The alignment of information technology to the key goals and business processes of an organisation is no longer a matter of heavy investments or just luck. It needs careful planning and implementation, and a clear understanding of the factors that facilitate successful deployment of technology in a firm.
Recent detailed research done at the Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai's School of Management in the field of Knowledge Management Maturity has shown that organisations inevitably take a slow path from knowledge management initiation to action to maturity. While knowledge management may be somewhat enigmatic for the uninitiated, the continuum of data, information, knowledge and wisdom is the quest of any organisation or community attempting to build long term value.
And whether a firm decides to stop at the milestone of building first class information systems which explicitly support the business processes and strategies, or adds the tacit element of experience to continue further on the journey to knowledge management, the transition from a cave-man like pre knowledge initiation stage to true maturity in the capture, storage dissemination and exploitation of information and knowledge does not happen by chance. There are four key factors that determine the success of an organisation in its journey to maturity.
Business process readiness:
The ability of established organisational processes to capture, store, disseminate and use knowledge in day to day sales support and service delivery functions.
The availability of integrated technologies to enable quick access to information needed for effective monitoring and decision making.
The readiness of people, technologically and psychologically, to move towards a knowledge sharing environment.
The push given by senior management and their active participation to make knowledge management successful across the organisation.
The study showed that to move from the pre-knowledge stage to knowledge initiation, the key push is provided by process readiness for new technologies. The adoption of technology then enabled certain cross functional business processes, like supply chain management and customer relationship management to move into the action phase. Finally the push provided by leadership enables the organisation to move towards true maturity.
To avoid regressing to a previous stage, motivation and training play key roles. And any negative changes in culture have the ability to make the organisation regress or slide back to earlier stages in the maturity journey.
What impact does this study have on organisations which are at various stages in the journey to making the use of IT a true source of competitive advantage? The factors that enable knowledge management are equally relevant for a proper alignment of business and IT.
Many organisations have suffered early disillusionment because of their inability to get results inspite of large investment in computers, but it is very rarely the technology that is to blame. The lack of an enabling environment is where most of the ills lie. A strategic approach to balancing the investments in process, technology, culture and leadership will deliver better results every time.
Ganesh Natarajan is Deputy Chairman & MD of Zensar Technologies Ltd.