Knowledge Management: Failure Points

A few weeks ago, I asked readers to vote on where PS organizations should be investing to improve performance. The early voting is showing readers believe knowledge management is where there is bang for the buck:

Where should PS invest?

We know from our benchmarking that PS organizations invest about 3% of their revenues back into services engineering efforts. A subset of that investment goes into knowledge management infrastructure.  Is this the right investment level? My observation is that PS organizations limit their investment in knowledge management infrastructure because they just don’t know what the return on investment truly is. Why is the return on knowledge management so unclear to PS organizations?

I am observing three common failure points for knowledge management within PS organizations:

1. Lack of Infrastructure

The first challenge facing PS organizations is lack of mature knowledge management infrastructure. Throwing documents into a central repository is not really knowledge management. My colleague, John Ragsdale, has written tons of articles on knowledge management infrastructure within support service organizations. He is now turning his gaze to how PS organizations can better leverage technology to manage information.

2. What Assets Matter?

The second challenge PS organizations face is a lack of understanding regarding the solution assets that really do make a difference when selling and delivering complex solutions. Do consultants get the greatest value from sample project plans or sample proposals? Or do sample deliverables really make the difference?  It is rare for PS organizations to conduct regular project reviews that poll delivery consultants on what solutions assets they used and what assets were most valuable. This lack of data and insight makes it nearly impossible for PS organizations to judge what solution assets make the most sense to create.

3. Zero Enablement

Finally, I am more and more convinced the lack of return in knowledge management is being heavily influenced by a lack of enablement activities. PS organizations build out solution assets, throw them out to the field, and then hope for the best. Where is the love?  How are delivery consultants trained to actually leverage the knowledge codified in solution assets? My newest colleague at TSIA, Maria Manning Chapman, has a background in education services.  She is leading the TSIA Education Services discipline. Her motto is simple: Accessibility  does not equal learning. In other words, simply making information available does not mean employees are actually internalizing the knowledge.  To gain the big bang for the buck in knowledge management, PS organizations must manage both knowledge creation and knowledge dissemination. Two distinct motions.

So, votes are still coming in. Where do you believe PS organizations need to invest?


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One Response to “Knowledge Management: Failure Points”

  1. Greg O'Brien Says:

    While I was at Convergys Corp., I led our efforts within professional services around Knowledge Management and Skills Assessment and Tracking. Our investments in these areas had high ROI’s, however, I would state that it was our investments in Resource Management (scheduling) that drove our greatest improvements in profitability as well as consistency in delivery. We did invest in both people and systems dedicated to resource management to help ensure that we had the right people with the right skills available to deliver all of our projects while at the same time significantly improved our billable utilization. It was from this increase in profitability that we were able to make the investments in knowledge management and skills assessment and tracking.

    With that being said, we were able to drive significant improvements in both the knowledge management and skills assessment and tracking areas with minimal investment. For example, on the skills assessment and tracking side, some of the biggest improvements in this area was done via a few basic changes which required almost no investment:
    1. Set a target number of training hours for every employee to complete in a year.
    2. Deployed basic systems to track classes and hours completed by each employee.
    3. Established curicula for specific positions and products.
    4. Had managers agree upon classes that each employee would complete as a part of their annual training hour objective (utilizing the designed curricula).
    5. Measured everyone against their training goals.

    Step #5 was most crucial. Simply stated “what gets measured, gets done.” Once we put the process in place to measure people against completing specific classes and total annual hours, our learning efforts significantly increased. I would point out that this increase in training did not adversely impact our billable utilization. We simply had people better using their non-billable time to grow their skills. We also found that our efforts to develop curricula for our professional services staff also created increased training revenue opportunities as we took this same curricula to our clients and convinced them of the value of utilizing these same curricula for various positions within their organizations.

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