KM and Product Management
by Madanmohan Rao
Editor, The KM Chronicles
Bangalore; October, 17; 2012
The monthly Bangalore K-Community meetup had a ‘product’ focus this time. The distinguished panel addressed a range of issues including knowledge management (KM) and innovation in product lifecycle management, competitive engineering, product quality and evolution, product development processes, KM methodology frameworks, internal and customer social networks, and global collaborative products. Participants at the forum came from a wide variety of sectors: aerospace engineering, IT hardware, logistics, textiles, software services, airport infrastructure and BPO.
Here are my Top 12 Takeaways from the discussion:
1. KM helps product companies keep up with the rapid pace of innovation in high-growth markets, develop a range of diverse products for emerging economies, and deal with the high attrition of the tech industry. KM helps re-use of components and engineering processes across product lines. KM is important not just for engineers and developers but also sales and business development functions. It helps engage with customers and business partners as well.
2. For product companies with a global workforce, social computing takes on enterprise significance. A socially enabled workforce can leverage modernised enterprise apps and participate in realtime conversational streams and knowledge flows. Benefits of social computing include productivity gains, humanised connections in a global workforce, and better customer value. Social media brings meaningful dialogues and knowledge nuggets out of the ‘email cemetery.’
3. A maturity evolution path for the ‘social app fabric’ of a company can consist of the following phases: using off the shelf social tools, harnessing enterprise-quality social platforms, enterprise integration of social and legacy IT, and embedded social functionality in all enterprise communication.
4. CEOs and top management should realise that using social media should not be a one-way street. Just blogging and posting micro-blogs on Twitter/Yammer is not enough; leaders should also read blogs of their colleagues and employees and comment on them. Only then will there be truly multi-directional flows of knowledge on social channels; only then will country-level heads follow the example of global heads of the organisation.
5. KM has been effective in B2E and B2C channels; more effort will be needed to nurture and harness KM in B2B channels. KM has helped innovation management (IM) in incremental innovation, but not as much in radical innovation. KM has not helped inter-firm IM much in incremental innovation, but can enable inter-firm IM in radical innovation (eg. industry cooperation to adopt new standards). Strangely, professionals in KM and IM seem to operate in different worlds; more dialogue is needed between them.
6. Companies should evolve clear metrics to assess impacts of social KM tools, eg. percentage of people moving down the adoption diffusion curve (innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, laggards); percentage of top management with active social media profiles on the Intranet.
7. Traditional organisations need to creatively engage Gen Y employees, who expect a ‘social layer’ on top of enterprise tools and have different knowledge gathering behaviours (eg. they read less print books). But care must be taken to protect privacy and security, tone down ‘show off’ behaviours, and reduce frivolous uses of social tools.
8. In any culture, innovative capacity lies at the intersection of psychological factors, sociological conditioning, and economic drive. Nations with less recognition and protection of IP will not perform as well in international patent-driven innovation. Emerging economies have done well in service innovation, the next prize is product innovation.
9. KM should not just be about internal flows of knowledge, but also involves external absorptive capacity, eg. employees going to teach in schools and colleges and interacting with academia and students, which does not seem to happen as much in emerging economies.
10. Startups will eventually need to formalise KM and IM to scale up effectively. This can be a challenge for some founders to relinquish ‘people-based’ approaches to knowledge communication and move to more formalised ‘process-driven’ knowledge exchange.
11. Acquisition of product startups can be an effective way for larger product firms to get new technology and expertise, but not all parent companies and startups can manage the culture change effectively.
12. Truly visionary global players have expertise in a range of knowledge and strategy domains: scenario planning, KM and IM (eg. Shell). KM principles such as reusability can kill creativity. KM is a left-brain activity, innovation is right-brain. Not all KM-award winning companies are IM-award winners — and vice versa!
J Subramanya NarayanaMurthy, Director Engineering Operation, Honeywell
‘JS’ is responsible for driving product development excellence in RDE projects of Aero, ACS & ITSS executed at HTS India. He leads primarily process quality, program management, Six Sigma and Reuse and Knowledge Management functions. He is working with the engineering team in ensuring that the highest level of CMMI maturity practices is followed and is well integrated with HOS and lean practices. JS has 17 years of experience in product development and engineering in Honeywell. He holds a bachelor degree in Electronics from Bangalore University. He has undergone a general management program at IIM-B.
Swaminathan C V, Solution Consultant, Unisys
Swaminathan CV is a SharePoint Solution Consultant with diverse experience in implementing KM solutions, designing portal solutions for business/function/strategic programs, social computing, usability designing and business collaterals. He has also worked on social computing tools, scalable solution designing and client services. His current focus is enabling user’s access and harvesting information in the most effective way.
Pavan Soni, Innovation Evangelist and Research Scholar, IIM-Bangalore
Pavan Soni is the author of 15 papers and articles on innovation and co-authored two books on the subject. He was previously innovation evangelist at Wipro and consulted with firms on innovation and creativity agendas. He pioneered the concepts of Let Sparks Fly and Innovation Bazaar, and other creativity events in India. He is an active blogger, at www.pavansoni.net and www.theinflectionpoint.info.
Moderator: Dr. Madanmohan Rao, Editor, The KM Chronicles (http://twitter.com/MadanRao)
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