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IBM's KM strategy

This article appears in the issue July/August 2006, [Vol 15, Issue 7]
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"It's enormously valuable to feel like you're talking to more than a voice on the end of the phone," Ughetta says.

Today, 84 percent of employees are registered in BluePages, and more than 4 million searches occur each week. Productivity is the easiest measure in terms of business value.

IBM also started Knowledge Point to provide IBM consultants with research and expertise location. In 2004, the organization saved $26.2 million in opportunity cost savings from 220,000 hours of saved practitioner time.

Collaboration

IBM provides employees with virtual spaces that encourage collaboration. Its Collaboration Central, for example, is a companywide portal for collaboration guidance, tools and best practices. It also offers remote teams online collaboration space in TeamRooms to share information and work collaboratively. In the last few years, employees have created 50,000 TeamRooms, with approximately 27,000 currently active.

IBM also offers open collaborative sessions called Jams for all its employees to collaborate and share knowledge on a particular topic. The Values Jam, for example, relates to mission statements. Values are a set of three mission statements that guide each aspect of work in IBM. Jams provide a central example of how IBM uses tools to innovate, says Todd Martin of the IBM corporate communications team, not just through the medium, but top-down and bottom-up collaboration.

"It speaks to the company and how it operates and leverages tools for success," Martin says. "It's a corollary to what we do in the marketplace. For us at IBM, innovation is not innovative new products but about making customers be the innovators in their space."

ThinkPlace is another area focused on innovation for IBM employees to submit ideas to solve business problems or grow the business. Ughetta says ideas are evaluated monthly, and the organization percolates up those that employees submit.

On-demand learning

This form of workplace training started in 2004 to give employees an ongoing set of learning opportunities. On Demand Workplace portals focus on critical job roles within IBM and deliver asset management programs and best practices directly to the right audience. Learning@IBM is an example of a new application on IBM's On Demand Workplace that streams profile-driven learning right to learners' desktops. It ensures employees are focusing on learning that is relevant to their specific job role by providing learning recommendations and resources based on job role, geography and business unit. In August 2005, Learning@IBM had 100,000 visits and more than 400,000 page views.

KM's impact on IBM

Employees expressed some natural reluctance within the software group to make themselves so publicly visible when the organization first reached out to experts. Ughetta says they were already inundated as part of their daily jobs. After people realized that they could package questions and make a searchable FAQ before they were contacted, employees were more comfortable.

"I think the result of the expertise approach we've taken is people begin to realize that by declaring themselves an expert and posting usable and reusable content, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy in a positive way," says Betsy Stevenson, director, software group enablement. "They're actually going to get fewer calls and fewer requests for their expertise. You teach people to look there first and they don't necessarily have to speak to a live human every time they have a question."

By working in a just-in-time environment and in different time zones, Stevenson says, sellers need to be able to search and find experts and expertise. With Xtreme Leverage, sellers know where the tools are and how to find the content they need to do their jobs.

IBM's business results from knowledge management initiatives are impressive. Yet it's efforts also impact the people side of the organization.

"When you have these virtual tools and capabilities, they've helped make IBM feel smaller," Martin says. "It's a place that feels like you're dealing with colleagues on a more personal level."

Stevenson agrees. "One more element that is driving productivity for salespeople is making information and experts more readily available," she says. "When those tools really work, our teams will tell you they're invaluable to them and drive productivity in the field." Vicki Powers is a Texas-based freelance writer, with credits in business and trade publications, e-mail vicki@vickipowers.com.

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