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A Knowledge Strategy for a Communications and PR practice of a large firm

Wissenschaftlicher Aufsatz 1999 44 Seiten

BWL - Unternehmensführung, Management, Organisation



Executive Summary


Identification of Issues
Ruggle’s Intellectual Capability dimensions
Knowledge identification
Knowledge codification
Knowledge interchange
Knowledge creation
Knowledge Issues in specific detail

Selection of One Issue: Human Resources
Human Resources - Management Skills
Human Resources - Learning and Employee Turnover
Human Resources - The Aging Pyramid or Rookie rate and no available explicit knowledge
Personal growth through knowledge gain - rather missing
Knowledge generation - a Human Resource selection and growth problem?
Human resource selection process as a knowledge gathering process
No focus on novel problems - where is the collective endeavour?
Human Resource aspect - the tip of the iceberg

Knowledge as resource and Capability - filling the gaps
Strategic Fit
Strategic/Competitive Advantage
Resource Gaps
Applying Nonaka’s and Takeuchi’s framework for filling the gaps of a knowledge strategy
Enablers for knowledge management
Levers for a Knowledge Management Strategy
Nodes and Networks
Market leverage
Foundations of knowledge management
“Hard” infrastructure - Intranet, Groupware, etc.
“Soft” infrastructure - Roles, skills, Development, Rewards
Establishing a community of practice
Skills and expert Knowledge
Tools and Techniques
Bottom-line Benefits of knowledge strategy

Problems, Challenges
Critical success factors to overcome problems
Drawing a clear link to business priority
Knowledge crossing boundaries, executive sponsor
Implementation as evolution, not as a revolution
Knowledge management strategies are not a “wishlist”
Selecting the right pilot - if at all a pilot is doable...
Process problems
Technocentrix problem
Knowledge transfer problems around different locations
Sustaining the effort
Management of knowledge as a resource
Final remark


Appendix A: Result Findings of Intellectual Captial Audit, TMA02

Appendix B: Results from IC Audit

Appendix C: Knowledge Management Assessment checklist

Appendix D: IBM’s Strategic Priorities


Executive Summary

This report discusses a knowledge strategy in the communications profession in IBM Europe, Middle East and Africa. The focus of that report is to reveal the reshift from a replication- orientated organisation which excels in functionality onto a communications-intensive consultant organsiation in which the active management of both tacit and explict knowledge does play an active role. In a recent assessment referred to as TMA02, it has been discovered, that intellectual capital in this communications organization is rather unorganized and disperse. Here, it is further looked into and found out that one of the reasons for this dispersed intellectual capital the missing accumulation and conversion of knowledge in that organization. Reasons for this are: few or very unuseful joint tools for personal user, no expert professions to grow into and thus no personal reward to accumulate real market or media knowledge, and last but not least a culture that does reward the quick shot and not sustainability.

To gain a strategic advantage through a knowledgeable communications organization that brings value add to the business, it is recommended in this report to setup knowledge hubs at strategic sites who act as key knowledge accumulators or centers of competence for other communications professionals and a joint Lotus Notes / Web Notes / Domino database infrastructure to enable group work, together with the production deployment of sametime communications tools like VPBuddy. In a next step, explicit expert professions within the communications career path should be fostered to gain and reward expert and tacit knowledge and thus attract and retain the world-class communications professionals, a company like IBM needs to have. This knowledge initiative should be aligned with IBM’s strategic priorities, especially Priority 1, Priority 5 and Priority 6.[1]


This report discusses the intellectual capital and knowledge gathered in IBM’s communications organization in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA).

IBM, the world largest Information Technology company, has setup a communications organization in which about 150 people are employed. Those have the mission to conduct conducting communications activities like media and public relations, analyst relations, executive communications and internal (employee) communications. The organization is reporting in each individual country to a communications manager who is locally reporting to the IBM Country General Manager. Vertically, parts of the people are reporting to a division communications leader and to a division general manager or division executive. All communications professionals report to a European Vice President of Communications.

This organization manages stakeholder expectations for the European market and acts as a key information gate holder both towards the internal and towards the external world. It is equipped with country representatives (country communications managers) in almost any major country (in the UK, there are 10 communications professionals working for IBM Communications, in Germany 15, specialized to their specific businesses). In addition, there are about 25 “above country” EMEA people, who have a managing or coordinating role across Europe and also serve their respective vertical business leaders. Additionally, there is a group of people directly working for the research and development labs (2 research labs, 3 development labs, 4 manufacturing sites), actually mainly serving internal communications purposes.

