Integrating knowledge management into project management – a practical approach
Knowledge Management (KM) is a very broad term that has been misused and overused in many instances. This, in turn, has caused a lot of confusion about what KM is and how it is different from many other related concepts like collaboration, training, data warehousing, and executive reporting. In truth KM has roots in all of these things, and today, companies that are successfully implementing KM are building upon these kinds of efforts, and using KM as a way of tying them together to achieve benefits greater than the sum of the parts. The essence of a knowledge management program is to capture the knowledge in the business and store it where people can access it when needed and find out whom they can contact for help.
The role of a project manager is a complex one. It requires a broad knowledge and the ability to deal with many diverse stakeholders. There is a wide range of processes and tools required to successfully guide and support the projects business. Some are focused on how we internally manage and control the risks associated with this business, and some address how we effectively deliver high-quality solutions and services to our customers. Every customer project represents new experiences, new learnings, and new solutions content. For a business to grow, it must capture those learnings and solutions in order to expand project management expertise and capability. One of the best ways available today is through a web-accessible information repository that makes the accumulated experience of project managers easily available to all others. Such a knowledge library serves as the foundation for a company's information, tools, tips, and solution components—all of which can expedite the project.
This paper will describe how Compaq Global Services uses a KM Program to help project managers worldwide enhance the success of projects. It will describe the organization and structure of the program as well as how it is used through all phases of the project from initiation through closeout.
Compaq Global Services Knowledge Network
The Compaq Global Services Knowledge Network is a knowledge repository that resides on the company intranet and consists of more than 500,000 web pages of information that is accessible worldwide. The knowledge base is replicated in North America, Europe, and Asia, and each geographical region has its own portal to provide a focus on the local business, teams, and customers. Management of this wealth of knowledge is distributed to the specific organization that owns the material to ensure accurate and timely updates. Consistent standards are used for a common look and user interface. Materials are stored only once with links from appropriate pages. The Knowledge Network has been set up as an integral part of the work, not as a function that must be performed separately. Much of the KM system has evolved with the work that needs to be done so that it is not normally thought of as being something separate.
Compaq Global Services is committed to a knowledge-empowered workforce. The KM program contributes to a web-based knowledge network, which is a repository of our collective expertise, information, tools, and even entire solution components. When an opportunity or challenge arises, selling and delivery teams can quickly tap these proven resources, which increase the use of repeatable solutions, shorten selling and delivery times, and increase profitability.
Within the repository, a page owner manages a specific set of pages and keeps his or her information current. The distributed nature of the Knowledge Network lets Global Services draw from its extensive network of knowledge-keepers, while making the repository look like a single, consistent entity. As a result, everyone in the organization has the tools to look at the whole picture when confronting a customer problem.
Exhibit 1. Compaq Knowledge Management Graphic
The Global Services Knowledge Network is made up of repositories of information, including:
- Customer References/Wins/Testimonials/Case Studies
- Solution Development Kits
- Service Delivery Guides
- Organization Charts
- Relevant News and Literature
- Project Experience
- Tools and Software
- Project Management
- Project Approval and Review Board
- White Papers.
One of the keys to success is content. The main focus of the KM program is to provide content that is worthwhile and current. Each page has an editor who is responsible for the content on the page and a web maintainer who is responsible for the look of the page and for meeting the established web standards. Anyone having questions or comments about a page can contact either one directly.
Another key to success is in the recognition that people learn and work differently. The Knowledge Network is set up to accommodate different styles of learning and working as well as different situations. For example, a project manager can access templates she needs by going directly to a list of templates or she can go through the project stage activities sequentially and get the complete methodology relating to the template. This allows a very experienced project manager to access the information quickly and efficiently while providing more detail and support to one who is not as experienced. A project manager can use all or parts of the methodology depending on the type of engagement and the customer needs.
Effective communication is a key success factor in our KM Program. Employees need to be able to contact others as well as participate in groups where they have knowledge to share.
In a global organization the size of Compaq, knowing whom to contact can be a key success factor to global projects. Key contact lists are maintained within the Knowledge Network to provide those contacts based on the topic area needed.
