Case Studies from APQC CONNECTING PEOPLE TO CONTENT: Create, Surface, and Share Knowledge for a Smarter Organization


People looking for a comprehensive, professional, and inspiring text about Knowledge Management should consult this APQC study. The impetus for this benchmarking study was questions like:

■ What types of content are easiest for employees to use and learn from?

■ What are the best tools to help people find what they need among a broad range of sources?

■ How can people differentiate authoritative content from unverified ideas and suggestions published by colleagues?

■ How can organizations maximize the value of their content by delivering targeted recommendations directly to employees in the context of their work?

■ How effective are enterprise content management systems in terms of surfacing relevant content and enabling employees to find and access what they need?

Less than one in four participants rated their organization’s content management as effective, whereas 43% said their firms were minimally or not at all effective at managing enterprise content.

Why were their organizations less than effective at content management? Relatively few - approximately one in five - cited poor technology as the root cause. Instead, the clear majority said their biggest challenges centered on change management and organizational structure and accountability. In short, employees weren’t following the processes in place to manage content, or the organizations had not defined sufficient ownership models for the tools and approaches[1]

The model includes technology as an enabler. The bulk of the attributes focus on people and process-related tactics to engage employees, solicit content, and link people to available resources. As an organization hones its strategy and processes in alignment with suppliers and consumers of content, it can connect supply to demand, enabling meaningful connections, and generating business value/

Although the study aims to encourage “management programs toward more aligned strategies, systematic processes, and user-oriented technologies for content contribution, classification, distribution, and sharing,”[1] we see in the two case studies we examined that the process approach is weakly developed in the text. This might be available in other company documentation but is not described in the publication.

This book is a very good reference on knowledge management, mainly from the point of view of how to create, manage, and monitor a knowledge management system. The case studies presented are probably true Best Practices in Knowledge Management. However, with the characteristics required for fully documenting a Best Practice identified in this book, the case studies investigated and assessed with the BEST-method do not contain enough information to be used as a Best Practice for benchmarking purposes.

Nevertheless, two case studies have been assessed using the BEST Quick Scan: Nalco and MWH Global Inc.

Case study: Nalco

Pages 146-171.

Initial Comment

The authors define Best Practices as the best available practice (i.e. a key process) that contributes to the achievement of the strategy and/or business plan of the organization and leads to excellent and sustainable results.

Nalco’s case study, although named as a Best Practice, does not correspond to our definition. The text clearly describes the tool “Connections libraries” and software such as Microsoft SharePoint 2010, Microsoft Dynamics Customers Relationship Management platform, etc. What is missing is a detailed description of how Connections libraries, etc., are part of the key process of knowledge management. It would be helpful to explain how the application of these (software) tools contributes to a better achievement of the knowledge management strategy of Nalco and offers a better support to Nalco sales and customer service processes.

The APQC text is very well written and comprehensive from the point of view of management of the tool, but it is not a description of one of Nalco’s key processes. We think that this tool is a strong instrument in the hands of Nalco’s collaborators and even Nalco’s customers. Nevertheless, we apply the BEST Quick Scan on this case study to show 1) differences between a description of Nalco’s software tool and 2) a full description of a Best Practice.

Who Is Nalco?

Nalco, an Ecolab company, specializes in water, energy, and air applications for light and heavy industries. Its products and solutions focus on treating water as it enters a site, preparing it for industrial and institutional uses, and then re-treating it so that it can be discharged safely back into the environment. By optimizing these processes, Nalco helps customers improve productivity and quality, increase the asset life of their equipment, reduce natural resource consumption, and minimize environmental releases.

Assessment of Case Study Nalco

Summary assessment of the case study Nalco (see Figure 6.3)

■ Results

- There is no information available for any of the seven criteria.

■ Enabler

  • - Plan phase: two criteria are complete, and three criteria are incomplete. No information is available for three criteria.
  • - Do phase: two criteria are complete, and two criteria are incomplete. No information is available for one criterion.
  • - Check phase: four criteria are incomplete.
  • - Act phase: two criteria are incomplete. No information is available for three criteria.

■ Process: the document does not mention or describe the process or К Pis.

■ Format: there is no systematic approach used to describe the Best Practice in all its aspects and details.

Conclusion Case Study Nalco

Descriptions of the process and results are both missing. A Best Practice always has a description of output and outcome results. Therefore, we conclude that the case study from Nalco would not be adequate to benchmark against as a Best Practice.

An extract of the text on page 148 illustrates how easily the label of “Best Practice” is used:

Most of Nalco’s knowledge environment is built on Microsoft SharePoint 2010. Figure 68 depicts its main components, including: connections libraries - collections of Best Practices, guidelines, and other content published by subject matter experts, etc[3]

BEST Quick Scan applied against Nalco and MWH Global

Figure 6.3 BEST Quick Scan applied against Nalco and MWH Global.

  • [1] Leavitt, Paige and Trees, Lauren, Connecting People to Content, Create, Surface, and ShareKnowledge for a Smarter Organization, APQC, Houston, TX, (2015) p. 4. ’ Ibid: p. 5.t Ibid: p. 6.
  • [2] Leavitt, Paige and Trees, Lauren, Connecting People to Content, Create, Surface, and ShareKnowledge for a Smarter Organization, APQC, Houston, TX, (2015) p. 4. ’ Ibid: p. 5.t Ibid: p. 6.
  • [3] St. Charles Consulting Group, APQC CONNECTING PEOPLE TO CONTENT Create, Surface, andShare Knowledge for a Smarter Organization, APQC, Houston, ТХ, (2015) p. 148.
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