Introduction of topic
In this essay, the existing portal of Bureau Veritas Consumer Product Service Inc will be reviewed. The advantage and disadvantages of the current portal will be analysis. At last, a comprehensive KM audit which consists of People, Process and Technology aspects in the technical consultation of Bureau Veritas Consumer Products Service Inc will be suggested and discussed.
Company Background and Portal Setup
Bureau Veritas Consumer Product Service provides testing service among different kinds of consumer product. The product line range from hard-line, textile, food, toy and she test the product for major North American retailers. She have over hundreds office and over 40000 staff in worldwide.
In order to have the speedy spread over the update of latest standard, recall, and other important news, the company built up a portal for the internal staff among the world. The objective is a one stop area to obtain the information through the internet towards the intranet of the company.
The company has a department of Technical Service. The aim of the department is to provide the global alignment of testing method, develop the testing procedure and equipments, document control for datasheet and standard. Also they set up enquiry email account to answer the query of the technical staff. In order to enhance the service, the company set up a portal called "CPSConnect". It is newly launched in July 2009 and the company encourages the staff to make use of this. The original purpose is an easy source to find out the necessary information. In the past, the required standard and procedure are kept in different folder in the company's intranet system. There is no systemic way to find out the information needed. Hence, they staff may raise out many questions that have been asked by vary people before and increase the workload of the Technical Service department. Moreover, there is different time zone and the staff of Technical Service may not able to answer the query real time on line. So a database will be more benefit to the staff and company.
Introduction to the Existing Portal launched
The portal can be accessed via internet with any computer have Internet Explorer or similar web page browser. It allows the staff can make use of the information not only in the company but also during their travelling or work at home. Every staff will be assigned a user name and password to log in the system.
There is a large "what's new" session in the right hand side. Also, there is a frame menu in the left hand side to act as a guide to browse the web site.
The major content of the portal can be explored by click the link on the frame box on left hand side. Currently there are the following sessions:
- Division Information
- Human Resources
- Marketing Communications
- Product Lines & Services
- Sales & Tool Kits
- Information Resources Center (IRC)
- Company Life
- Tool Box (external link of other Bureau Veritas company web site)
In the Home session, there are general help message for new user, a message board to leave down question and the site map.
There is the different factual information of the company inside this session. The finance report of different area of the company, the introduction of IT, legal and quality assurance department as well as the contact person with useful form involved these departments.
This is the yellow page to search out the address and phone number of varies offices around the world; also there is a phone list for all staff sort by different location/office.
There are the contact list of the HR staff and the applicable form for US staff.
There are resources for the marketing people and customer relationship management (CRM) staff. The bulletins and newsletter for CRM distribute to clients for introducing new standard and tests; service sheets include the testing prize, testing service provided in different location; calendar for upcoming major event such as seminar, exhibition, training and etc.; the presentation template and past presentation for different clients can be found in this area.
There is the contact information of the Technical Service department as well as the resource of knowledge such as bulletins, certification/accreditation of each lab location, technical point of view update to align the global interruption of new standard and link to the directory of intranet for datasheet.
In addition, as there are different kinds of product lines of lab, the basic information of each lab are included here. There are analytical, electrical, hardline, softline and toys.
The basic document for the sales and business development are stored in here. There are test request forms for the client to fill in during a submission, the price list of tests. In addition, there is presentation and leaflet for the sales to present to potential clients and customers.
The IRC is an electronic library for storing regulatory, technical, industry and business information. The hyperlink can bring the user to the level down information and documents.
The introduction of different social responsibility teams in US company such as Charity Team, Green Team, Recognition Team, Safety Team and Spirit Team. Users can find out the latest activities and events hold by these teams to enhance the company's image.
The tool box has the list of the hyperlink to forward the user to external web site of other Bureau Veritas company.
