Himanshu Joshi
and Deepak Chawla
International Management Institute, B-10, Qutab Institutional Area, Tara Crescent, 110016, New Delhi, India
Keywords: Knowledge management, Strategy, Assessment, Framework, Performance, India.
Abstract: Knowledge Management (KM) is much more than just dissemination of knowledge. The real challenge
organizations and decision makers face is conceptualizing the right approach to implement KM and
developing strategies to manage the entire knowledge value chain. The purpose of this paper is to determine
the state of KM implementation in Indian organizations. Literature survey, focus group discussion (FGD)
and personal interviews are used for data collection. This paper reviews the existing KM frameworks and
attempts to identify key dimensions. The sample comprised of Indian organizations which have either
implemented KM or initiated the process of KM in their organizations. Convenience sampling is used to
select the respondents. Transcripts prepared from FGD and personal interviews are subjected to content
analysis. The paper reports the perceptions, views and experiences of senior executives. An attempt has
been made to integrate the data collected into a framework to facilitate KM implementation. Although a
number of empirical studies have been conducted in the past to study KM impact on performance, not many
qualitative studies exist. The findings can help organizations to leverage knowledge in a structured manner
to improve performance.
The 21
century knowledge economy is
characterized by profound changes and
transformation related to nature of work,
employment, skill sets and the way business is
conducted. Developing trends like pervasive
computing, mass customization, continuous
learning, globalized competition, collaborating
partnering and virtual enterprise define the nature of
knowledge driven economy (Holsapple and Jones,
2004). Further rising expectations of customers,
suppliers and investors; emergence of global
workforce; availability of opportunities and attrition
rate also contribute to changes in the marketplace.
To ensure consistent differentiation and competitive
advantage, there is a greater emphasis being given to
exploitation of knowledge resource.
Knowledge and its importance to economy is
nothing new, however, the degree of reliance on
knowledge driven strategies to generate value in the
economic system is increasing. The last two decades
have witnessed a growth in computing power along
with reduction in cost of computing and
communications. This IT revolution in the form of
digital technologies and open system standards have
made it possible to store, process, manipulate and
transmit large quantities of information at low costs.
In India, knowledge driven economy is
considered to include primarily high-technology or
information and communication technology (ICT)
industries. But the time is opportune for it to use the
concept more broadly to include all stakeholders and
industries which use existing and new knowledge to
improve their productivity and overall performance.
India with its large consumer base, English speaking
knowledge workforce, active private sector,
developed financial sector and robust science &
technology infrastructure makes it best suited to
harness its strengths to enhance its economic
performance along with boosting social welfare.
Successful KM implementations are those that
rely on sharing of knowledge for competitiveness
and growth. A number of empirical studies exist
which investigate and explain the relationship
between management of knowledge and
competitiveness. Competiveness is a broad theme
Joshi H. and Chawla D..
DOI: 10.5220/0003626801360145
In Proceedings of the International Conference on Knowledge Management and Information Sharing (KMIS-2011), pages 136-145
ISBN: 978-989-8425-81-2
2011 SCITEPRESS (Science and Technology Publications, Lda.)
defined by the ability of an individual or an
organization to mobilize and manage its resources
for enhancing performance. A study conducted by
KPMG on 423 organizations from UK, Europe and
US, reports that organizations surveyed had an
understanding of the potential role KM could play
and expected significant benefits in the form of
improving competitive advantage, marketing,
customer focus, employee development, product
innovation and profit growth – providing real
benefits like improved decision making, faster
response rate and better delivery of customer service
(Knowledge Management Research Report 2000).
Similarly, in a study conducted by Griffith
University and BML Consulting in Indian context,
respondents expected revenue growth, competitive
advantage and overall employee development as
long term benefits. Short term benefits perceived
were reducing cost, improving marketing and
enhanced customer focus (Knowledge Management
Research Report, 2002). In another study conducted
by The Economist Intelligence Unit (2007), sharing
of best practices, better response to customer
demands, innovative product development, better
usage of intellectual property, better collaboration
with external partners, improved decision making,
greater visibility across value chain and greater
likelihood of developing new intellectual property
were cited as the main benefits of KM. Davenport et
al. (1998) identified likely success factors leading to
KM project success. The major factors are linking to
economic performance or industry value, technical
and organizational infrastructure, standard flexible
knowledge structure, knowledge friendly culture,
clear purpose and language, change in motivational
practices, multiple channels for knowledge transfer
and senior management support. Although, there are
a number of empirical studies that substantiate on
KM planning and implementation process, key
enablers and performance dimensions, little support
is found in the literature for a qualitative study based
implementation framework in Indian context.
