Knowledge Management – The way forward.

The source of a sustainable competitive advantage for any organization is derived from the access and subsequent exploitation of resources, and today, knowledge is being heralded as the most important of such resources that is available to organizations (Drucker, 1993). For the larger and mature organizations, often process capability knowledge is the primary source of advantage, whereas for the organizations seeking to grow and out-grow competition, in addition to process capability knowledge, knowledge management focus would also include market knowledge, rapid product development, or the creation of knowledge through research. However, it is important to recognise that even mature organizations need to create knowledge to avoid falling into the stagnancy pit. This is exactly what knowledge management attempts to provide more succinctly to the organizations. Knowledge management aims are to create conditions under which competitive advantage can be maintained, by creating,  acquiring, retaining and exploiting the knowledge for the welfare of the organisation.

Knowledge management is the way organizations today are attempting to make the otherwise intangible knowledge tangible and distributable, throughout the organization, in search of the illusive competitive advantage. Today, in this evolving world where insights on data or business intelligence plays an extremely crucial role for the sustainable development of an organization, knowledge management has become a key area of focus.

Beckett et al. (2000) has provided an interesting framework by which many organizations are actually managing their data within with a growing focus to manage the data outside the organization also. Through research, the authors highlight how effective knowledge management can provide a wider scope of continuous improvement to obtain benefits for the parent organization, by providing higher quality information, better quality information, removing information asymmetry, and subsequently increasing the levels of organisational expertise which can be applied to it to create substantial improvements for the organization.

The sole focus of organizations today is to convert internalized tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge, so that it can be commoditized and less dependency is there on an individual for being the source of knowledge. With a high attrition rate in organizations across industry, it becomes extremely pertinent that knowledge once created within the organization stays inside the organization and does not become unusable once the creator of the same changes base, within or outside the organization. That is the sole objective of the initial knowledge management systems.

For improving the knowledge management practices within the organization, companies today are increasingly adopting rewards systems, collaborative systems, post-project reviews, knowledge mapping, establishing communities of practice with cross-project learning platforms, creating expert directories, competence management systems, best practice transfer, mentor-mentee relationships, knowledge fairs, formal knowledge repositories, measuring and reporting intellectual capital, knowledge brokers, social media and social network mining systems.

While it is important for organizations to understand the importance of knowledge management systems, even one aspect that many organizations often overlook is using the knowledge outside the boundaries of the organization, but within the value chain. Realizing this, the recent focus has been the development of customer knowledge management systems, where customer tacit knowledge is use to co-create value for the customer in the best possible way, and finally value for the company. Another group of stakeholders who are being introduced into the knowledge management realms are the supplier networks, where knowledge management is often used to create otherwise non-contactable value for the stakeholders. The way forward for knowledge management systems into the future is to capture the tacit knowledge outside the organization but within the value chain (and within multiple stakeholders) to create value for both.

Today, it is pertinent that all the senior executives of organizations realize the potential benefits of effective introduction and management of knowledge management systems, that can benefit the organization. Today, while organizations are facing increasing levels of competition due to the effects of greater competition, knowledge management provides an important way for organization to utilize the most valuable resource available to them, to gain competitive advantage.

4 Cs of Marketing – The Marketing Mix

R.F. Lauterborn (1993) proposed a 4 Cs classification to address the growing focus of marketing strategist on the consumer. While the 4 Ps framework for defining the marketing mix has been popular for decades, the four Cs have gained in terms of importance, considerably in recent times.

The 4 Cs consists of CONSUMER, COST, CONVENIENCE and COMMUNICATION.

The roots of the 4 Cs of marketing can be traced back to the classical 4 Ps marketing mix. However, with the onset of database marketing, the focus has shifted in marketing from a consumer transactional view-point to a consumer relationship viewpoint (and very recently consumer engagement). However, the basic focal strategic issues remain unchanged at its very core.