Thus, one of the major tasks of that organization is to translate and recodify knowledge that either is tacit or explicit and make this into a different explicit and tacit knowledge. Its tasks can be described in this knowledge 4-phase matrix (Nuance and Takeout) as follows:

Socialization of knowledge: Education of executives and press-suitable experts on how to deal with large internal audiences and how to talk with external audiences. Training on the job and pre-training them prior setting up press interviews. This sympathized knowledge is essential to survive for the European media market and to get used to deal with customs - especially, when the person to be trained comes from a different cultural background - as this often happens within IBM. Another task is to socialize journalists with IBM - this also will sometimes be undertaken by getting them “into the right mood” - means: by transporting a tacit knowledge. The real wizards of communications are mastering that.

Internalization of knowledge: If some information is explicit (like a press clip), it is being handled and transported by the communications experts towards internal audiences to give people a feeling on “what is going on outside” - same is with “background information”, “press kits” etc. That transports expert knowledge into a tacit feeling for journalists on how the company and how the market is doing.

Tacit knowledge also will be externalized and madeexplicit- by communications and media analysis and strategic communications consulting - here it is required to take a pool of experience in the communications field together with a set of frameworks of business knowledge and then consult the senior management team on how to communicate what and when. This is an area where communications people are still weak at and sometimes rather driven by as being in the driver’s seat, as the report in TMA02 also has shown.

Systemic knowledge creationis very important to the outside - as many difficult things happening inside the company need to be translated to the outside to very simple and very short terms - with press releases, background information pictorial elements or even B-Roll video material. This probably is the biggest part of the job this community has to perform and also possibly in functional terms of excellence the part of the job where best processes do exist, so far.

Identification of Issues

In the chosen fast changing context, key knowledge management issues can be seen along two dimensional matrixes - Ruggle’s Intellectual Capability dimensions and - more tactically - Skyme’s “Checklist” of 10 important knowledge assessment points.

Ruggle’s Intellectual Capability dimensions

Ruggles (1997)[2], suggests that knowledge management involves four interdependent activities in which learning is central - knowledge identification, codification of knowledge, knowledge interchange and knowledge creation, whereas the first three points refer to the organization and sharing of existing knowledge whereas the last describes the generation of new knowledge.

According to this scheme, it needs to be identified, where the issues are in building up knowledge and intellectual capability.

Knowledge identification

This requires that the stock and structure of knowledge currently available to the organization is critically assessed. Deficits in that knowledge then need to be over come through knowledge sourcing and access - for communications professionals, this means: seeking out the right story that is “sellable” both externally and internally. As most of the knowledge is identified in some headquarters functions - like new product launches being organized worldwide, news generated at that worldwide level, this knowledge identification only occurs for communications professionals in a country organization in a very pre-prepared way, once they do not directly interlock with regional sales functions to bring in a key value add (if there is one). If not, regional/country people can use and replicate on what is already available - and maybe translate it into a different language. Thus, knowledge identification from the inside only happens at people working close with business headquarters or research and development labs, but not with executing country functions - and yet, that’s where 70% of the resources are being deployed into. The local knowledge - like media and market skills increasingly becomes codified through databases and thus transparent.

Knowledge codification

Knowledge needs to be explicitly represented and leveraged in a range of settings. This involves decontextualizing knowledge so that it can be explicitly represented and leveraged in a range of settings. A typical knowledge codification is the generation of a press release - where its contents might be taken from a product announcement letter or from other base materials. Here also, the real codification work only is being undertaken at two stages:

From tacit to explicit: When writing up the original press release / article in the Headquarters and From Explicit to Tacit: By pitching the press release to the media in the country - the latter increasingly is a sales job.

The consequence is: Knowledge codification also mostly occurs in headquarters functions but not in the fields - unless local flavor and value add is being added onto.

Knowledge interchange

This includes both knowledge transfer (the movement of knowledge from one location to another) and its active assimilation and its destination. Communications professionals are very often isolated in a small group of less than five people, this knowledge interchange needs to be undertaken through regular meetings and through codifying knowledge into knowledge sharing joint sets of databases.

Most of the communications professionals do not travel a lot - as they are restricted by budget limitations (5 k$ per Headcount on travel per year), so they rather tend to be very location stable - and in addition - are still weak in using ICT tools like Lotus Notes Databases to codify their knowledge. This results into a localized knowledge interchange and thus to islands of knowledge, where still the local boundaries for non-codified knowledge cannot be crossed.

Regular conference calls as a tool to disseminate knowledge are used on a regular but only very exclusive - -top-down organized base. This then - with the findings together in TMA 02 indicates that the knowledge interchange does not seem to occur very often, both inside the community of practice and towards the outside. An unsolicited call from a journalist still seems to be a major hurdle for most of the communications professionals. Also, it has been found out, that the knowledge does not flow across the boundary between the supporting PR agency satellite network and the core communications organization. The PR Agency network cannot access Lotus Notes databases that are made for internal use and are very often - because many documents are only being spread internally, withheld from information. Vice versa, some journalist knowledge - as many PR agencies are being used to maintain media contacts (even key contacts!), does not flow back.