The objective is to conduct an exploratory
qualitative study through literature survey and taking
to KM experts from Indian organizations to gather
evidences on the process of KM implementation and
its impact on performance. To achieve that, various
KM implementation frameworks have been
discussed and a comparison of its dimensions carried
out. Finally, the paper presents a practical
framework for organizations to facilitate the KM
In order to systematically derive value of
knowledge, it’s essential to formalize and structure
the initiative. A good way of doing this is in the
form of a conceptual framework which guides and
facilitates the planning and implementation of
initiatives. According to Wong and Aspinwall
(2004), developing a KM implementation
framework should be the first stage of any KM
initiative as it guides the implementation process and
improve the chances of successfully incorporating
the same in an organization.
The paper is organized as follows: review of
literature is discussed next. This is followed by
methodology used in the research study. The fourth
section presents the analysis of data followed by
results. The final section discusses the conclusion,
limitations and directions for future research.
According to Wong and Aspinwall (2004), an
important reason why many organizations are still
struggling with KM and failing to realize its full
potential is that they lack the support of a strong
theoretical foundation to guide them in its
implementation. Managing knowledge in
organizations requires managing several processes
of knowledge such as initiation, implementation,
ramp-up and integration (Szulanski, 1996);
generation (acquisition; dedicating resources; fusion;
adaptation; and building knowledge networks),
codification and transfer (Davenport and Prusak,
1998); acquisition, conversion, application and
protection (Gold et al., 2001); acquisition, selection,
generalization, assimilation and emission (Holsapple
and Jones, 2004); creation, transfer, integration and
leverage (Tanriverdi, 2005), creation, storage,
sharing and evaluation (Gumus, 2007); generation,
codification, transfer and application (Singh and
Soltani, 2010).
Holsapple and Jones (2004) have defined
knowledge chain model to understand the linkage
between KM and organizational performance. The
model presents nine distinct, generic classes of
activities, five primary and four secondary
(measurement, control, coordination and leadership)
that an organization performs in the course of
managing its knowledge resources. Tanriverdi
(2005) identified four interrelated processes which
form a part of three KM capabilities defined as
product KM capability, customer KM capability and
managerial KM capability.
According to O’Dell et al. (2004), APQC has
studied KM implementation in organizations they
have worked with and developed APQC roadmap to
KM. It includes five stages common to successful
KM implementations, viz. getting started, explore &
experiment, pilot and KM initiatives, expand &
support and institutionalize KM. Apart from that,
culture, buy-in, measurement and creating a business
case for KM are themes that transcend the stages.
Gold et al. (2001) suggest that a knowledge
infrastructure consisting of technology, structure and
culture along with a knowledge process consisting of
are essential preconditions for effective KM.
Some of the earlier research studies, for e.g.
Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995) emphasized on the
importance of knowledge-creation and have tried to
explain the interplay between tacit and explicit
knowledge in the form of a generic model to
demonstrate knowledge-creation. Further Soo et al.
(2002) look at knowledge-creation process
comprising of sourcing of information, internalizing,
integrating and applying it. The source of
information can either be from formal/informal
networking and internal/external acquisition. Next,
organizations must have absorptive capacity to
internalize and integrate it. Finally, it must be
applied to improve quality of problem
solving/decision making resulting in knowledge
based outcomes, i.e., innovation and better business
Wiig (1993) has proposed a KM framework
which comprises of three pillars (survey, analyze
and categorize knowledge; appraise and evaluate
knowledge; and synthesize knowledge) to explain
the process of knowledge creation, manifestations,
use and transfer. Similarly, Arthur Anderson and
APQC have proposed a KM process comprising of
seven activities (share, create, identify, collect,
adapt, organize and apply) and four enablers
(leadership, culture, technology and measurement)
that facilitate the development of organizational
knowledge through the KM process (Jager, 1999).
Leonard-Barton (1995) has proposed a framework
which revolves around the concept of core capability
comprising of managerial activities and systems
which offer competitive advantage. These core
competencies can be created if the focus is on
knowledge-building activities – shared problem
solving, importing and absorbing technological and
market knowledge, experimenting and prototyping,
and implementing and integrating new
methodologies and tools. Demarest (1997) has
attempted to model knowledge economies within the
firm by focusing along four processes, viz.,
construction, embodiment, dissemination and use.