The details which a manager designing a marketing mix using the four Cs needs to focus on are as follows:

  • Clients / Consumer (customer) is the king. No longer can products be developed and pushed to the consumer in the hope of conversion of a purchase decision. Gone are those days when consumers had to buy products to satisfy needs for a simple lack of substitute. The market is over saturated with great products. Consumer behavior needs to be studied thoroughly from the product development phase itself. The attributes of any product should be almost built-to-order in current times, and substantial inputs should be taken from primary market research.
  • Pricing is crucial. The pricing strategies undertaken by any product development company should keep the perceived value of the product, to the consumer, in mind while deciding a pricing strategy.  Effort should be made to estimate a customer’s  tradeoffs  among  multiple attributes in a product so as to arrive at the perceived total value while  pricing  a  multi-attribute product.
  • Convenience of the service delivery or product purchase location is crucial. The place utility often is a differentiating factor in the success stories of many a promising product. It becomes extremely important especially if the product purchase is a low engagement decision making process, like that of purchase of day-to-day products.
  • Communication is crucial.  As opposed to the initial focus of brand promotion, communication of the brand personally so as create a brand awareness and brand cognition is extremely crucial for a sustainable pull strategy.  Every brand is perceived to have a personality. Communicating the same using proper communication channels becomes crucial for the success of any marketing campaign.

While the focus of designing a marketing mix has shifted from the 4 Ps to the 4 Cs, it is extremely crucial to understand that the underlying core remains the same. The major shift has been due to a paradigm change of focus from the product or service design to understanding the customer. This is where a 4 Cs strategy scores over the 4 Ps or 7 Ps strategy.

By the way, did you read our article on the 7 P’s of Services Marketing?

A discussion of 3 core issues in Information Systems Research

Information systems research looks at the interface of three aspects of the firm, Technology, Process and People. In this essay, we look at the issues discussed by three of the highly cited papers in Information Systems research.

The article “A Framework for Research in Computer Based MIS” by Blake Ives, Scott Hamilton, Gordon Davis talks about 5 major research models by “Mason & Mitroff”, “Chervany, Dickson & Kozar”, “Lucas”, “Mock” & “Gorry & Scott Morton”. It also forecasts a model to generate future potential hypotheses for research. In the Mason & Mitroff Model, the focus is on defining the IS as A person of a certain Psychological type who faces a problem within some organizational context for which he needs evidence to arrive at a solution, where the evidence is made available through some mode of presentation. In the research by Chervany, Dickson & Kozar, the focus is on the isolation of dependent and independent variables which determine effectiveness of an IS.  Lucas formed a descriptive model of situational, personal & attitudinal variables & their impact on usage of the system & performance of the IS user, where behavioral issues have been studied in depth. Mock studied how behavioral constraints on system developers and users, impact the usage of the system and their individual performances. Gory and Scott Morton focused on how an IS provides information for management decision making. The authors of the paper designs a model with 3 IS environments, 3 IS processes & 1 IS subsystem, existing within an Organizational & External environment. On the basis of interaction between the variables of these types, the author divides IS research into broadly 5 types, 1 to 5, which again are subdivided into multiple subtypes. The framework focuses on providing a basis to formulate a hypothesis which is relevant to MIS research.

The article “The Identity Crisis within the IS Discipline: Defining & communicating the disciplines core properties” by Isaac Bensbasat & Robert Zmud, focuses on what is IS research all about and how to make it a distinct area of research. He focuses on how to build IS research by investigating closely related areas than distant issues. He states the 3 requirements for IS research, that of claimed central character, claimed distinctiveness and claimed temporal continuity required for IS research to evolve as a discipline. He stresses on the need for an identity in the MIS field by obtaining cognitive & socio-political legitimacy. The authors are concerned that the Interdisciplinary nature of IS cause application of varied theories from multidisciplinary backgrounds which is important for building theory but may dilute the focus of research. They express their concerns of errors of exclusion of core constructs & errors of inclusion of non-core construct in studies of IS and IT artifacts. The core properties focusing on the managerial, methodological, technological, operational, behavioral issues and the impacts of IT should be studied in IS research, in the context of the nomological net. IS research should also investigate relationships involving 1/more core constructs only, and heavy reliance on theories of reference disciplines to achieve legitimacy should be minimized.