Advantage and disadvantage of the existing Portal
The most important function of the information portal is a main entrance for the staff to search the information they need. Act as a starting point of the knowledge and information source, people can try to look for the necessary document from the portal. Before the launch of the portal, all the documents will be kept in the file server of each department. Most of the time, these information will not be accessible for other staff out of the department because of non-share feature of the file servers. People even don't know that the company has such information available.
In addition, the portal acts as a bulletin board to announce the latest news and standard. The front line staff who work and contact with the client directly in daily work can get the new information at the quickest time.
However, the current portal is at the level of enterprise information portal (EIP) but lack of communication between the users and the knowledge provider so that the portal can be further enhance into enterprise knowledge portal. (EKP) There are some weakness that the existing portal lacking of.
One of the major problems is that there is no search function within the portal except the search function for a particular staff. A simple keyword search function or an advance search by keyword with department should be added to ease the user to find out the information. A yellow page for people to find out the internal expert should be set up as not all of the knowledge is explicit into document in the portal but still in the mind of the expert as tacit knowledge. People need to know who have the relative information to find out the answer during their work.
Apart from Push, a Pull strategy should be applied in managing content as well. With the help of the "Subscribe" to a particular component or category of the content. When the content subscribed to changes or new content is added, the portal alert system will then notify the subscribers through a short note. The subscriber can thus get the most current and relevant information.
Furthermore, the portal does not have customized function to suit for each individual staff. For example, the staffs in textile department want all the related information from the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists (AATCC) and they want the latest news with a keyword "AATCC" appear in any bulletin. However, there is no such "alert" system for them and they have to check with every news breakout by themselves.
Also the portal has no people to people linkage. It is suggested to add the online communities or instant massager to let people share the knowledge. The portal is a "one-way" channel to spread the knowledge rather than a collaboration tools to collect knowledge among different staffs. We can assume that the launch of the existing portal have not been deployed any KM strategy before. Hence we suggest a plan of KM audit and strategy to improve the portal.KM Audit
As the actual need of staff and the company knowledge capital are not well recognized, the knowledge portal cannot fulfill the actual need of the staff. The knowledge audit aims to identify, elicit and record all of the knowledge contained in all of the staff in the company. A knowledge audit assesses potential stores of knowledge. After the competition of the first part of the knowledge management strategy, we can discover what knowledge is possessed, and then we can find out the most effective method of storage and dissemination. The knowledge portal with the content and finding after the audit is one of the solutions. Especially for a company with office in different time zone and the staffs work in in-house lab and outdoor. With reference to the research plan and the literature review of exiting audit instruments, Knowledge Management Culture Assessment Toll (KMCAT), Preliminary Process Survey (PPS), and in-depth interview, protocol need to be re-designed to achieve the goal.
The KMCAT (source : Choy, S.Y., Lee, W.B. and Cheung C.F. 2004 in HKPU) is a kind of survey, which helps to describe the culture profile of an organization by looking at the cultural factors relating to knowledge management implementation in a comprehensive way. In order to make the respondents feel more comfortable to answer the questions, all information will be kept confidential and they do not need to write their names down in the survey. Detailed information on the design of the KMCAT can be found in the next Chapter.
The second instrument to be prepared is the Preliminary Process Survey (PPS). The objectives of PPS are firstly to collect basic information, on the scope undertaken in the area, with high potential future value and secondly to provide a basis for selecting interviewees for the later stage of the In-Depth Interviews. A combination of PPS and KMCAT makes up the KM strategic readiness map serving to gauge the degree of success of implementing KM in terms of the fundamental areas of concern, namely, People, Process, and Technology, and the strategic process of KM including knowledge creation, knowledge diffusion and knowledge utilization.
The third item to be prepared is the In-Depth Interview Protocol. The purpose of the interview is to help the audit team understand the information needs, process break down, and most importantly the knowledge needs and flow of the respondents in their critical processes.
