Siemens AG, a $73 billion electronics and electrical-engineering conglomerate. Siemens is well known for the technical brilliance of its engineers, but much of their knowledge was locked and unavailable to other employees. Facing the pressure to maximize the benefits of corporate membership of each business unit, Siemens AG needed to learn to leverage the knowledge and expertise of its 460,000 employees worldwide.
The roots of knowledge management at Siemens go back to 1996, when a number of people within the corporation with an interest in knowledge management (KM) formed a community of interest. They researched the subject, learned what was being done by other companies, and determined how KM could benefit Siemens. By 1999, the central board of Siemens AG confirmed the importance of knowledge management to the entire company by creating an organizational unit that would be responsible for the worldwide deployment of KM. At the heart of Siemens s technical solution to knowledge management is ShareNet,
ShareNet is simply a website that combines elements of a database repository, a chat room, and a search engine. Online entry forms allow employees to store information they think might be useful to colleagues. Other Siemens employees are able to search the repository or browse by topic, and then contact the authors for more information using one of the available communication channels. In addition, the system lets employees post an alert when they have an urgent question.
Although KM implementation at Siemens involved establishing a network to collect, categorize, and share information using databases and intranets, Siemens realized that IT was only the tool that enabled knowledge management. Randall Sellers, director of knowledge management for the Americas Region of Siemens, states: In my opinion, the technology or IT role is a small one. I think it s 20 percent IT and 80 percent change management dealing with cultural change and human interfaces.
Siemens efforts to convince employees started by:
assigning 100 internal evangelists around the world to be responsible for training, answering questions, and monitoring the system.
Siemens s top management has shown its full support for the knowledge management projects.
And the company is providing incentives to overcome employees resistance to change. When employees post documents to the system or use the knowledge, Siemens rewards them with some kind of shares that when accumulated can be exchanged for things like consumer electronics or discounted trips to other countries.
However, the real incentive of the system is much more basic Employees have already learned that the knowledge and expertise of their colleagues available through ShareNet can be helpful in winning lucrative contracts.
The ShareNet has undergone tremendous growth, which resulted in several challenges for Siemens.
The company strives to maintain a balance between global and local knowledge initiatives as well as between knowledge management efforts that support the entire company and those that help individual business units. Furthermore, Siemens works to prevent ShareNet from becoming so overloaded with information that it becomes useless.
ShareNet has evolved into a state-of-the-art Web-based knowledge management system that stores and catalogs volumes of valuable knowledge, makes it available to every employee, and enhances global collaboration.
Numerous companies, including Intel, Philips, and Volkswagen, studied ShareNet before setting up their own knowledge management systems.
Teleos, an independent knowledge management research company, has acknowledged Siemens as one of the Most Admired Knowledge Enterprises worldwide for five years in a row.
Siemens has realized a variety of quantifiable benefits afforded by knowledge management. For example, in April 1999, the company developed a portion of ShareNet to support the Information & Communications Networks Group at the cost of $7.8 million. Within two years, the tool helped to generate $122 million in additional sales.
What we can learn:
Knowledge is an important asset, and the more it can be shared within a company the better it is.
However in large companies have difficulties sharing knowledge because knowledge exists in many places in the organization, is stored in different formats, and is owned by many
We can see that implementing a KMS starts with an informal wa, and the formalizing it and then creating communities of users