The article “MIS RESEARCH: Reference disciplines & a Cumulative tradition” by Peter Keen also focuses on suggesting a way in which MIS research may evolve into a classical discipline having its own identity. He states that the concept of having microeconomics & computer science as the reference field limits the scope of MIS research. The researchers should focus on defining the dependent variable in their study and build on the work done by predecessors. The research should now focus on building theory from multiple reference disciplines to help IS keep evolving as a discipline and not build frameworks only. The research should not be dependent on technology evolution but focus on management, information and systems issues. Since MIS as a discipline has strong implications for practice, the focus on theoretical research should not be diluted. The focus of the researchers should be to publish in quality IS journals. Research should focus on the management of the use of technology to benefit business processes and resolve technical, managerial & organizational issues.

All 3 papers focus on mentioning the scope of IS research and what researchers should focus on in the future. They stress on the need for building theory to make MIS evolve as a discipline, and not be too dependent on reference disciplines for the purpose. Also they stress ways to evaluate if a research is actually investigating issues closely related to IS or not. Also they stress on how hypotheses formulation should be done for research in IS and what should the constructs aim to achieve.

Values and Attitudes: a case study (2)

Our values are principles or beliefs that serve as guidelines to help us make decisions about actions, behaviors and life choices. They reflect what we value and how we feel about the rightness or wrongness of things. Attitudes are how values are manifested in our actions and thoughts to others. ATTITUDES are our feelings towards certain ideas and dictate how we react in concrete situations.

In this case study, we analyze the values and attitudes in Lagaan, the bollywood superhit movie of 2007. (Part 2)

Identifying Instrumental Values.

Bhuvan’s value of collectivism was in his accepting the challenge.Also Captain Russels individualism and superiority complex was portrayed when he decided to actually lay down the challenge to bhuvan, and this was clearly not appreciated by his superiors.The raja’s values of Dharma over Karma was expressed when he was asked to consume meat,in return of the favour asked.The collectivism of the villagers was expressed when they united to fight against the wrong that was being done towards them.The uncertainty avoiding values of the villagers were expressed when they did not want to tke up the challenge.Then Deva Singh Sodhi’s instrumental values came in the act in his joining the team,against his terminal values of fighting against the british.The values of the caste system became evident when bhuvan invited kachra to play,but eventually bhuvan managed to ignite the collectivism of the villagers. Collectivism was again portrayed when Lakha’s Individualistic act of betrayal became public. The values of winning,at the cost of ethical sportsmanship,was portrayed by the british players during the game.

Biographical Characteristics:

Age:  The impact of seniority has been seen throughout the film, especially in times when Bhuvan tries to speak in defiance of the british raj, but the senior villagers prevent him from doing so.When bhuvan actually first started to play the game, an incident occurs, when the ball moves towards gauri, and when she tries to give it back to him, she is ordered by her father to tend to household activities. Throughout the film, it is seen that the important positions in the village social architecture, like the mukhiya, is held by senior persons.It is not as if seniors do not let the juniors to speak out their perspectives and views, but the status of seniors still remains. In fact, there has been several occasions throughout the movie when the youth can actually make the senior citizens see reason although initially they were less inclined to do so. The age factor has been key in deciding the values of the individuals, with respect to their openness. The youth had been actually portrayed to be more upto the challenge, and ready for a change, while the seniors were not really ready to accept changes in their thought processes.

Gender:  It has been observed through out the film that feminine characters has been portrayed as those with feelings, and although the society of the village has been purely patriarchal in terms of holding the key positions like the mukhiya,women has been associated with  respectful persona that cared for the rest, and saw to it that the family needs were taken care of. They tended to the old, weak and the injured and sick people.It was especially illustrated when during game practice sessions gauri came with the meals for the players, and even coerced them to eat.During the practice sessions, when the players got bruised, under the guidance of Harikaka, they tended to the players. The behavior of Elizabeth has been a sharp contrast to that of her brother, who was arrogant and unkind, to the core and expressed masculinity.

