posted 8 Mar 2007 in Volume 10 Issue 6
Case study: Unisys
Alex Goodall outlines how Unisys applies a balanced scorecard to knowledge-management projects to help determine their value and deliver on the company’s overall KM vision.
By Alex Goodall and Joanna Goodman
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Unisys is one of the oldest companies in the computer industry with a corporate heritage that can be traced back to the 1880s, when it was founded as an adding-machine company, moving into mainframe computers in the 1950s.
Today, computer hardware forms just one division of a company that is overwhelmingly focused on IT services. With about 36,000 employees, operating in 100 countries, it offers a full range of services, including consulting, systems integration and outsourcing, covering strategy, business processes, applications and corporate IT infrastructure.
Knowledge management (KM) is at the core of business operations at Unisys and its KM vision, illustrated in Figure one, takes into account the entire enterprise, working on three strategic levels: organisation, team and individual.
In order to deliver on its KM objectives, the company has invested in tools and processes that connect people and content to address all processes in the knowledge cycle. These have been brought together under the umbrella of the Unisys KM portal – Knowledge.net.
Unisys has developed a KM scorecard, based on the balanced-scorecard methodology, to measure the impact and effectiveness of these substantial investments and their added value to the organisation. The rationale behind this approach is as follows:
To address the expectation that at some point the KM programme will need to justify its existence quantitatively;
To add more rigour to the management reporting of KM projects;
To provide KM project managers with quantifiable targets.
Effective scorecard metrics relate to outcomes rather than activities or milestones, so the starting point should be a rigorous creation of KM outcomes. The next step is to define how to measure individual projects. Finally, the projects are linked via the overall KM outcomes. In this way the scorecard is used to link a macro and micro approach to measuring KM. As Figure two illustrates, the outcomes relate to the internal business environment, including systems and processes, and the behaviours of those working within it.
As every KM project has a business sponsor, a project scorecard is used to identify the operational outcomes. These scorecards are divided into three sections: purpose, objectives and goals.
A single statement. KM projects usually seek to address a business issue by using a KM intervention, or to improve the operation of an existing KM intervention.
Each project should have one or more objectives. An objective is usually a high-level statement describing the impact of the project, rather than the deliverables or milestones. These explain what the project proposes to achieve and what is important to its success. Objectives can be:
The goals of a project specify what is to be measured in order to determine its success. Each goal consists of:
Measure – what is to be measured;
Target – the value to be achieved;
Date – the date by which that value is to be achieved. By repeating the same goal, but with different targets and dates, it is possible to plan for phased progress towards an objective.
How the measurement will take place. Each goal supports one or more objective.
The engagement knowledgebase (EKB) is an online tool available on Knowledge.net that was developed with the purpose of leveraging company experience to win new business. It enables employees throughout the organisation to:
Find engagements by client solution, geography, value, business unit and asset type;
View engagements in brief and drill down for details and key assets;
Download engagement summaries for offline viewing and searching.
Figure three provides a summary of its project scorecard. The goals are then defined in detail and measured against the outcomes as depicted in Figure four. The final step in the process is to provide an aggregate measure for each project against relevant outcomes and to aggregate individual project scores across each outcome for a programme score.
Key to the effectiveness of the KM scorecard are the KM outcomes against which the scores are measured. These need to fulfil several specific criteria. They should be usable as a way of structuring the KM scorecard; it should be possible to relate the goals of the KM projects to them; and they should be orthogonal. That is to say, no outcome should depend on another outcome.
Most important of all, they should be real KM outcomes, not the tactics used to achieve them. In this way, the scorecard measures the value of KM against projected outcomes at every strategic level. The following paragraphs list the outcomes that underpin KM measurement at Unisys.