After designing all the materials for the knowledge audit, pilot tests are carried out to get feedback from the staff and thus avoid any ambiguity. Therefore, modifications including the wordings used, the relevance of questions asked as well as the comprehensiveness of the interview can then be adjusted accordingly thus contributing to the development of practical and unambiguous audit instruments.
Knowledge Audit Process
As long as the support has been gained and all related instruments have been well prepared and designed, the program proceeds to its second phase, the conducting of the knowledge audit. The audit can be divided into two steps. In the first step, the questionnaire of KMCAT and PPS with a covering letter will be distributed to managers. The managers then distribute the questionnaires to their subordinates. In order to collect the completed survey, a closed collection box is placed in the organization. The second step is to invite the holders of the most valuable knowledge to undergo in-depth interviews in order to elicit their knowledge in mission critical processes. By doing this, a formal interview protocol can be developed so as to ensure the consistency of the interview process for different interviewers.Content and aim of the interview protocol
The interview protocol will consist of some worksheet for the individual interview, the worksheet should have the following questions to find out the detail information of the workflow in daily work, the knowledge source of the staff, the information attributes and the necessary knowledge for the staff to complete their work. The goal of the interview is to determine the explicit and implicit knowledge inventory, the formal and informal knowledge sources, the attributes used to evaluate the quality of the knowledge and source.
It is necessary to let staff in affected departments know what the project is about, let them ask questions, express any anxieties and receive explanations. This is accomplished by providing them with a covering letter and an invitation letter if the respondents have been selected as interviewee for the in-depth interview. These letters are to help them know more about the knowledge audit, its structure and purpose with an indication of the time likely to be required either for the questionnaires and interviews.
Furthermore, the suggestions for improving the current KM situations are communicated to the affected units in order to reduce the resistance when they are implemented. The functions designed for facilitating their daily work should also well communicate to make sure they fulfill their needs and requirements. This will increase the acceptance level of the potential users. The interview protocol will be reference to the one from HKPU in the appendix.Expected Outcome
The knowledge map which is the process of assessing and linking the knowledge held by individual and groups within the company. Knowledge maps are drawn to map the main sources of explicit and tacit knowledge which are related to the company's business process. Incorporated within the knowledge mapping process is a knowledge gap and flow analysis which examines explicit and tacit knowledge flow in relation to the dissemination and sharing of knowledge.
By undergoing the above plan, it is expected that a systematic knowledge audit framework integrating KM theories with culture studies and various knowledge audit analysis techniques can be developed for
- Evaluating the cultural readiness of an organization in terms of KM implementation;
- Mapping knowledge resources available to an organization and their respective perceived value;
- Identifying potential problem areas or knowledge gaps through comparing the difference between the information and knowledge needs of individuals, and the knowledge assets within the audit area; and
- Proposing KM interventions with a balance among People, Process and Technology for rectifying the deficient areas based on the results from knowledge audit.
Having analyzed the results obtained from the knowledge audit, we will try to find out the possible actions for rectifying the problems. The suggestions proposed are not meant to solve all problems, but only the major ones revealed form the knowledge audit. They are grouped into three aspects, namely, People, Process and Technology
The results from KMCAT are generally in agreement with the result s from KMSRM. There is a coherent environment enabling people to share and create knowledge. However, it should be stressed that the positive side, like coherence, creation, of the current situation should be maintained or even further enhanced and the negative side, like control and collaboration should be improved or rectified otherwise it may create a barrier to the successful implementation of KM. As has been stated in KMCAT, there is a need to develop a more comprehensive evaluation program. To accomplish this, three strategies are proposed.
Firstly, the employees should be motivated to contribute to the intellectual capital through annual awards. Reward scheme aim to motivate people to share, acknowledge the value of sharing, and to show appreciation for the contributions.
Secondly, the organization should incorporate a new promotion mechanism other than its current evaluation system. Performance and promotion of employees should be driven by the extent that individual's share and leverage knowledge. Employees must network and share their knowledge in order to get a ticket to the senior level.