Caste: Caste system was prevalent in those days, and that also took a centre stage in the later half of the movie when Bhuvan invited kachra to play in his team. Kachra was referred to as being untouchable or “Achut” and the rest of the team initially was very adamant about leaving him out of the team. It took the inspirational character of Bhuvan to actually convince the villagers to move away from the caste bias and play unitedly and portray collectivism.

Race: A scene flashes to the inner eye is when throughout the movie, the Indian villagers were mistreated by the british raj as being native and insults were hurled at them at random and they were severely penalized even for small “mistakes”. The Indian villagers were shown to be beaten up, and Captain Russel went to the extent of saying that the natives would for ever live under the soles of the britishers. This shows the complete disregard of the human being and the racist feelings and attitudes that took centrestage when the plot of the movie unfolded. Even the british loyalists were not free from insults, and towards the end of the match, it was seen that even the most loyal Ramprasad revolted due to the constant differential behavior that was meted out to him on a regular basis.
Our values are principles or beliefs that serve as guidelines to help us make decisions about actions, behaviours and life choices. They reflect what we value and how we feel about the rightness or wrongness of things.

 

Values and Attitudes : A case study (1)

Our values are principles or beliefs that serve as guidelines to help us make decisions about actions, behaviors and life choices. They reflect what we value and how we feel about the rightness or wrongness of things. Attitudes are how values are manifested in our actions and thoughts to others. ATTITUDES are our feelings towards certain ideas and dictate how we react in concrete situations.

In this case study, we analyze the values and attitudes in Lagaan, the bollywood superhit movie of 2007.

First, an understanding of the needs pyramid is essential for further appreciation of the case analysis.

The need pyramid typically drives the values and attributes of individuals. The characters  of lagaan are also not free from the effects of this hierarchy of needs, first hypothesized by Maslow.

Values and Attitudes: The Flow in Lagaan.

The attitudes in the movie become evident when an argument starts between goli and bhura, reflecting their affection for their children and poultry respectively.Then gauri professes negative affective attitude towards Lakha.The oncoming clouds spark behavioral and affective attitude driven actions amongst the villagers starting a celebration.Then the behavioral component of bhuvan’s towards the british player become evident at the first british-villagers meet.Then the villagers expressed negative cognitive attitude towards bhuvan’s acceptance of the challenge although gauri and his mother showed a positive cognitive attitude.Then the villagers showed an affective attitude when bhuvan’s first shot hit the temple bell.The value to stand by a villager, if threatened by external forces became evident, when bhuvan was then attacked by the other village. Elizabeth portrayed the value for equality of chances when she decided to help the villagers understand the game. Then Ismail’s cognitive attitude became evident on seeing the “gori mem” assisting bhuvan.The instrumental value of deva singh sodhi when he came to play, as against his terminal value of “war” against the britishers.Then the affective value of elizabeth gets portrayed as she confesses to bhuvan,she loved him.Similarly, bhuvan professes his love to gauri.Bhuvan’s behavioral component of equality got reflected when he invited kachra to play in the team,against the negative cognitive attitude of the villagers,which he later managed to change.On the D-Day the affctive attitude of the raja against the british became evident.Then when the villagers came to know about Lakha’s betrayal, their cognitive and affective attitude became evident.The positive cognitive attitude of the british officers towards the village team’s performance,became evident when the game was in progress.During the game, the cognitive,affective and behavioral attitudes of bhuvan’s team became evident,towards the tactics of the Britishers and their own reactions.Finally, the display of affective attitude when the village team won the match.

Transformation of Attitudes.