Construction is the process of discovering or
structuring knowledge, embodiment is selecting a
container for created knowledge; dissemination
refers to human processes and technical
infrastructure required for make it available within
the firm; and use is the application of knowledge to
generate customer value.
Bukowitz and Williams (1999) have developed
Knowledge Management Diagnostic (KMD) based
on a model known as Knowledge Management
Process Framework, which consist of seven KM
activities (get, use, learn, contribute, access,
build/sustain, divest). They distinguish two
processes in KM, i.e., tactical (triggered by market-
driven opportunities) and strategic (triggered by
macro-environment factors) with focus on the use of
knowledge based assets to respond to these triggers.
Maier and Moseley (2003) have looked at KM
implementation involving five dimensions:
identification and creation; collection and capture;
storage and organization; sharing and distribution;
and application and use.
The starting point of any KM initiative is
instilling a belief that there are certain business
problems which can be addressed by effective
management of knowledge. Holsapple and Joshi
(2004) believe that organizations are places for
episodes which are triggered by knowledge need
(opportunity) and culminates with the satisfaction of
that need (or abandonment). These knowledge
management episodes (KME) create value for the
organization in the form of learning and projection
which in turn form the basis for innovation.
An examination of the various frameworks and
approaches to KM implementation reveals that past
efforts have focused on implementing KM with
inadequate reference to how it’s going to impact the
performance. It is only recently, however, that
organizations have started discussing linking KM
activities with measurable business results. Any
model or framework is of little use without an
understanding of how the activities can be
operationalized to be geared for enhancing business
performance. Therefore, there is a need to
systematically examine the elusive link between KM
and its impact on business performance.
2.1 KM and Performance
Some evidences of improved performance through
KM can be seen in organizations which have a
formal KM initiative in place. But, linking KM
practices to business results and competiveness is
not easy and there are disparate views among
researchers. Hiebler (1996) believes that
organizations that are able to create and use a set of
KMIS 2011 - International Conference on Knowledge Management and Information Sharing
measures tied to financial results seem to come out
ahead in the long run. According to Wolford and
Kwiecien (2004), the frequently asked question is,
how can you put a value to knowledge? KM
initiatives must show a return otherwise the effort
goes waste. Soo et al. (2002) feel that although
knowledge is difficult to measure, it does have a
clear impact on outcome. There are a good number
of proxies that can be used to measure KM, e.g.,
measuring certain firm processes (i.e., problem
solving and decision making) or outcomes (i.e.,
innovative outputs).
A number of organizations have developed
indicators to measure and evaluate the impact of KM
initiative on business performance. Saunders (2007)
believes that it’s important to define KM value
proposition in the very beginning. Most KM efforts
are primarily aimed at increasing customer intimacy,
faster time to market or operational excellence.
Holsapple and Singh (2004) have provided
evidences on how KM practices can manifest itself
from the following standpoints: improving
productivity (e.g. lower cost, greater speed), enhance
reputation (e.g. better quality, dependability, brand
differentiation), enhancing organizational agility
(e.g. greater flexibility, rapid responsiveness, change
proficiency), and fostering innovation (e.g. new
knowledge products, services, processes).
Tanriverdi (2005) used Tobin’s Q and Return on
Assets (ROA) to measure market-based firm
performance. Tobin's Q is the ratio of the market
value of a firm's assets to the replacement cost of the
firm's assets. Zack et al. (2009) found KM practices
to be directly related to organizational performance
which, in turn, was directly related to financial
performance. However, no direct relationship was
found between KM practices and financial
performance. Similarly, Gold et al. (2001) have
associated KM capabilities with organizational
effectiveness as a key aspect of performance. They
feel that capturing the contribution of knowledge
capabilities in terms of bottom line (Return of
investment (ROI), ROE etc.) may be confounded by
other uncontrollable business, economic and
environmental factors. They have measured
effectiveness through various non-financial items
like ability to innovate, coordination of efforts,
commercialization of new products, ability to
anticipate surprises, responsiveness to market
change, reduced redundancy to information or
knowledge. According to Lee and Choi (2003), in
order to achieve a better understanding of KM
performance, companies should attempt to link KM
processes with intermediate outcomes. They have
identified organizational creativity as an important
intermediate outcome to organizational effectiveness
and survival. It is this creativity that transforms
knowledge into business value. However, Hariharan
(2002) feels that to keep KM implementation
oriented and business focused, its important to have
a combination of lagging (actual business outcomes)
and leading (performance drivers that would lead to
business outcomes) measures should be used.