Thirdly, a learning review should be submitted to the higher management level from subordinates. This practice informally recognizes the knowledge contributors to others' learning, and reinforces the awareness of knowledge sharing activates.
It is suggested that a Community of Practice (CoP), After Action Review (AAR), and the Peer Assist be put into practice with the help of the portal as a media to conduct the discussion and meeting for staff not only within the own office but with other staff over the world.
Peer assistance enables a team of people who are working on a project or activity to get help from people in other teams. This can be achieved by making us of the Yellow Page system so that they can find the experts for a particular matter. Knowledge inventories contribute to this by profiling individuals regarding their expertise, which in turn helps people to locate and get help from experts. Besides this, the profiling is also important to the Human Resources department. Managers know what kind of people should be recruited in case an individual leaves the company or is relocated.
As revealed from the KM Culture Assessment Tool (KMCAT) and the KM Strategic Readiness Map (KMSRM), collaboration technology with personalized functions to increase users' adaptability should be developed. The following strategies are suggested to resolve the current problems like poor document management with weak search capability highlighted by the Preliminary Process Survey (PPS), messy taxonomy design revealed by the taxonomy analysis. Technology also acts as an enabler to integrate both People and Process suggestions. Technology consists of a document management system and various personalized functions.
The Best Practices Repository is developed based on the lessons learnt from the Community of Practice and After Action Review that was proposed in the Process section. The repository stores processes or methodology that represents the most effective way of achieving a specific objective. Its aims are to enable staff to learn from one another and to re-use knowledge. Effective sharing of best practices can help to identify and replace poor practices, raise the performance of poor performers, as well as minimize re-working caused by the use of poor methods. In order to ensure the best practices are really the "best", evaluation and authorization are required from administrators before posting them on the portal. The roles for managing the Best Practice Repository and the Community of Practice have been elaborated in the previous section.
The Yellow Page is developed by codifying peoples' expertise or skills listed in the knowledge inventories, into a central database. It provides a quick mechanism to enhance knowledge sharing because of its ability to allow staff to find a relevant expert to answer their requests through the portal. Peer assistance is driven by this function. The best match allows staff to get the most appropriate sources of knowledge. In other words, it allows access to the right person with the right knowledge.
The establishment of the Community of Practice is in the form of a Knowledge Caf to be integrated with the knowledge portal. It consists of a forum and of a voting mechanism. The Forum on the portal allows knowledge customers to ask questions, receive answers, and connect with experts through the portal, while experts in that field can answer those questions and provide relevant information or knowledge. All the communications in the Caf between different parties can be open or private. This is a kind of informal sharing as the forum enables the employees to send private messages to the corresponding knowledge suppliers or brokers. The more one contributes to a community, the higher the states one will have in the community. The participation level can serve as an indicator for the performance evaluation that is proposed in the People section.Document Management
Slow response time is found to be the most unsatisfactory attribute in getting the required information and knowledge from the sources, according to the knowledge audit protocol. The knowledge portal can help to solve this problem as it draws relevant knowledge from disparate sources and presents it in a coherent taxonomy. Throughout the audit, the most critical explicit knowledge is identified. Once related material is updated, the content will be automatically pushed to particular users. As the creators/owners and the users of particular documents have been identified from the knowledge audit, document routing can be performed to send documents to appropriate personnel automatically.The benefits of a good knowledge portal:
- Increase employee productivity, collaboration and effectiveness;
- Reduce the cost of new information publishing and distribution;
- Increase compliance with corporate standards, rules and processes for information storage and dissemination;
- Enhance users' ability to access information from vast disparate sources and to navigate the information in ways that more efficient accurate;
- Improve the efficiency and accuracy of queries and searches, data mining and manipulation;
- Enable user to automatically track events, schedule actions, and receive alerts based on pre-defined or implied data parameter.