Knowledge creation

This focus on synthesizing, adapting and transforming knowledge in order to generate knowledge which in some sense is novel or creative, is one of the most important parts in professional communications.

Still, it seems, that80% of the peopleexcept those who are in headquarters and in the Research and Development labs, are occupied with the recodification of knowledge (mostly from one language to another) and this only comprises a slight adoption of that knowledge towards that local market, which increasingly finds itself into a convergence towards a joint European market. Thus, the value add of localization might become increasingly less important.

As a consequence, People in the countries seem to become increasingly superfluous. One reason is also pervasive extension of the Internet, which has effected an enormous condensation effect to the news market - one or a couple of five strategically informed reporters do spread the news around the world within hours, from whatever place it needs to be.

Thus, resources are still allocated into a model that already is outdated - or - the people who became comfortable with that replication model need to come back to creativity, locally implemented creativity.

Knowledge Issues in specific detail

Issues can easily be looked into further detail with David Skyme Associates Ltd. knowledge management assessment tool (Unit 12, p. 28[3]). Per each bullet point, 1-2 rating points have been set and given. Using this, together with the findings from TMA02, the key findings can be described in a graph as follows:

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 1: Results of the EMEA Knowledge assessment

Leadership- the key role of knowledge - be it knowledge on products or clients served or knowledge on the communications practice itself - is not clearly articulated in the communications organization - still, after years of formation, there is no skill plan, no assessment onto crucial skills and no curriculums and development plans to move people forward.

Rating: 6 points

Measures- still, the bottom line measures of knowledge creation are not clear. Intellectual capital is not measured and skills are not recorded in communications yet.

Rating: 2 points

Processes- It may be sensed to many people on what knowledge is vital, but it is not commonly known. The organization also does not have systematic processes. Also, there are no policy guidelines on what is vital proprietary knowledge that needs to be protected, maybe except the contact with major media. No guidelines do exist on major knowledge gate keeping and gathering processes, like the collection of documents into already existing Lotus Notes Databases.

Rating: 4 points

Explicit knowledge- Information technology inventory is widely used with an Internet and now a press room allows to store explicit knowledge across the world. Still, this is in a test phase and most of the local systems run either differently or are not used that well and not regularly maintained. An idea bank to store data for future reuse does not exist.

Rating: 7 points

Tacit knowledge- tacit knowledge is being held tacit mostly. Important meetings will be increasingly videoed, like meetings of the EMEA and Worldwide executives, but meetings that server for information exchange and, knowledge used at the customer interface - like press conference - are not being fed back yet in a way that makes this tacit knowledge explicit

Rating: 4 points

Culture - structure:Project teams are not deliberately chosen to include people with varying levels of experience, different expertise and age ranges - the rookie rate (60%) is too high and the level of seniority within the teams is usually too low. Knowledge contraptions do play a minor role in performance reviews and assessments. Time for learning, thinking and reflection is not considered a major time within the organization, as it seems - except in team meetings, people do not find the time to sit back and think... Workforce settings increasingly encourage interaction and free flow of information - but still, informal meeting areas, open plan offices and project rooms are new to find. Individual experts are encouraged to contribute time and expertise to support other teams, but this typically is something they are supposed to do on top of their normal duties.

Rating: 5 points

Knowledge centers: A physical center that acts as a hub of knowledge flows is only established in Paris, so far. A center that is yet to be established in London is still under construction due to the obstacles there. A new center probably will be established in Boeblingen, Germany, whereas for example other centers formerly existing have been abandoned due to central room constraints. There is no reservoir or of information science and library skills that can act as a source of knowledge management expertise. Same, within the communications group, the TMA 02 findings showed up - there is no person with valuable IT skills that can be found within the group. And yet, there is no core group responsible for creating and maintaining a map of vital knowledge on communications which is accessibly EMEA wide or worldwide.

Rating. 6 points

Exploitation: With Internet and Internet libraries, information and knowledge becomes increasingly available in a form that enhances the services to stakeholders - both internally and externally. The core expertise of communications still is not being considered as to be “resold” as a consultancy, for example for IBM business partners, thus, as a consequence, it is also not being considered as being tangibly valuable externally. And yet, there is no internal marketing for communications services - which might sound firstly obscure, but meta-marketing or meta-communication does seem to be increasingly crucial.

