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Making KM work

An extensive study titled Mobilising Knowledge: The Pharmaceutical Industry Approach published earlier this year by Scrip, a leading pharmaceutical publisher, is an invaluable resource for any global enterprise, especially those with extensive research and development initiative. Written by TFPL Directors Sandra Ward and Angela Abell, and based on in-depth interviews with executives and on case studies, the report identifies knowledge management as the key component to an enterprise’s success strategy and explores the role of KM in 44 pharmaceutical companies in Europe and the United States.

The authors emphasize that knowledge provides the competitive advantage, and the successful companies will be those that manage its creation and exploitation well. They point to the need for all pharmaceutical companies to review their processes to ensure that effective creation, sharing and use of knowledge is the very lifeblood of the enterprise, adding that building the organization around the knowledgebase is the solution.

The authors see as particular drivers for knowledge management: the need to attract and retain a large number of talented staff, as well as acknowledgment of the global nature of the industry, effective use of IT resources, the inherent restructuring of the industry and the growing networks of alliances and partnerships. And they predict “informatics,” a discipline developed from the synergy between software engineering, mathematics, computer science and, in the pharmaceutical sector, scientific data, as becoming the dominant strategy for information integration and exploitation.

The authors conclude that pharmaceutical companies need to keep an eye on emerging business opportunities and take some investment risks in those developing technologies and sectors that may complement the core business. And only with an effective KM deployment can those opportunities be effectively identified and acted upon.

But like so many industries that rely on the intellectual capital of its staff, suppliers and customers, in this case, healthcare providers, the pharmaceutical sector has yet to effectively address how it will pool and effectively use the broadening knowledge resources. It’s interesting to note that in such a knowledge-intensive industry, that only 30% of pharmaceutical firms have some sort of KM initiative in place, Ward and Abell estimate, and that knowledge management as a practice is at best, spotty. Maybe KM is the pharmaceutical industry’s best-kept secret, but it’s unlikely. With possibly one exception, these experienced researchers found no such broad, enterprisewide knowledge management initiatives; KM is, they say, “still in the hands of the enthusiasts.”

That’s not to say the industry doesn’t see the value of building a knowledge culture. It understands the challenges facing it and how KM can be the catalyst to solutions. This report is the blueprint to making KM work in the pharmaceutical sector, and the lessons learned apply to other markets, as well.

Although not inexpensive at about $2,000 Mobilising Knowledge is worth a case of sticker shock if only for the case studies, which map the features, drivers and lessons learned from actual knowledge initiative implementation. The study is available from Scrip Reports, 18/20 Hill Rise Richmond, Surrey, TW10 6UA; tel. +44 (0)20 8332 8964, fax -8992; e-mail custserv@repsinfo.demon.co.uk.

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