Active engagement of associates in identifying and submitting assets;
Overseeing the lifecycle management of each submitted asset (tagging, publishing, reviewing, cleansing, rules for reuse, and so on);
Ensuring overall quality and relevancy of published assets;
Assisting Communities of Practice in using the KM process and in reviewing assets for best practice consideration;
Tracking, measuring and reporting on the usage, effectiveness and relevancy of the material used in the field.
Knowledge practice owners, meanwhile, have a number of key duties to fulfill. They must:
Work to define, refine and deploy KM business and workflow processes;
Implement KM processes into the field;
Provide field-level support to promote KM disciplines;
Actively engage associates in identifying and submitting knowledge assets;
Lead cleansing, adapting and deploying key knowledge assets;
Evaluate field-developed knowledge assets for advocated solution reuse;
Promote change towards a KM-based culture;
Assist communities of practice and associates in using KM processes;
Identify and roll out incentives and awareness programmes for encouraging KM usage;
Notify associates about new key knowledge assets, information, articles and others;
Track, measure and report on usage, effectiveness and relevancy;
Support project repository setup;
Support project close-out and asset capture.
In terms of suitability for the post, the ideal KPO should be able to demonstrate the following abilities:
To identify key reusable assets that influence projects;
To partner with subject matter experts to determine best in class or value of assets for reuse;
To handle ambiguity;
To work independently in a ‘virtual organisation’ structure;
To influence people to do something in a new and different way;
To motivate people to use KM – that is to say, to be a change agent.
During the first year, the programme team collected requirements from the field and worked closely with information technology services to build the core foundation of a knowledge system – asset repository, asset submission, and search tool.
The content from existing legacy systems had to be migrated into the new system.
Then, these core functions were extended with capabilities that included collaboration sites, rating, ranking and feedback, and a reporting database.
By the end of the year, the tools were delivered to the KPOs – who meanwhile had started to establish themselves as trustworthy service providers – and to Teradata consultants around the globe.
The following year, the scope of KM was enlarged to include collecting assets for the Teradata engagement methodology, deploying a business impact modeling tool and other consulting tools and renaming them Knowledge Enablement tools.
“The vision became to increase the ability for more Teradata users to find higher quality knowledge more quickly via easy-to-use and integrated processes and tool sets,” says Linda Hummel, programme manager/director. “The fact that 30 per cent of employee work time is spent seeking information was a driver for this vision,” she adds.
From a business impact perspective, the goal was to closely link to Teradata’s business objectives to improve margins, reduce risk and increase revenue. And as a result of linking to these objectives, the need to show the impact of the KM programme on ROI was obvious.
A unique approach, in addition to the creation of the KPO role, involved the establishment of Value Engagements (VEs) and creating algorithms based on data to quantify business improvements (ROI).
VEs are conducted across all regions, industries and all phases of an engagement cycle. The goals of VEs are to:
baseline field benefits and improvements;
harvest assets; and
capture lessons learned and best practices.
“The Value Engagements give us very specific feedback on typical business impacts,” Hummel says.
In one specific case, a VE used KM processes and infrastructure to lessen the workload of a team project manager which allowed the manager to focus on higher priority customer requirements. The team stored engagement documents in a collaboration site and saved over 40 hours of project management time on the project.
Having the team’s work located in a single location relieved the project team of many burdensome administrative tasks. Because the VE documents were on a collaboration site, the team also saved over 60 hours of ramp-up time with new team members. And, having the documents in one location and accessible to the whole team (including contractors), was also beneficial.
“I realised there were multiple ways of measuring results, in order to measure impact on business results and justify continued expenditure on the programme,” Hummel recalls.