Rating: 5 points

People/skills: Knowledge roles are not being defined, yet - this is still in a definition phase. There are several disciplines that can be vaguely defined, but still, there is no active people management and/or skill management process in place. Key individuals do still not act as knowledge practice experts and coach to others, except when they are being told to have pre-managerial roles like team leaders. Knowledge management is not considered a core management skill, in which every manager and professional has some familiarity, because managing the knowledge of an organization is not part of the value paradigms “Win”, “Execute”, “Team” actually being maintained by IBM. Thus, either a fourth paradigm needs to be entailed, or one of these paradigms - maybe the “Team” paradigm needs some strong revision.

Rating: 5 points

Technological Infrastructure: The Infrastructure with Laptops, Lotus Notes and Intranet/Internet access now is being used as a key tool to develop knowledge, but it seems that Lotus Notes Databases are not widely spread and also not widely used. As in TMA02 shown, the access rates to even the mostly mentioned databases are fairly low less than 5 per day in a group of 150 people, this indicates that the database does not seem to be used that much - either because of its group usage for those submitting information or because of its return value. (See Unit 11, Knowledge Technologies). And additionally, the databases are not being widely shared with the set of networked PR Agencies supporting IBM.

Rating: 5 points

This in total makes 49 of 100 possible points in that knowledge assessment, which is for such a knowledge-intense and communications intense community like the communications community a critical point to step back and ask if not any improvements could be made. In the next instance, it will be further looked into the Human Resource Cluster of that picture to enlighten one of the most strategic flaws of the communications organization.

Selection of One Issue: Human Resources

Quinn (quoted in Unit 10, p46) differentiates levels of knowledge, including Level 1 Knowledge - cognitive (know-what) and Level 4 Knowledge - self-motivated creativity (care-why). Perhaps Level 1 Knowledge can be equated with traditional approaches to ICAs: finding ways to know what we know, whereas Level 4 Knowledge is analogous to a Knowledge Management Audit. One of the key issue that came out of the knowledge management assessment, is the people and human resource aspect in the communications organization. Here, further enlightenment needs to be taken into perspective

Human Resources - Management Skills

Knowledge roles are not being defined, yet - this is still in a definition phase. There are several disciplines that can be vaguely defined, but still, there is no active people management and/or skill management process in place. Knowledge management is not considered a core management skill, in which every manager and professional has some familiarity, because managing the knowledge of an organization is not part of the value paradigms “Win”, “Execute”, “Team” actually being maintained by IBM. Thus, either a fourth paradigm needs to be entailed, or one of these paradigms - maybe the “Team” paradigm needs some strong revision.

Human Resources - Learning and Employee Turnover

The people involved into this knowledge conversion paradigm Nonaka and Takeuchi stated need to face themselves with one true key fact: Knowledge on markets and media and its players does not arise by rotating around the company within every three years as it is done actually. Key technology skills - which are actually needed to pursue a decent communications job do not come without some in-depth knowledge about who the players are, who to contact when and what the technology is about - thus, in one word: - it rather does come across through transporting tacit knowledge and through socialization within a team.

Human Resources - The Aging Pyramid or Rookie rate and no available explicit knowledge

Against this base fact, the rookie rate of more than 60 percent in many departments, as shown in TMA 02, does give an indication about the non-settledness of knowledge and does also give an indication about a nonability to socialize that quickly from other people. This then implies that people need to only learn from explicit knowledge and to adopt from it (Nonaka), and can learn from it and make sense out of it. The key problem with the sensemaking process (Kolb and Fry, Learning, Unit 3, p.34)[4]by only learning from codified knowledge in such an environment is that with effectively no existing pervasive Lotus Notes database infrastructure where it really can be learnt from, people do not have a possibility to grow their knowledge beyond a certain level.[5]

Thus, as a consequence, people in a communications community of proactive will leave the job or the company as soon as it seems to them being “too boring” (no learning possible anymore) to continue to work on the same thing again and alluvia, but without having the possibility to get rewarded to achieve a deeply rooted knowledge about the market they are in (e.g. Storage Subsystems or Database Software), or by gaining media skills in one particular market.


[1]See Appendix D

[2]OUBS U9, p.41

[3]Can also be found in Appendix C.

[4]Sensemaking is a kind of learning - and goes from Activism to reflection, Theorisation, Pragmatism and back to Activism

[5]HR experts in IBM who look after this expert level thus never get beyond a Band 7 (Base expert, equals to a normal salesman in job banding) or in exception Band 8 (Seniour Expert, equals to a seniour salesman, but no certified seniour experts or other do exist. )


ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Buch)
711 KB
Institution / Hochschule
The Open University – Open University Business School
Public Relations Communications IBM Knowledge Management




Titel: A Knowledge Strategy for a Communications and PR practice of a large firm