Developing Knowledge Strategy at a Global Defense Company
Background and Challenge

With dozens of offices spread across a vast geographic landscape, multiple business sectors within the organization, and very diverse groups of customers, this global defense company faced a substantial challenge. The myriad of business-critical projects at any given time consistently required extensive collaboration across organizational boundaries, geography, and functions.

In the late 90’s, knowledge management activities emerged sporadically in a few areas of the company. Contained within the various segments of the organization, these activities addressed content management issues, and in some cases included communities of practice and virtual teaming. However, very little activity took place beyond the respective boundaries of the key business sectors.

By 2003, a new CEO intent on fostering greater levels of collaboration across sectors provided considerable impetus to move to an enterprise-wide approach on knowledge management. A number of initiatives were launched, including a CEO-sponsored study which revealed valuable capabilities that lay dormant across the company.

Strategic developments that year, including an acquisition and the addition of two new sectors with separate technology platforms, further fuelled the need for common technology infrastructure and an integrated knowledge strategy. It became imperative for knowledge and collaboration to flow freely across sectors, bringing greater convergence to overall activities.

The Solution: Formulation of Knowledge Strategy

Saint-Onge Alliance worked in close partnership with the Corporate Knowledge Council to formulate an enterprise-wide knowledge strategy that would increase organizational capability. A number of critical activities helped shape the success of the strategy.

To foster agreement and ownership for the strategy, Saint-Onge Alliance designed and facilitated a comprehensive two day session engaging 60 representatives from across the company. As a result of the session, this diverse group reached consensus on the approach and successfully developed a three-year roadmap outlining key activities needed for implementation.

The strategy was carefully designed to:

  • Clearly outline the value proposition for proactively managing the knowledge of the organization
  • Reinforce the overall business strategies of the organization
  • Foster a high level of ownership across the enterprise by involving and engaging members of the organization
  • Optimize results and the investment required by providing an enterprise-wide knowledge framework
  • Reduce costs and redundancies by providing a common technology platform across all business segments
  • Orchestrate the evolution of current and future knowledge initiatives in a decentralized environment
  • Deliver a platform for enhancing knowledge work as it unfolded
  • Ensure the unencumbered flow of knowledge across different segments of the organization

The purpose of this strategy was to enhance the capability and the effectiveness of both individuals and the organization. The goals included:

  • Applying knowledge management (KM) principles across core process areas to: (a) rapidly increase the rate and effectiveness of organizational collaboration, and (b) drive competitive advantage, ultimately increasing shareholder value
  • Pursuing high-leverage communities of practice to support corporate business objectives and key business opportunities
  • Capitalizing on existing sector investments by identifying best practices (even if they were not started as KM initiatives), and adopting them across the organization
  • Creating a systems architecture and operations model that allowed for the creation of both corporate KM initiatives and unique sector initiatives
  • Developing a governance model that allowed for centralized taxonomy, decentralized management, and for the pace of adoption to be driven by the business units.

Saint-Onge Alliance has been asked to continue to support the Knowledge Council in renewing and deepening the implementation plans supporting the strategy. With full support from each of the business sectors, these plans encompass both the content and collaboration dimensions of the knowledge platform.

Early Results

  1. The company has acquired a software infrastructure that supports both content management and collaboration across the organization. This was the first component of the three year plan.
  2. Using the enterprise-wide knowledge strategy as a foundation, all sectors have since developed their own knowledge strategy and are in the process of implementation.
  3. All sectors have designated senior managers to champion knowledge initiatives. They are now leveraging the knowledge tools and processes being launched across the organization.
  4. A number of enterprise-wide communities of practice now exist in areas critical to business success. In addition, recent virtual collaboration among three sectors resulted in a significant business opportunity that would not have emerged without collaboration.
  5. One of the key applications of the knowledge platform is being used successfully in the development of proposals to clients.

Conclusion

Although some segments of the company already recognized the advantages of knowledge management early on, the true payoff didn’t emerge until an enterprise-wide approach was embraced. New strategic developments created undeniable opportunities for the entire organization to benefit from an integrated knowledge strategy. By developing a powerful foundation and structure for content management and collaboration, this organization continues to reap the rewards of increasing organizational capability and competitive advantage.

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