Initially the villagers were very hesitant in supporting bhuvan,but the first shot of bhuvan rang the temple bell changed their veiw,which continued seeing the constant enthusiasm of bhuvan and the support from the “gori mem”.Slowly bhuvan’s self belief and enthusiasm was infused among the villagers.Gauri and bhuvan’s mother was always there to support bhuvan from the very beginning,although in the patriarchal society,they did not have too much say.The support from the “gori mem” was instrumental in arising the feelings of the villagers to stand up against being wronged.Amidst  all this positive changes of attitude, the negative changes in Lakha was striking,when his attentions toards gauri was neglected,who in turn only cared for bhuvan,and this caused him to betray his fellowmen to Captain Russel.In the midst of all the challenges,the villagers became a family,leaving aside their initial values for inequality on the basis of caste,and seniority on the basis of age.Then the game started amidst the emotionally charged atmosphere.Then the villagers came to know about Lakha’s betrayal, and although they initially reaction threatened his life,later on bhuvan’s insistence and lakha’s apology,he was given the chance to prove his loyalty, which he did.Then came the real emotional outburst when the village team won the match thus completing the transformation.

Business Cartoons – Work Life Balance

Are you maintaining a good work life balance? Most kids of working professionals have a degree of insecurity, despite the time you may think you are carving out for them. Do remember, work life balance not only keeps the harmony in your home but also improves the longevity of hard working professionals.

What do you prefer to do as a professional? What are your priorities in your life?

Expense Management in Telecom

Expense Management systems typically refers to the management information systems adopted by a business enterprises to process, pay, control and audit all expenses that the firm may incur during its day to day functional life. This may include programs like integrated financial management systems which will make it simpler to keep track of costs and help keep your business ahead of problems. Expense management teams govern the policies and procedures for every spending, as well as the technologies and services utilized to process and analyze the data associated with it, and is expected to have a huge impact on the bottom line of the firm.

Most average Fortune 500 company spends more than $100 million on telecommunications services each year. This arises predominantly from communication that may happen internally (Often 40%-60%) and with external stake holders (20% – 40%) Yet, on average, 7 to 12 % of telecom expenses are in surplus of what they could have been brought down to. This means that there is a high possibility of lowering costs by upto even $10 million each year! Think about all the revenue generating opportunities that could be funded with that money and the possible impact such a cost saving may have on the bottom-line of the firm.

It is interesting to understand how the Telecommunications Management Network facilitates the organizations consuming these services to achieve these goals.  This framework enhances the operations management within the service provider, and expense management systems play an integral role in these systems.

Communications tools, such as wireless and wired connections, are crucial in managing the organizational day to day functionalities, communicate with the employees, liaison solid relationships with the customers, suppliers and business partners. Yet, firms are  often forced to delay new communications projects that could give them a competitive advantage using ICTs, such as Voice over IP, because it’s difficult to accurately forecast labor and infrastructure costs.  implementing a proactive Telecom Expense Management program can help defray those costs.  With the telecom managed service from IT Service providers like IBM, Oracle, Infosys, the firms now-days can look beyond just cost savings and implement business process improvements through innovative adoption of communication technologies.
The best part about these services are that they are outsourced completely to the service providers and billing is done entirely based on how much the firms plan to use the benefits of such a service. It means, firms will pay a small percentage based on the dollar benefit they get out of such an engagement. They are completely priced based on usage. (Read   Pricing of Information Technology)

Firms will be able to utilize the business intelligence sometimes bundled with such services to optimize network price/ performance, plan network strategies, forecast spend and justify telecom expense decisions to your management team.

Supply Chain Management Basics

In this article, we take you on a tour on the very basic focus of supply chain management. While there are many articles, which talk about the intricacies, the sole focus of this article is to cover all the various aspect an opening class for a grad program is likely to address.

There are few issues which are of prime importance while studying the subject. Before, one can call oneself conversant with the discipline, one needs to ask himself,  can he answer the questions in details regarding these aspects? This article is off course written more on lines of a strategic view point rather than an implementer ‘ s viewpoint.