The method used to conduct the study involved four
steps. To start with, an extensive literature review
was carried out to understand the KM
implementation models and frameworks developed
by researchers. This was followed by a focus group
discussion (FGD) and personal interview. FGD is a
qualitative research technique best suited to get the
true representation of participant’s feelings and
beliefs. The questions used were open-ended,
designed to gather perception, beliefs and ideas
around experiences from KM implementation.
Personal interviews were used to get an in-depth
understanding about participant’s experiences
around KM. Finally, a comprehensive list of KM
planning and implementation activities was
identified from the data collected.
The sample comprised of KM practitioners,
mainly senior executives (CEO, Vice President,
General Managers – IT, Directors, etc.) who have
experienced KM implementation in their current or
in previous organizations. One aspect of
homogeneity in the sample was the fact that
respondents had either led or been involved with
KM implementation in their organizations.
Respondent diversity was maintained by recruiting
them from various private sector industries, age
group and work experience. This was done in order
to get all possible insights into the attitude,
perception and beliefs held by KM practitioners. The
age of the respondents ranged from 32-60 years. On
an average the working experience of the
participants was around 15 years. Respondents were
primary from Manufacturing, IT/ IT enabled
services, consumer durables, insurance,
telecommunications and publishing industry.
Convenience sampling scheme was used.
For FGD, 30 emails were sent to prospective
participants and subsequent follow-ups over email
and phone resulted in 10 agreeing to participate but
2 dropped out due to some urgent work
commitments. A discussion guide was prepared
before the FGD to ensure that the sequencing of
questions and issues discussed facilitate conducting
the session in a logical manner. Similarly, 20
respondents operating in Delhi and surrounding
areas were contacted, out of which 10 agreed for a
personal interview. The interviews were conducted
in an unstructured, open and discussion oriented
manner to encourage interviewees to share their
experiences, opinions and insights on the KM
The questions included in the discussion guide
and interview template covered various aspects
related to KM planning and implementation like the
need for KM, its objectives, alignment with business
strategy, resource requirements, execution, business
impact and measurement. The proceedings of the
FGD and interviews were audio/video recorded and
transcribed into documents which was subjected to
content analysis. The analysis is discussed in the
next section.
As mentioned earlier, each respondent shared their
views on how KM was being implemented in their
organization. Majority of respondents felt that KM is
important, although divergent views emerged on the
approach to be used for KM implementation. Based
on the content analysis, five dimensions were
identified which form a part of the KM
implementation process being used by organizations.
They are plan, design, implement, evaluate and
accelerate. These five dimensions have been selected
because they were considered salient by
respondents. Further, they also appeared in
approaches and frameworks discussed by previous
Plan: Respondents felt that exhaustive planning
is crucial to determine the value derived out of KM
initiatives. Since most of the initiatives are
unstructured or informal, planning an approach to
KM implementation is the first step. But, the
unstructured approach is leaving too much to chance
because a lot of information is shared through the
grapevine. The real issue is “Is it important to
structure or formalize it, so that it becomes part of
strategy?” Therefore, if KM is made a part of overall
vision, it has a chance of influencing strategic
decision. Respondents also felt that putting it as part
of the vision statement makes implementation
simpler. It’s important to specify the goals and
objectives of KM system in the beginning.
According to Saroch and Barmash (2007), a key
success factor for a KM system is to plan it around a
specific, critical issue in the company.
Planning involves conceptualizing a systematic
representation of various KM stages, processes,
activities within each stage, resource requirements
and output derived. It entails first figuring out what
knowledge a company possesses and devising
strategies to share it with other people who can use it
to create new products and services or improve
existing processes. It’s important to ask yourself
relevant questions during the planning stage itself to
get clarity on KM implementation strategy. Some
key questions which may be important during
planning stage are summarized in table 1 below:
Table 1: KM Planning Activities.
Plan Issues
Need for KM;
identification of business
problems; anything we
already do which could
be related to KM;
relevant resources
(human, technological,
financial); who will be
Maier and
and Jones
O’Dell et al.
