Knowledge Management leveraging technology

Author : JamesWarren
Publish Date : 2021-06-23 17:50:11
Knowledge Management leveraging technology

Another area of HR, which is leveraging technology, is employee development. Programmed learning (PL) i.e. learning at its own pace is one of the most effective ways of adult learning. Use of technology for this purpose can't be over emphasized. Aptech Online University and 'The Manage mentor' are some of the Indian sites, which are in this business knowledge management, which is an integral part of any learning organization, which cannot become a reality without technology. Companies can harness the knowledge of its employees by cataloging and hosting it on the intranet. Talk to 'Big-5' or not 'so big' consulting companies you will find that main stay of their business is the knowledge repository. Technology has enabled them to retrieve it swiftly. In the competitive environment where speed is the name of game technology driven Knowledge Management constantly provides a strategic advantage.

If you look at HR module of ERP solutions like people soft, SAP, Oracle and Ramco they provide you with a comprehensive package which helps in man-power planning, recruitment, performance management, training and development, career planning, succession planning, separation and grievance handling. A transaction happening in all these areas are digitized and form a closed loop ensuring employee database is always updated. E.g. a joining letter of a new employee is system generated. It will be printed only when all mandatory fields of information are entered. Similarly a transfer order or a separation letter is issued from the system only if that transaction has been carried out in the system.

For career planning, success planning, skill and competencies matrix methods are used by most of these systems. They search an employee with the required skills first in the in-house database of employees. Once put in practice in letter & spirit, this system not only enhances business results by matching the right candidate for right job but also improves retention of employees.

Processing payroll, churning out time office reports, providing HR-MIS are some other routine activities of HR which have been off-loaded to technology.
business analysis phase implementation team

Leveraging HR for Technology

All HR professionals, preaching or practicing, learning or experimenting, teaching or studying have experienced leveraging technology for HR. But most of us come across a situation where we need to leverage HR for technology. Let us understand what do we mean by this.

Whenever technology is deployed afresh or upgraded it involves a change. The change may be at the activity level e.g., applying for leave through the intranet or at the mental model level e.g., digitizing the process succession planning which have been HR professionals forte. The people have always registered adopting change. This is one area where HR professionals are to deliver i.e., become change agents and lead the process of technology and change adoption. The resistance to change is directly proportional to speed of change. Now speed of change has increased and hence resistance.

Just to take an example, most of ERP implementation in the world have not been able to deliver all the expectations. Some of these have failed to deliver at all. While analyzing the cause of failure it has been observed that 96% of failures are because of people related issues and only 4% are because of technology.

It is the people who make the difference; hence HR should exploit its expertise to facilitate the adoption of technology. I would like to put together some of the thoughts on what HR should do for this.

At the time of recruitment, stop hiring for skills rather hire for attitude and a learning mind. Skills of today are no longer valid tomorrow. Managing ever changing change is the only criteria for success.

Functional or technical skills can be acquired during the job. Hence recruitment in the technology era needs to undergo a paradigm shift i.e., from a skill/competency based it needs to be attitude and learning mind/ ability based interview. That would translate into hiring for skills for future. In IBM every employee has to fill in his/her individual development plan where the employee commits its learning one/two new skills every year thus remaining competitive every time.

If we look at the chemistry of resistance to change it is either a skill issue or a will issue. To address the will issue we need to work at a comprehensive solution starting from recruitment (as discussed earlier), reward, compensation and leading to organization culture which promotes change. A living example is 3M, a US based company, where innovation is way of life, where 10% of revenue must come from new products every year. For them change becomes way of life.

To address the will issue further organization need to prepare a communication strategy which creates a 'pull' for the technology. For example, in Ranbaxy, when they went for SAP implementation they anticipated resistance. To address this they started a house journal, which was aimed at educating the employees on the benefits, which will result from adoption of ERP, SAP. This created a need rather a potential need or a latent need was brought out. Adoption of ERP did not become much of a problem.

At times adoption of technologies is perceived as a threat by the employees e.g., automation leading to reduction in workers, office automation leading to retrenchment of clerks etc. HR needs to be associated with the technical adoption right from the beginning till the end. At the selection of technical stage if HR is associated, it can map the skills required and create a pull during implementation and adoption. Post adoption it can release the excess non-re-allocatable employees.

To understand this process more clearly we can take example of ERP implementation. ERP is taken as an example as this is one technology adoption which effects employees across the org. irrespective of function and position. Any other automation may have affected only a segment of organisation. ERP implementation in any organization goes through the following stages.

1. Selection of package

2. Business analysis

3. Solution design

4. Configuration and customization

5. Conference room piloting (CRP)

6. Go-live and production

At each stage HR has to play a role, which will help in mitigating resistance to change.

During selection process, the change agent can understand the business benefit ERP would bring. This would help him to draw a comprehensive communication plant aimed at creating a 'pull' for the change. The communication plan may use its various weapons from the armory. The obvious examples are Newsletters, Newsflash. In-house journal, addressing by the top management, web cast, open house sessions, meetings formal and informal.

During the business analysis phase implementation team is supposed to analyse the existing business processes. At times this leads to surfacing of some data which is not very desirable by the process owners, leading to resistance at this stage, HR has to be again proactive and carry out a detailed stake-holder analysis. Such an analysis should give a lead to potential areas of problem and potential champions of change.