  • Distribution Network Configuration: This is related to the number and location of suppliers, production facilities, distribution centers, warehouses and customers.
  • Distribution Strategy: This is related to the centralized versus decentralized issue, direct shipment, cross docking, pull or push strategies, and third party logistics.
  • Information: This is related to integration of  systems and processes through the supply chain to share valuable information, including demand signals, forecasts, inventory and transportation etc.
  • Inventory Management: How should one manage stored quantity and decide the location of inventory including raw materials, work-in-process and finished goods.
  • Cash-Flow: Arranging the payment terms and the methodologies for exchanging funds across entities within the supply chain.

Focus: Customer, cost saving, value adding, time from cash to cash, percentage of fill rate against customer specifications and total response times

The extension of the supply chain definition is to provide a context for measurement or to operationalize theoretical concepts. Existing definitions may not always explicitly provide a basis for measurement. The development of new measures and the development of new benchmarks, based on these measures; in developing the new measurement format, various aspects of the supply chain definition can be expected to affect the specific mix of measures used.

It is important to understand that the position of players in the chain (supplier, manufacturer, wholesaler, service supplier) affects their contribution and relevant measures, the level of integration and the strategic approach may affect the relevance of measures needs to be scrutinized. Creating benchmarks based on the new measurement systems may contribute to directing management effort in optimizing the supply chain. Thus this is of prime importance to a supply chain manager.

Also, the development of tools that can help support the implementation of the new measurement approach may be a crucial final step leading to the actual application of new measurement approaches. The tools cannot be limited to the measurement system itself; they also need to include strategic trade-off and planning frameworks in order to assure executive “buy-in” and commitment and initiate actual improvement processes in the supply chain.

Finally some finer aspects to ponder for supply chain managers while attempting to operationalize theoretical models.

  • Whether the models are qualitative or quantitative will affect the plans.
  • What they measure is of paramount importance: cost and non-cost; quality, cost, delivery, resource utilization, flexibility, visibility, trust and innovativeness
  • Collaboration efficiency and coordination efficiency and configuration and input, output and composite measures.
  • Their strategic, operational or tactical focus.
  • The process in the supply chain they relate to.

These are some of the basics that a supply chain manager is expected to plan about while going about his job. By the way, did you read our article on Supply Chain Value Management

Office Cartoons – Coffee Break

Some of our colleagues always seem busy loitering around the coffee vending machine. Despite their apparently not working as hard as some of the others, they always seem to do just great. What can be their secret success story?

The road to success is not an easy one to travel. To achieve it, some professionals work hard, others work smart. Which one would you prefer?

Top Social Media Marketing Channels

In an independent survey conducted by Business Fundas, the top channels as perceived by social media marketers were identified and ranked. For this study, the over 20,000+ twitter followers (and also other social media marketers on twitter) were presented with a questionnaire for understanding the perceived importance of the various media for these marketing experts with a conversion of 1034 respondents for the study. Based on the results, the following results were obtained:

The top social media marketing channel based on our survey results was search engine. It performed extremely well as a channel to improve brand or service or product awareness, as well as a channel to improve conversion rates from potential leads to actual customer engagement.

The results for the best channel for creation of awareness for the service or products are as displayed in the graph below:

As these results indicate, some of the more popular and initially perceived important social media channels like Twitter, Digg, Reditt, Stumbleupon received lesser votes in confidence when it came to actual performance in terms of a channel to increase service or product or brand awareness.

Similarly, the top social media resources to convert potential customers to buyers are as follows:

As is evident from the results of the graph, the top resource, as perceived by the social media marketers in both cases are search engines. This was closely followed by Facebook and Youtube. However, some of the more popular and initially perceived important social media channels like Twitter, Digg, Reditt, Stumbleupon received lesser votes in confidence when it came to actual performance. Maybe since these are perceived as more of a media for capturing interesting sources of stories and / or multimedia, they are losing their importance as channels of social media marketing.

Do let us know what are your feedback about the social media marketing channels. How do YOU draw traffic to your blog? Is that a sustainable source of traffic or does that depend on daily marketing efforts and link exchanges amongst colleagues to promote your content? Do let us know.