Friday, July 08, 2005

KM in a water utility

I managed to take a day during my vacation to visit a large water utility company and talk to their knowledge management manager. I was very impressed with their program and all they can accomplish with a staff double mine (2 people). One thing that I heard very clearly from them, was the use of awards and incentives for motivation. Below are some other things I heard:

Communities of practice - Currently have 52 communities with 2868 community members. Use Quickplace software. Communities vary in scope, number of members and topics. They have a defined process for setting up a community. Each community has three contacts 1) Administrator – from the KM group, 2) Leader - content manager, technical expert and 3) community champion – other major contributor. The challenges they identified are keeping the communities alive, a single sign-on for multiple communities, and maintaining soconsistentlytcy.

Ideas into action - Program to get innovative ideas from employees. Originally gave the submitters a percentage of the savings to the company, have now put a cap on it. Have a well defined review and selection process. Ideas must be related to the business and identify cost:benefit as well as how to get it done. Had over 6000 ideas submitted last year. Originally implement about 12% of the ideas, now up to 32% implemented. Some of the challenges they faced are:

- Getting well thought out ideas - Sometime are only a thought, with no detail
- Implementing ideas does take time and effort
- Controversy about the awards, some feel that they submitted the same idea

Database Creep - A major goal of their KM is to consolidate organizational knowledge. They have a real challenge with rogue software and databases being used throughout the company. Huge challenge in reigning in these systems.

Workflow - Have made workflows much simpler by making the content owner the approver of most content.

Intranet - Company information is exchanged through the internet. Have a "submit feedback" button on every page of the intranet. For updating contact information they did a contest, with gift card rewards, significantly improved the response rate.

Learning reviews - KM leads post mortems of business processes. How did the process work, what could be done better next time?


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