Solution design involves defining 'To-be processes' i.e., the way business would be carried out in future. At this stage HR has to play the role of catalyst to turn the heat on. The idea is to ensure to make maximum out of an opportunity of package enabled business transformation. HR can play a role by arranging to educate and train the right people on best business practices, just before this phase.

During the configuration and customization HR has to keep on beating the drum, the customization of a standard package is a big no-no. Similarly, during the conference room plotting (CRP) it should help in identifying the right persons to be involved in CRP. A thorough testing at this stage would result in lesser pain at the time of going live. This is also time to focus on training of end users, the employees who are going to use the system once implemented. Training- retraining -training to ensure all the prospective users are comfortable with usage of software before the system goes live.

During the go-live stage HR has to work over time to keep the motivation levels high. This is the time when management starts losing patience as one glitch after the other keeps appearing and virtually bringing the business to halt. At this stage, HR has to play 'conscious keeper' for the top management once into product relocating the surplus is a challenge for which it has to be prepared before it.

This examples makes it clear that involvement of HR during the entire life cycle of technology is valuable. ERP is not an isolated case. It is true for any other technology adoption only finer details may vary. Hence HR must play a proactive role rather than being just a silent spectator or mere executers of the wishes of business or chief technology officer in case of technological changes.

What does FedEx, Pfizer, Wachovia, 3Com, Mellon Financial, Shurgard Storage, Sempra Energy and Proctor & Gamble have in common? What board committee exists for only 10% of publicly traded companies but generates 6.5% greater returns for those companies? What is the single largest budget item after salaries and manufacturing equipment?

Technology decisions will outlive the tenure of the management team making those decisions. While the current fast pace of technological change means that corporate technology decisions are frequent and far-reaching, the consequences of the decisions-both good and bad-will stay with the firm for a long time. Usually technology decisions are made unilaterally within the Information Technology (IT) group, over which senior management chose to have no input or oversight. For the Board of a business to perform its duty to exercise business judgment over key decisions, the Board must have a mechanism for reviewing and guiding technology decisions.

A recent example where this sort of oversight would have helped was the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) mania of the mid-1990's. At the time, many companies were investing tens of millions of dollars (and sometimes hundreds of millions) on ERP systems from SAP and Oracle. Often these purchases were justified by executives in Finance, HR, or Operations strongly advocating their purchase as a way of keeping up with their competitors, who were also installing such systems. CIO's and line executives often did not give enough thought to the problem of how to make a successful transition to these very complex systems. Alignment of corporate resources and management of organizational change brought by these new systems was overlooked, often resulting in a crisis. Many billions of dollars were spent on systems that either should not have been bought at all or were bought before the client companies were prepared.

Certainly, no successful medium or large business can be run today without computers and the software that makes them useful. Technology also represents one of the single largest capital and operating line item for business expenditures, outside of labor and manufacturing equipment. For both of these reasons, Board-level oversight of technology is appropriate at some level.

Can the Board of Directors continue to leave these fundamental decisions solely to the current management team? Most large technology decisions are inherently risky (studies have shown less than half deliver on promises), while poor decisions take years to be repaired or replaced. Over half of the technology investments are not returning anticipated gains in business performance; Boards are consequently becoming involved in technology decisions. It is surprising that only ten percent of the publicly traded corporations have IT Audit Committees as part of their boards. However, those companies enjoy a clear competitive advantage in the form of a compounded annual return 6.5% greater than their competitors.

Tectonic shifts are under way in how technology is being supplied, which the Board needs to understand. IT industry consolidation seriously decreases strategic flexibility by undercutting management's ability to consider competitive options, and it creates potentially dangerous reliance on only a few key suppliers.

The core asset of flourishing and lasting business is the ability to respond or even anticipate the impact of outside forces. Technology has become a barrier to organizational agility for a number of reasons:

o Core legacy systems have calcified
o IT infrastructure has failed to keep pace with changes in the business
o Inflexible IT architecture results in a high percentage of IT expenditure on maintenance of existing systems and not enough on new capabilities
o Short term operational decisions infringe on business's long term capability to remain competitive

Traditional Boards lack the skills to ask the right questions to ensure that technology is considered in the context of regulatory requirements, risk and agility. This is because technology is a relatively new and fast-growing profession. CEOs have been around since the beginning of time, and financial counselors have been evolving over the past century. But technology is so new, and its cost to deploy changes dramatically, that the technology profession is still maturing. Technologists have worked on how the systems are designed and used to solve problems facing the business. Recently, they recognized a need to understand and be involved in the business strategy. The business leader and the financial leader neither have history nor experience utilizing technology and making key technology decisions. The Board needs to be involved with the executives making technology decisions, just as the technology leader needs Board support and guidance in making those decisions.

Recent regulatory mandates such as Sarbanes-Oxley have changed the relationship of the business leader and financial leader. They in turn are asking for similar assurances from the technology leader. The business leader and financial leader have professional advisors to guide their decisions, such as lawyers, accountants and investment bankers. The technologist has relied upon the vendor community or consultants who have their own perspective, and who might not always be able to provide recommendations in the best interests of the company. The IT Audit Committee of the Board can and should fill this gap.

What role should the IT Audit Committee play in the organization? The IT Audit function in the Board should contribute toward:



Category : technology

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