Sunday, June 30, 2013

Observation for KMWorld "Measuring Collaboration Success"

I don't have time to read my various media inputs from cover to cover.  I just focus on knowledge I can use. I value KMWorld for insights into knowledge management but sometimes knowledge hides in plain sight.  Let's take a closer look at their June 2013 article, "Measuring Collaboration Success."

Forrester Research's very subjective, self-reported questionnaire drives the conclusions of a tradeoff chart measuring business units by their contribution to business value and their ability to drive change.  I can tell what's missing just by looking at the chart.  The least flexible business unit is manufacturing, followed by operations.  The most flexible unit is sales.  The missing variable is obvious:  investment in fixed plant.  Sales is a largely human element that can be changed at little cost by hiring and firing people in the sales force until the right people are in place.  Minor tweaks to their CRM systems cost little.  Compare this to the difficulty in changing a manufacturing unit without enormous new investments in physical infrastructure.  Changing operations is almost as costly because it involves reengineering supply chains.

The whole purpose of KM is to optimize the performance of large, complicated organizations.  That includes pushing KM practices down to capital-intensive business areas like operations and manufacturing.  I would like to argue that applying operations research and KM together can reduce the delta in business value between new product development (which isn't always capital-intensive until physical prototypes go for testing) and manufacturing.  The literature on KM is extensive but much of it is qualitative in nature.  KM sorely needs a textbook treatment like Cloudonomics that can quantify the value added by reducing the costs of human latency or introducing new collaborative tools.  That's the kind of thing I'd like to see KMWorld and Forrester Research address when they publish new KM thinking.