Saroch and
Define KM; How KM fits
into the overall vision
100% commitment
Design: It’s important to identify a process to
deploy KM. A big-bang approach may kill the
initiative in the initial stages itself. Top management
buy-in at this stage is crucial to secure additional
funding for full scale development and deployment.
If possible identify an organization which has
implemented KM. Talking to people from other
companies who have already achieved KM maturity
is must to benefit from their experience and to avoid
early pitfalls. Respondents were of the view that
organizations should establish a set of key
performance indicators (KPIs) to assess
organizational performance in implementing KM.
Minonne and Turner (2009) believe that choosing
the right KPIs is critical to success. Every KPI,
whether it is used to clarify the current position,
guide the implementation of KM strategy or track
changes in the image of the future, will affect
actions and decisions. According to Hanley and
Malafsky (2009), the measurement process is
composed of several steps to clearly identify what
should be measured, how to measure it and how to
KMIS 2011 - International Conference on Knowledge Management and Information Sharing
use the measures.
Table 2: KM Design Activities.
Plan Issues
Select a process; learn
from KM implementers;
Define team composition,
structure and
accountability; KM
technology; KM budget;
duration of the pilot
O’Dell et al.
Minonne and
Hanley and
Identify KPIs; how to
measure; how to analyze
Implement: The adoption of KM best practices
becomes easier if benefits associated with it can be
demonstrated early. A case study is good approach
to initiate a pilot. Involvement of KM practitioners
in the team to plan for right kind of pilot is crucial.
Respondents were of the view that the biggest issue
faced by KM practitioners is capturing tacit
knowledge for organizational benefit. Nonaka
(1991) suggests socialization as a way through
which our mental models, belief systems, value
systems and the way we do things gets transferred.
Respondents felt that it’s important to make
arrangements for socialization so as to make
personal knowledge organizational knowledge. It
could be in simple ways like coffee table talk, recess
breaks etc. Socialization can also happen when a
person in a domain works with peers or people from
different department come together as part of Cross
Functional Team (CFT).
Table 3: KM Implementation Activities.
Plan Issues Literature
Build Communities of
Practice; Use IT tools
O’Dell et
al. (2004)
Mandatory Replication
(Push); reward & recognition
Documentation of
improvements; sharing best
practices; build evidence by
showing leadership small
A lot has been talked about KM strategy.
Initially it’s important to pull people towards the
initiative by creating awareness about the overall
objective and benefits. Push would mean making
people follow formal documented written down
processes. The push strategy works well to ensure
compliance to integrate the best practices in all
workflows. “Simply follow the process as given in
the KM platform”, would help in ensuring
consistency and minimize deviations.
Evaluate: A number of organizations have
developed indicators to measure and evaluate the
impact of KM initiative on business performance.
Evolve KM metrics along the journey. It’s important
to plan for measurements in the very beginning to
track progress and take corrective measures.
Organization should develop ways to determine how
KM initiative is impacting human behaviours and
bottom line. Hanley and Malafsky (2009) believe
that KM initiative measurement should include both
quantitative and qualitative measures as latter
augments the former with additional context and
meaning. Quantitative measures provide hard data to
evaluate performance between points or to spot
trends whereas, qualitative measures use the
situation’s context to provide a sense of value
(stories, anecdotes and future scenarios).
Table 4: KM Evaluation Activities.
Evaluate Issues Literature Support
Wiig (1993); Arthur
Anderson and APQC
(1996); Bukowitz and
Williams (1999); Hariharan
(2002); Lee and Choi
(2003); Holsapple and
Jones (2004); Tanriverdi
(2005); Gumus (2007);
Zack et al. (2009);
Hanley and Malafsky(2009)
Accelerate: To ensure the sustainability of KM
initiative, it’s important to identify business
processes within and outside the organizations
where the best practices can be replicated. It is
important that key people are identified across
locations who could own the initiative. According to
O’Dell (2004), there are two approaches to
expansion. One is to apply criteria for pilot selection
of other units or to develop an all-at-once strategy.
To augment capabilities globally, it’s important to
leverage internal skills, hire people from outside,
refine existing roles and create new roles.
Table 5: KM Acceleration Activities.
Accelerate Issues
Cultivate and
Identify new
processes where
KM will work;
identify support
teams; make KM
integral to people
KRA’s and
Szulanski (1996),
Bukowitz and
Williams (1999),
O’Dell et al.
