posted 1 Feb 2000 in Volume 3 Issue 5
assets in Barclays
Barclays has been pushing forward knowledge management principles for 8 years. Audrey Redshaw and Alison Footitt outline the history of knowledge management in Barclays and provide several case studies of current knowledge initiatives.
Virtual assets in Barclays
Barclays can trace its history back for over 300 years, but we are keenly aware that the organisation must continually re-invent itself and its products if it is to continue to thrive.
To succeed, Barclays must make the most of its most important resource - its people. It must nurture an environment, which encourages the exchange of ideas and information. This will improve the ability of the organisation to anticipate and respond to changing opportunities in the market place. In short Barclays sees knowledge management as a key to success in the new century. This article traces the history of knowledge management within Barclays and outlines some of our current knowledge management projects and initiatives.
In the beginning ...
Information Providers Group Seminars
Knowledge management was formalised in Barclays over 8 years ago with the establishment of Information Providers Group Seminars.
The seminars are held every quarter and attract representatives from all business areas. They act as a forum to inform the audience about new projects and best practice. This helps avoid duplication across the Group and also spreads internal expertise. 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 widely throughout the Bank and are available on an Intranet site. An important part 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 working with suppliers to reduce costs.
And then ...
Knowledge Management Working Party
The Information Providers Group seminars typically attract 50 or 60 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, with participants from all areas of the Company. Minutes and other documents from the Working Party are circulated to the Chief Executive and Heads of all 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 significantly as a knowledge organisation.
The following outlines some of these initiatives in more depth:
Economics Department Knowledge Management Database
The Department monitors and analyses economic and financial market developments in the UK, EU and the rest of the world for the Bank and its customers.
The Knowledge Management database created and designed by the Department allows Economics Department staff to capture and share expertise, enhancing customer service. The database is designed to ensure knowledge and expertise is held and stored centrally, encouraging contributions and participation in the smooth running of a major centre of excellence.
Material captured on the database ranges from key contact names and telephone numbers through to complete case studies of how individual projects have been undertaken, implemented and reviewed within the Department. This ensures key lessons learned are captured and built on for similar project work undertaken in the future. This has allowed the team more 'space' to develop new products and services.
Members of the Department 'own' the records they contribute to the Knowledge Management database. Therefore, it is their responsibility to ensure information and knowledge recorded is accurate and up to date. This process is written into performance contracts. Knowledge Management has been a culture change for the Economics Department team, but already there have been major benefits in how expertise is managed and shared across the organisation.
Knowledge Bank - A Yellow Pages Database
The database was created because of a growing awareness of duplication of projects across the Bank. Knowledge Bank facilitates the identification of people in the organisation who have experience or expertise in particular subject areas. It encourages people to talk to each other to exchange ideas. This linking is invaluable - knowledge is one of the few assets which multiplies as it is shared! The database has been designed by the Bank's Self Development Library, an internal facility offering a traditional library plus a detailed research facility.
Knowledge Bank is a contacts database. People register addresses, telephone and email details, plus details of their expertise. The expertise is categorised by a defined list of keywords; this standardisation of terms ensures only relevant records are accessed. The expert provides as much detail as possible, in a free-text box, about their knowledge and experience plus any knowledge requirements they may have. The system does not contain explicit information but it encourages the exchange of tacit information across Barclays.
Key advantages of Knowledge Bank include sharing best practice, encouraging learning, saving external consultancy costs and encouraging innovation.
Barclays Merchant Services
Barclays Merchant Services (BMS) is responsible for the credit and debit card transaction machines in shops and other retail outlets. BMS has a large salesforce based out of the office and therefore relies on laptop technology.
There have been knowledge management benefits from the recent introduction of a productivity-profiling programme. This programme records detailed information about Sales Manager customer visits and contacts. This information is automatically forwarded to a central database to allow productivity and performance comparisons to be made. From a knowledge perspective the information is also used to share knowledge about customers and to share best practice between sales managers and teams. It has helped to make the sales team much more knowledge aware with a greater emphasis on sharing best practice, learning and utilising knowledge about competitor activity.
The Knowledge Management project team have identified a number of further quick wins which when implemented will give substantial benefit for little cost.
Consumer and Market Intelligence - Gateway Intranet Information
This division of Barclays has made significant developments in delivery of information over the intranet to support knowledge management. The Gateway intranet contains a wealth of information from internal business units and also reports from external sources such as Datamonitor.
Individual business units run their own intranet sites which contain background information relating to their own products and processes. The Gateway then indexes and draws together this information from all Intranet sites on specific topics. This allows Intranet users to search for any available information relating to any given topic, e.g. mortgages, from one central point. The Gateway site also incorporates an email proactive notification system - internal customers are sent an email to advise them of new information of interest on the site.
This Intranet development has had a significant effect on the business as dynamic marketing information is made available, through one interface, directly to the desktop.
The future ...
We plan to push forward more knowledge management initiatives at a both a local and Group level. In the words of our new 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."
Audrey Redshaw is the Information Manager of Barclays Economics Department and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Alison Footitt is the manager of Barclays Self Development Library and can be contacted at email@example.com