The concept became popular in the 90s and refers to "… a discipline that promotes an integrated approach to identifying, capturing, evaluating, retrieving, and sharing all of an enterprise's information assets (Duhon, 1998, cited in Koenig
, 2012, p.1)".
These assets may include databases, documents, policies, procedures, and previously un-captured expertise and experience in individual members of staff.
In this article we will have a look at how successful companies leveraged their knowledge to drive growth and what trends we see in the market today.
How Knowledge Management can drive growth
Fortune 500 companies lose roughly “31.5 billion a year by failing to share knowledge”
, 2004, p.46). A shocking fact, right?
While most companies have methodologies, processes and systems in place to gather information - with the purpose of reducing development, marketing, sales and delivery costs - only few have been able to leverage their knowledge into the development of new services.
These knowledge driven services don’t only bring a high added value to the customer, but they are also characterised by high margins for the company – A true win win situation!
So how do you get started?
Companies wanting to plunge into the Knowledge Management-related services ‘game’ need to first consider whether their knowhow is worth selling and whether their capability can be put to the market in order to be used by others.
This is exactly what MAN Truck & Bus did when they saw their market share from selling trucks and busses dropping. They realised how much knowledge and information they were already collecting from their vehicles and what great value that could bring to their clients. They then developed different propositions and began offering different services to their clients. An example of such a service is the MAN Fleet Management System, which enables the truck’s raw data to be collected from the truck in real time and then translates this into simple and meaningful reports for customers. This service provides clients with information, such as predictive car maintenance, information about the driving style of their drivers e.g. fuel efficiency, excessive idling and so on. With this report in hand the end customers can take corrective actions for the use of their trucks, improve the abilities of their drivers, or even replace drivers who don’t perform as expected, as well as reduce down time due to predictive maintenance.
By finding a way to utilize their knowledge and information, MAN Truck & Bus was able to develop a new profitable line of service business, which opened new horizons to the company’s profitability. At the same time these new services give the client new insights, increasing their chances of success by assisting decision-making, facilitating learning, as well as by encouraging and nurturing cultural change and innovation.
As Knowledge Management appears to be a hot management topic that is still evolving and a fad here to stay (Koenig
, 2012, p. 7 - 9), it’s important that you remain updated with the trends.
Using Knowledge Management in maintenance for the purpose of making it predictive is the new trend nowadays. This means that maintenance can become more efficient, both in terms of one’s availability to the client, as well as in terms of cost.
Predictive maintenance means that you will be able to fix issues before they occur, by acting based on information from the product, instead of following a list of actions that need to be verified and checked. For example, in a mechanical assembly you can use sensors, which record information on the way the assembly works. From the data stored you know the threshold where you must change the assembly. When the assembly achieves the defined threshold you will be alerted by the system and so you will effect the change only when it is necessary.
What’s more, Knowledge Management is now extending its reach into environmental scanning and competitive intelligence, gathering knowledge from vendors, suppliers, customers and even the scientific and scholarly community. An example of this is IBM, which now provides consulting services to its clients with regards to business strategy, big data and analytics, managing transformation and organisational change and so forth.
The value of Knowledge Management is undeniable, but nevertheless, to date most companies use their knowledge internally and have not yet moved to the next step of selling it to others.
You need to dare and develop services based on your knowledge capacity and its usefulness to others in order to form a competitive advantage and increase your revenue. It is also necessary to achieve the best possible price/ performance level, due to increasing competition in that domain. Some standards for support centers, field services, professional services etc. can be used as reference in order to avoid reinventing the wheel.