Embedding KM in Organisational Workflow and Culture

Embedding KM in Organisational Workflow and Culture


by Madanmohan Rao

Editor, The KM Chronicles


Bangalore; June 16, 2010



If you are ever in Bangalore on the third Wednesday of any month, you must attend the Bangalore K-Community: the monthly gathering of knowledge management professionals! This time we were delighted to have organisers of the Mumbai K-Community and Chennai K-Community join us as well.


Despite competition from the World Cup football matches (last time it was competition from the IPL cricket matches!), the “KM faithful” gathered this month at the office of TCS in Whitefield for presentations and discussion on embedding KM in organisational workflow. Speakers this time were from organisations of very different size: eClerx with 3,000 employees, and TCS with 150,000 employees.


Kishor Desai, senior consultant in banking and financial services at TCS (www.tcs.com), profiled some uses of the company’s KnowMax KM platform. Desai has spread the essence of KM within his unit and also identified a passionate bunch of KMers to champion and keep the spirit going.


Desai talked about how they have created a proposals workspace, for employees across geographies to pool their resources and ideas on how to develop new proposals for client services. The collateral library is used by sales, marketing, delivery and technical teams.


The ultimate goal is to create frictionless flows of knowledge, agnostic of hierarchy but with adequate security built in. The focus is on meeting customer demands of quality as well as timeliness of project execution. Social media are extensively used by Desai’s team, ranging from peer-driven “Ask Me” facilities to Wikis, blogs and tweets.


Employees new to a project contribute to the knowledge assets by creating Wiki pages summarising and connecting different assets (eg. background papers, tech specifications).


“No KM practice is an island – all new knowledge assets are integrated with or linked to prior assets. Knowledge supervisors ensure that employees make the explicit knowledge connections, so that an integrated body of knowledge emerges,” explained Desai.


Blogs are used for leadership communication, solicitation of ideas, and technology debates. A Twitter-like application is used for a range of activities including tracking the competition and exploring new technologies. The advantages of using such an application include the ability to overlay search on the tweet feeds, which yields more useful results than searching emails.


Kishore Poduri, KM head at eClerx (www.eclerx.com), covered the evolution of KM in his company and highlighted the use of multiple KM practices that have helped stem the challenges of rapid growth, enable operational excellence, and foster a culture of continuous learning and knowledge sharing. Poduri is principal in the resource management group at eClerx, and leads the human resource, knowledge management and quality teams at the KPO company.


At eClerx, KM is integrated with training and organisational learning. This serves as the backbone for better scalability and rapid innovation at the operational level. Since knowledge-based services form the core of the firm’s competitive advantage, the firm’s leadership has made a significant investment in KM. The central KM team employs 15 full time KM practitioners and the operations verticals have another 45 knowledge champions.


eClerx has been experiencing rapid growth since 2004. The last three financial years’ revenue growth has been averaging around 64%, while the headcount growth has hovered around 59% (both figures in CAGR). Such exponential growth exposes the organisation to multiple challenges like the ability to scale rapidly and knowledge attrition.


KM was launched formally in 2005, and the initiatives rolled out in the company include CrossConnect, Lesson of the Fortnight, Client Visit Insights, Expertise Locator and Eureka (innovation repository).


The KM team includes KM Anchors: KM professionals who are embedded in project teams and help create knowledge assets and knowledge associations in complex work environments. The company also aims to make KM a regular part of employee workflow, and employees are regularly assessed for the nature of their contributions to organisational KM.


Key learnings from the eClerx experience include the need to blend centralised with de-centralised approaches to KM, and to link KM with learning and development. “Capturing knowledge in written form is a skill – do not shy away from investing in documentation specialists,” advised Poduri.


eClerx has truly imbibed the KM spirit, and is now actively organising the Mumbai K-Community (http://kcommunity.ning.com/group/mumbaikcommunity). Alakh Asthana, associate process manager for KM, runs the eClerx KM Channel on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/user/eClerxServices). The company was also a MAKE India finalist in 2009.


A. Srinivasan, KM Head at TCS, made some concluding remarks and said the company is working on the Tata Business Excellence model. He joked how some years he did not give enough of his time to some employees who wanted to start KM in the company – but they now take digs at him for being the KM head at TCS!


A lively Q&A session followed, with queries about everything ranging from KM benchmarking and knowledge maps to KM contributions in decision making and the limits of excessive KM metrics. I had to eventually cut off the questioning period so that the speaker could catch his flight later in the night!


See you all in July at our next K-Community gathering; suggestions for topics, sponsors and hosts most welcome!!!


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