(2004), Holsapple
and Jones (2004),
Tanriverdi (2005)
Business results
and success stories
4.1 KM Enablers
The following dimensions have been discussed in
the literature and also considered extremely
important by respondents during the FGD and
personal interviews. Arthur Anderson and APQC
propose that four enablers (leadership, culture,
technology and measurement) can be used to foster
the development of organisational knowledge
through the knowledge management process (Jager,
1999). Lee and Choi (2003) consider organizational
culture, structure, people and IT as most important
to successful KM.
Leadership: The commitment for the top
management is a must. Leadership influences the
organizational ability to deal with knowledge related
issues. Chawla and Joshi (2010) believe that
leadership plays a crucial role in creating,
developing, and managing the organizational
capabilities by creating effective teams within a
diverse workforce; tap talent throughout the
organization by recruiting, retaining, and developing
people at all levels; build and integrate cultures as
mergers and acquisitions become common; use IT to
enable and integrate KM processes; and develop
rewards and recognition systems.
Technology: The success of KM initiatives depends
on the appropriateness of technological tools used.
However, KM is broader concept with technology as
a process enabler. Always adopt IT tools which are
relevant to your KM initiative.
Culture: For KM people should be empowered to
take and own up decisions and not always follow a
hierarchy. It’s important to celebrate success of
others. KM brings about a change in the culture of
the organization.
Structure: In all probability KM mandates a loose
structure. Creating a KM office with a leader having
some 10-15 odd people under him doing KM may
not work. All people should be engaged in hearts
and mind by constantly showing benefits of the
programme and addressing the question “What is it
in for me”.
4.2 Business Impact and Performance
Majority of respondents felt that KM relationship
with time and cost could explain its impact. Other
factors could be ROI, customer, supplier and
employee satisfaction index etc. Most respondents
were of the view that if tangible benefit measures
could be developed around KM, the justification for
implementation becomes simpler. To put it simply,
what gets measured gets accepted and implemented.
The results are integrated in the form of a KM
framework (see Figure 1) which is discussed next.
Based on analysis of data collected from review of
literature and insights derived from FGD and
personal interviews, we propose a framework for
KM planning and implementation. The idea is to
demonstrate how the various stages, activities and
resources contribute to achieving KM objectives and
business benefits.
In addition to the KM activities, a number of
KM enablers have been incorporated into the KM
framework. Organizational leadership, culture,
structure and technology have been researched in
detail and advocated by many researchers. Lee and
Choi (2003) believe that KM enablers may be
structured based upon a socio-technical theory. It is
important to provide a balanced view between a
technological and social approach to KM. Therefore,
KM should always be viewed as a system that
comprises of a technological subsystem as well as a
social one (Wong and Aspinwall, 2004). Just taking
it as an IT initiative can be problematic as most
technologically oriented initiatives have failed to
meet expected business results. Saroch and Barmash
(2007) learnt that the biggest challenge to KM is
getting support, commitment, and a separate budget
from top management. Chong (2006) found in
Malaysian ICT companies that if nature of the
business is knowledge-intensive which involves
employees working in teams; and therefore
leadership plays an important role in empowering
employees to take decisions. Singh and Soltani
(2010) found that in Indian IT organizations the
involvement of top management in allocating the
KMIS 2011 - International Conference on Knowledge Management and Information Sharing
necessary resource towards sustaining KM
initiatives require attention. Similarly, Anantatmula
and Kanungo (2010) found top management support
is most crucial to build a successful KM initiative as
it ensures strategic focus. KM is a people driven
initiative and therefore utmost care is needed to
promote social enablers. In our framework
organizational leadership, culture and structure are
social enablers, while IT is a technical enabler.
Figure 1: KM Planning and Implementation (KMPI)
This framework will help organizations to gauge
the organizational position in the KM journey,
develop an understanding of the various challenges,
techniques to overcome the same and making it an
enterprise level initiative. The above results are
elaborated through a case study. We believe that this
evidence will offer decision makers an opportunity
to evaluate real world situations and get an
appreciation for successful KM initiative.
