IBM's KM strategy

This article appears in the issue July/August 2006, [Vol 15, Issue 7]
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With a knowledge management history that dates to 1994, IBM certainly qualifies as an early adopter. Although its focus has shifted through the years, IBM's success with knowledge management continues to thrive through its enterprisewide knowledge exchange and collaboration. That strong history helped IBM earn KMWorld's KM Reality Award for 2005.

Karen Ughetta, director, IBM Collaboration and Knowledge, leads 10 employees who focus on KM from a corporate perspective. The integration of collaboration and knowledge into portals and the way people learn is a major focus for IBM, she explains. It's very much an evolution to bring that learning right to the work experience.

Asset management

IBM's first KM initiative in 1994 involved asset management from the business unit perspective. The strategy was to provide a knowledgebase of the work and knowledge of colleagues so that the assets and intellectual capital could be reused, enabling IBM to deliver client solutions with more quality and speed.

One asset management solution is KnowledgeView, which is a knowledge sharing program targeted at IBM's Business Consulting Services (BCS) unit. The suite of repositories contains intellectual capital, key resources and discussion forums that all support the consulting business, and provides a place for those who sell and deliver consulting work to access reusable assets. KnowledgeView had almost a million assets read in 2004, and more than 11,000 new assets were created and captured. New technology helps consultants find content quicker and increased intellectual capital sharing by 59 percent. That translates to a $42 million opportunity cost savings in 2004 if only 15 percent of reads yield a time savings of one hour.

IBM also supports a Worldwide Asset Reuse program targeted at the company's Global Services division. That group of repositories promotes asset-based services by capturing key assets and making them available for reuse. Since 2004, the Global Services KM team has captured 384 anecdotal success stories that demonstrate significant business impact. Ughetta says the business results captured by those success stories represent $81 million in cost savings, $63 million in asset revenue and $2.6 billion in services revenue.

When IBM's software group started in 1999, it designed Xtreme Leverage as a knowledge sharing and collaboration tool aimed at software sellers. The portal maintains intellectual capital, expertise location and community facilities for IBM's global software brands. At the time, each brand had a different approach to finding content and expertise. Xtreme Leverage started with just one brand, but included all five global brands by 2003.

Xtreme Leverage has achieved some extreme results in the past few years. It is the only place for software sellers to go for content and expertise--down from five--and attracts more than 40,000 users and approximately 800,000 page views per month.

"We focused on the needs of our sellers, who must be able to find experts in any of the five brands. 'Designated experts' means part of their job description is to help sellers and have the right expertise," Ughetta says.

Ughetta adds that IBM calculated a $50 million productivity improvement per year for the last four years by reducing the time required to find experts from one week down to less than eight hours. The organization is targeting four hours, she says, which provides an enormous business value. Xtreme Leverage also contains more than 400 active communities representing 6,000 users between sales, business partners and clients, for $16 million of additional revenue.

Expertise location

As IBM started focusing on collaboration, rather than teaming, the ability to identify and access expertise in an organization with 300,000 employees became a significant problem.

The organization started BluePages as a corporatewide directory enabled with instant messaging and e-mail linkage. It goes beyond IBM's corporate directory because it provides a searchable resource for employees looking for a network of experts to collaborate with or to help solve a business problem. Employees can even provide a photo to personalize their listing.

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