posted 16 Dec 2003 in Volume 7 Issue 4
Five minutes with the EBRD
Jacquie Bran, project manager with the Knowledge Management events team, spoke to Bruno Balvanera, head of the business development unit and Olena Koval, information and knowledge manager, who lead the development and implementation of a knowledge-sharing programme at the European Bank for the Reconstruction and Development.
When and why did you start addressing knowledge management within your organisation?
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is an international financial institution established in 1991 to foster the transition towards open-market economies in Central and Eastern European countries and the Commonwealth of Independent States. In the late 1990s, it became clear that the EBRD had reached the point where the scope and value of its institutional memory and the size and complexity of its information flows were not adequately balanced.
Were you given a mandate for knowledge management or did the need for it develop organically?
In 2000, a knowledge-sharing initiative was launched in the EBRD. Its mandate was to encourage the move towards a ‘one bank’ approach where business-related knowledge could and would be willingly shared through informal networks and where
staff could make their expertise more widely known. This initiative has been developed based on our vision of the bank in the new millennium, encompassing our mission, strategy, objectives and core values.
How long did it take you to develop a strategy for knowledge management and who was involved?
We conducted an information assessment between 1999-2000, which resulted in a set of recommendations on how to fully exploit the strategic potential of the bank’s knowledge base by identifying, evaluating and managing our wealth of experience.
In March 2000, the EBRD’s executive committee created a working group that involved the management of all departments and the bank’s senior management. The working group supervised the implementation of the information assessment as the first step for the knowledge-sharing initiatives.
What is your timeline for implementing KM and what challenges do you anticipate?
Following the information assessment, the IT department was given primary responsibility for knowledge sharing until 2002. At that point senior management transferred responsibility to the business-development unit. The aim of the transition was to enable a more holistic approach to business development and knowledge-sharing initiatives.
To deliver effective knowledge sharing, evolutionary changes in culture and behaviour are required. Therefore, we do not believe that there should be a deadline to this process, but it should be considered a complex initiative that is constantly progressing.
Our key challenges will be managing the transition from a hierarchical culture to a team culture, and enabling the full integration of intelligent knowledge sharing into all business processes at the EBRD.
What are your specific challenges in relation to fragmentation and how will they be overcome?
Our first and most important fragmentation challenge was to overcome the barriers between teams within the bank and between the headquarters and resident offices. We approached these barriers by fostering informal networks through which bankers and other staff could advertise their expertise and willingly share business-related knowledge.
Has knowledge management delivered any quick-win benefits or longer term results for you so far?
The quick-win benefits from our knowledge-sharing initiatives were increased efficiency of the process of capturing, managing and disseminating prompt and relevant information about clients and solutions among our bankers.
Our longer-term results are the development of a proper knowledge-sharing team culture and promotion of the EBRD’s expertise outside our institution.
Did you pilot knowledge management before taking it to the implementation stage?
The bank’s information assessment provided clear-cut recommendations on what needed to be done to achieve co-ordinated and harmonised efforts, routines, roles and
expectations around a single mission. These recommendations were transformed into individual knowledge-sharing tools that were introduced in July 2002.
Prior to their launch, these tools were tested within small focus groups. Immediately afterwards, we conducted bank-wide workshops to provide feedback, which allowed us to revise the solutions and re-introduce them having accommodated all requested changes.
Bruno Balvanera is head of the business development unit at the EBRD. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Olena Koval is information and knowledge manager at the EBRD. She can be contacted at email@example.com