5.1 Case Study: Managing Knowledge
at Bharti Airtel
Bharti Airtel Limited is a leading telecommunication
services provider with operations in 18 countries
across Asia and Africa. With increasing employee
and customer base, the company witnessed
challenges associated with keeping consistent
business practices across locations. KM initiative at
Bharti started in 2003, and since then it has come a
long way. The initiative started with Delhi circle and
slowly expanded into other circles. Roll out of
services all over India posed newer challenges for
decision makers. Each circle was using different
practices, process and policies related to business
operations. The real challenge was to bring in
consistency across locations and this was the starting
point for KM at Bharti. The broader KM objectives
were standardization of business processes;
minimize variation; use of available knowledge to
improve decision making; faster time to market and
generation of fresh ideas and innovation.
As Head, Operational Excellence and Quality
noted, “We picked some important key performance
indicators (KPIs) and started looking at variations
across locations. The variations were found to be
large. Next, we picked up locations which were
doing well on the KPIs and tried to identify the best
practices adopted. These best practices were shared
across locations to be replicated. The variations
started coming down.”
Recognizing that an organization the size of
Bharti could not achieve this without the power of
information technology (IT), efforts were made to
develop a system to share best practices. The portal
Insights@Airtel was to be used for sharing
knowledge and experiences. To encourage people to
share, the company also initiated an incentive
scheme where knowledge dollars (K$) were given to
people for sharing as well as replication of best
But technological platform and monetary
benefits were not enough to make KM happen. To
ensure and sustain quality of best practices, an
improvement was planned. For practices that were
found deemed fit for replication by subject matter
experts (SMEs) were considered for mandatory
replication. To facilitate this sharing and replication,
the company also started knowledge sharing session.
KM Process – The KM process at Bharti
primarily involves four stages, viz., identifying the
knowledge and source; creating a culture of
knowledge sharing and replication; using
information technology and tools to disseminate
knowledge and creating processes to leverage that
Push versus Pull – The key to KM success is
execution. For KM implementation, business
performance indices were linked with extent of best
practice sharing and replication. Through K$,
employees were encouraged to share and replicate
knowledge. Significant contributors are also invited
in various forums to share their experiences and
recognized and rewarded for their efforts. Apart
from K$, each location is given certain business
targets in terms of reducing variation across business
KPIs. Each employee in the organization has these
KPIs as part of key result areas (KRAs). A best
practice is for a particular KPI and therefore, savings
from best practice implementation is calculated. This
financial impact was approved by a finance officer.
Business Impact – KM initiative has helped
Bharti to retain employee knowledge in form of best
practices collected over the last seven eight years. It
has enabled the company in bringing new businesses
spread across geographies, to the KM platform.
Users who are new to the system can now search for
Leadership Culture Structure Technology
Social Enablers Technical Enablers
Plan Design Implement Evaluate Accelerate
existing best practices and standardize the processes
according to them. So entire knowledge retained
over the last seven to eight years is extended and
replicated in turnaround time of 2 months. The key
to the success of this initiative has been in terms of
preventing reinventing the wheel, process variation
reduction across location and reduction in time taken
to align process as per best practices. Another reason
is rigorous documentation of practices. This has
resulted in consistent customer experience and
increased savings from best practice creation and
replication across locations.
A review of literature also reveals that since there
are many approaches and frameworks to KM
implementation, discretion of the implementer to
develop a common ground for KM implementation
is critical. The authors feel that although the
proposed KMPI model features most of the relevant
KM activities, there could be other environmental
and resource related dimensions that would
ultimately influence the conduct of KM initiative.
The authors suggest that the framework could be
extended to include other dimensions, which inhibit
or enable KM initiative. This may be required during
testing the applicability of the framework in
different business, industry and national contexts.
Our future research direction is to test the
applicability of the framework in various industries,
sectors, hierarchy levels etc. through survey data.
A limitation of the study is that analysis and
reporting of findings are based on the interpretation
of the researchers. Secondly, the framework is
proposed based on the inputs from Indian
organizations only, although attempt has been made
to incorporate findings from the existing body of
knowledge in the domain of KM. Hence, there is a
need to empirically investigate if any dimensions
have been incorrectly categorized or missed out.
The authors believe that a sound implementation
framework can help organizations with directions
and support to embark the KM journey. Rather than
simply saying that KM enhances performance, the
KMPI framework presents KM practitioners a
structured approach to realize the potential of KM.
However, developing such a framework may pose
challenges initially as they might not be aware of the
dimensions and its elements and their fitment within
the entire framework. Therefore, as KM
implementation is resource intensive involving high
stakes, it’s better to have a formal KM in place
rather than trying different things.
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