Each outcome is followed by its defining statement and an outline of the tools and processes it relates to. Unisys defines its prime KM outcomes – the highest level of KM outcomes – as follows:
Sharing and re-use
Our employees and business partners employ relevant and timely knowledge and skills to optimise process execution;
Projects and programmes are resourced by collaborative teams that enhance the value created by the knowledge and skills of the individual members;
Opportunities are exploited to create new business value for Unisys from the knowledge and insight of our employees and business partners;
Excellence and reputation
Unisys has a world-class ability to manage and apply knowledge and expertise for the improvement of business performance. This is recognised by our key clients.
Operational KM outcomes are more specific. The following outcomes relate to business systems and environment:
Our employees and business partners have convenient access to knowledge systems that provide relevant and timely knowledge:
To help them optimise process execution;
To support collaborative teams.
This outcome covers more of our activities than any other. It is concerned with:
The existence of knowledge repositories of any form;
The ease of access to them;
The quality and relevance of the information within them.
Collaborative support systems
Our employees and partners have convenient access to collaboration support systems that help them maximise team effectiveness. This outcome is concerned with:
The existence of technology and support of collaborative tools such as ‘team sites’, instant messaging, Microsoft Live Meeting, wikis and so on;
The ease of access to them.
Access to people
Our employees and partners have convenient access to people with relevant skills and expertise:
To help them optimise process execution;
To help them form collaborative teams;
To help them exploit new business value.
This outcome is concerned with any systems or processes that make it easier to find people with specific skills or expertise.
Learning and development support
Our employees have convenient access to relevant and timely learning and development opportunities:
To help them optimise process execution.
This outcome is concerned with courses and formal learning rather than KM learning.
Support for innovation
Systems and processes are in place to rapidly exploit ideas for new business value. This outcome is concerned with any organisational systems that support the creation of new ideas and their conversion into business value.
Other key outcomes relate to the behaviour of employees and other stakeholders. These are critical success factors for the company’s KM programme.
Our employees and partners participate in the population of relevant knowledge systems. This outcome relates to person-to-system sharing, i.e. that people help to populate the EKB and post their learnings to a lessons learned database, and so on.
Our employees and business partners share their knowledge and expertise with anyone in Unisys to whom it may be useful. This outcome is concerned with people to people sharing, such as:
* Responding to telephone calls for help from outside your business unit;
* Offering to be a mentor;
* Presenting at community seminar sessions;
* Adding your name to a peer advisor list.
Our employees and business partners make appropriate re-use of existing artefacts, knowledge and skills:
To provide optimum outcomes;
To avoid re-creating work already done;
To avoid repeating past mistakes.
This outcome is concerned with consciously searching for things such as re-usable artefacts and lessons that others have learned.
Our employees and business partners create and work together as high-performing teams, ensuring they are properly resourced and operate based on common understandings and values. This outcome is concerned with good teaming and collaborative behaviours.
Learning and development
Our employees use learning and development opportunities to keep their knowledge and skills up to date. This outcome is concerned with behaviours such as creating and following a learning path.
Our employees and business partners create ideas for new business value from their knowledge and insights. This outcome is concerned with the behaviour of innovation and creating new business value.
Client recognition: Unisys is recognised by our key clients for its world-class ability to manage and apply knowledge and expertise for the improvement of business performance. This outcome is concerned with our clients’ behaviour: we wish them to recognise our world-class abilities. However, to achieve such recognition would require achieving recognition within the industry, which represents a tactic rather than an outcome.
Separating outcomes from tactics
Finally, it is crucial to differentiate outcomes from tactics, but this is not always straightforward. For example, if the following tactics were used as outcomes, the KM scorecard could well produce a very different set of metrics.
* Learning about KM – this is an achieving tactic to support other outcomes such as the use of collaborative and other KM tools;
* Reward and recognition – this is a tactic to encourage the behaviours identified as outcomes;
* Regulatory compliance – this is a requirement rather than an outcome.
Alex Goodall is principle KM consultant, global KM programme, Unisys. He can be contacted at email@example.com. This case study first appeared in the Ark Group special report, Measuring the Value of Knowledge Management, by Joanna Goodman. For more details about the report, please e-mail Adam Scrimshire, ascrimshire@ark-group.