Hierarchy is dead! At least in everything related to knowledge and information. We all played “Chinese whispers” as children, so we know what happens when knowledge gets from the supplier to the consumer via mediators, and not through direct channels.
Rafael Armament Development Authority Ltd., an Israeli company with 5,000 employees serving the defense industry, depends upon innovation and high professionalism in order to succeed in the fierce competition in its field. As part of its strategy, a wide KM initiative has been taking place in Rafael since the end of 2001. The initiative includes many aspects of KM including CM solutions, content integration, cross-organization COPs, best practices transfer, knowledge mapping of core processes, and more. In all of these, the solutions are a mixture of technology, processes and organizational culture.
The KM initiative in Rafael is based on a strategic concept of 3D-network centric KM: A human network, applications network and information network.
This component is built of four BUs, each organized in a matrix (The projects in one dimension, and the technology in the other). The problem is that life is much more than two dimensional-–the common subjects for people in any organization are many and varied: common technology, common customer, common discipline, common product line, common market need, common organizational issue, etc…
This calls for a mechanism to complete the organizational structure. The communities of practice in Rafael are mostly cross-organizational communities. There are 30 such communities in Rafael today, in various stages of their life cycle – systems engineers COP, project managers COP, software engineers COP, experiment leaders COP, innovation COPs, Matlab users COP, .NET COP, project managers working with the same customer, etc… The COPs meet regularly, and have a collaborative site to use between meetings.
There are also 150 collaborative sites for various other groups in the organization.
Knowledge and information are created in certain work processes, but consumed not necessarily in these processes. The idea in creating a CM strategy in the organization is, to capture the content where it is created (using specific applications, and making sure that each piece of information is created once and lives in one place only), and to retrieve it where it is needed, using the same and different applications (usually we want to be able to retrieve the same piece of information in many different contexts, each possible user in his or her context).
For example, we have developed a nice AAR system, which helps in the process of conducting an AAR, and with the tagging of the AAR and lessons learnt for future use. We did the same for organizational procedures and for conference summaries. This is all very nice, but since we assume that people might not visit those systems to retrieve material when it is needed, we have built those systems with the feature of dynamically exporting the information to the appropriate vertical applications, based on the meta data (e.g. in the solution for the software engineers, they will receive, dynamically, all the procedures, lessons learned and conference summaries that are relevant).
The efforts to try to build an organizational subject tree are futile, since organizations cannot even decide how to make the first division: based on BUs? on products? on clients? on technologies? And even if they do, what will be the second division?
Our world is based on entities and relationships (a network of entities or an enterprise semantic Web). When looking on a Web page of a client, for example, we want to be able to navigate to all possible related entities (products we sold to the client, competitions we participated in, people in our organization with connections, key people in the client organization etc…)
At Rafael, we have developed two innovative systems based on this concept--one that is in use for marketing and CI purposes; the other is an ECM solution, combining the features of Internet (associative navigation) and content warehouse (like data warehouse for content).
Some final words – the military world has been talking about Network Centric Warfare for a while now, and this approach will rule in the business world for the same reasons. Network Centric KM is the right approach to take in facing future challenges.