Two types of metrics have been identified:
Type 1: Business improvements
Leverage Knowledge Sharing around best practice consulting processes
Reduced implementation cycle time
Lower the cost of quality
Accelerate time to revenue/billable for new employees
Increase revenue (by leveraging and reusing IP and identified best practices)
Account penetration of new opportunities (both application and consulting) within new and existing accounts
Increase sales productivity and increase value-add selling time
Shorten the sales cycle
Increase close rates
Increase customer satisfaction, share of wallet and retention
Revenue metrics are in Phase II. Current efforts focused on risk reduction and margin improvement
Type 2: KM process/usage
Measure the capture of assets & IP
Measure the movement of assets from knowledge base
Surveys to determine value of assets utilised by teams
In addition, a third (but less measurable) category is tracked – user and customer satisfaction.
As a result of gathering input from the VE, the Knowledge Engagement team studied the data as well as best practices in measuring impact of KM, and derived an algorithm for each business goal (improve margins, reduce risk and increase revenue) to determine direct impact.
“For example,” says Hummel, “one risk we have is losing knowledge, either from people retiring, or by using contractors who take their knowledge with them when they leave at the end of a project. By capturing project assets, customer deliverables, and the team’s knowledge/expertise (lessons learned, CoP sharing, and so on), we measure the time saved in future engagements by having assets captured from previous engagements – leading to reduced searching and reduced need to recreate intellectual assets,” she says.
Then, Hummel created an algorithm to measure this: (A*B) = C then C*D, where:
A = Hours (per engagement)
B = Number of projects
C = Total hours saved
D = Average hourly employee rate
That enabled Hummel to calculate the business impacts, in the case of this example, $1.5 million. This was done for each business goal, added up and presented to management.
“What I call indirect KM metrics,” Hummel explains, “are those data items that indicate where associates are using our system, sharing knowledge and looking for assets to reuse, but which cannot directly quantify a dollar savings. For example, improved margin due to knowledge reuse can be indirectly measured by the number of people downloading assets.”
During the early years, Hummel’s results have been impressive and projections are even more so. Investments in 2005 in KM programmes and technology reached $2.2 million; $1.9 million in 2006 and $2.3 million in 2007.
Using Hummel’s algorithm method, returns to date (that is, improvements to professional services margins) showed zero in 2005, $1.2 million in 2006 and $4.4 million in 2007.
These numbers reflect returns due to time savings and knowledge asset reuse, and increased use of Teradata Knowledge Office (TKO), the knowledge repository.
TKO is the suite of knowledge office tools used by Teradata’s knowledge workers – including a repository to store knowledge assets, team sites for collaboration, blogs, and discussion forums – that create the knowledge environment or infrastructure. It is a portal-based environment that provides access to email and employee resources like paycheck viewing, and so on. Hummel calls it “our one-stop shop”. It is based on Broadvision platform using Convera search.
Usage rates have risen from 20 per cent for the previous system to 87 per cent for the new one, but the numbers don’t yet show an overall return on investment for the KM programmes. However, projections for the next two years forecast increased returns on lower investments – $5.0 million in 2008 and $5.8 million in 2009.
KM: Not just another IT project
Linda Hummel has never been particularly interested in navel-gazing debates over defining data, information and knowledge.
“I have always been intrigued by the intellectual challenge of capturing and disseminating something as ethereal as knowledge,” she says. “How many ‘What is the definition of knowledge?’ debates have you lived through? In fact – and even though my background is in earth sciences/engineering and computer science – it is the variety provided by the holistic approach (people, process, content and technology) that makes KM not just another IT project.”
It is, in fact, the holistic approach of service delivery practiced internally by Teradata that makes its products and services “not just another data management solution”. Coupled with its historic emphasis on active warehouses, not data marts, Teradata is very much a savvy KM partner. KM would be well served if it abandoned its fight to differentiate itself from data and information and instead distinguished itself among data and information as a strategic piece of the broader, holistic approach of knowledge management.
Jerry Ash is KM coach, founder of the Association of Knowledgework, http://www.kwork.org, and special correspondent to Inside Knowledge. He is author of the Ark Group’s Next Generation Knowledge Management series. To order any of the three volumes, contact Adam Scrimshire at email@example.com. Jerry Ash can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
For further information on the Teradata KM programme, contact Linda Hummel at Linda.Hummel@Teradata.Com