Community of Practice
An electronic subscription tool is used for the broad distribution of electronic business communications such as email, newsletters, sales flashes, etc. All Compaq workers have the option to create a profile that allows them to subscribe to the specific types of electronic information that interests them. As an example, the Project Management Competency Circle is for people interested in information about project management. Some of the topics covered include training, PMP® certification, project management activities in Compaq, news from PMI®, and publications. Newsletters are periodically distributed on these topic areas. The global audience of Compaq employees shares new information on a wide range of project management topics.
The charter of Affinity Groups is to significantly improve the quality of, and reduce the cost of, technical solutions delivered to customers through encouraging communication among group members. The groups share information usually via conference calls in areas such as:
- New technologies
- Recent project work
- Successful solutions
- White papers
- Software fixes
- Project evaluations.
Knowledge Sharing Requests are requests for others to share their knowledge, experience, or information in order to help advance an opportunity or solve a problem. These requests are sent out to individuals who may be able to help on the specific topic. They result in mail messages or phone calls, back to the requestor providing the requested information.
While the Knowledge Network includes many databases, following is a discussion of some that are most useful in project management.
Project Experience/Lessons Learned
Project experience is the lessons learned from delivering solutions to our customers. The KM Program collects and publishes project experience to help future project teams learn from the results of others. This website provides access to documents and other files produced from many Global Services projects. In addition, you will find summaries and other results from the analysis of project activities and documents. An individual can access information on this site by Practice and Segment. Lessons Learned are also available by topic area.
All project experience is submitted through Knowledge Managers (KMs) and Project Management Office (PMO) managers for experience collection. The KM/PMO is responsible for reviewing all content for quality, sanitizing it for confidentiality, and adding value with knowledge refinement.
Exhibit 2. Compaq Opportunity Roadmap Overview
A solution set is a repeatable combination of Compaq and third-party products and services that, when brought together via an implementation project, solves a customer problem. A solution set may be comprised of software and hardware products and services and be product-, industry-, or technology-focused. It is based on the experiences and methodologies of Compaq Global Services. It provides fast implementation, reduced risk and maximum return on investment.
Guides are documents that contain detailed information focused on a specific subject area of project management. The subjects for these guides are determined based upon an identified need for additional attention to key project management issues. Examples of some of the guides available are:
Change Control Guide—This guide documents a process to assist Global Services practitioners in setting up change control for a project. The technique described can be used at any phase in the project or project life cycle to control changes to all items under configuration management.
Issue Resolution Guide—Issue tracking can be accomplished in different ways depending on the size and complexity of the project. The Issue Resolution Guide is a quick reference to templates and tools available from the Knowledge Base for issue resolution.
Project Start Up Guide—This guide provides project managers with a table of actions and resources that should be applied when initiating any project.
Project Manager's Guide—This guide provides project managers with a summary of the information for project management work. While not providing all the specific information and documents required, it will reference sources for more detailed information.
PMO Manager's Guide—This document was developed to provide assistance and guidance in helping the PMO Manager do his or her job. The PMO Manager role is critical to ensuring that the appropriate processes and standards are used, that our people have the required skills and knowledge, and that we are taking advantage of learning from project experiences for continuous improvement.
Compaq Global Services’ project methodology is called Quality Program Methodology (QPM). It includes templates, checklists, techniques, processes, and models; all of which are based on industry standards and experience accumulated from past engagements. It is an organized summary of knowledge about managing and delivering projects, capitalizing on Compaq's project experience. To maximize consistency and reusability, Compaq has methodologies to assist project managers and project teams in the successful initiation and completion of projects. The methodology is available throughout the project life cycle. Checklists based on past experiences are available for each key stage to provide a guide to getting the work done. Appropriate templates with real world examples are available for reference.
QPM provides significant benefits for Compaq projects. These benefits include:
• A way to choose a life cycle based on the specific needs of your project
• Criteria to tailor solutions to project size and complexity
• Ways to minimize financial risk
• Ways to define, sequence, schedule, manage, and measure a project
• Process streamlining without sacrificing integrity
• Repeatable, consistent quality in systems development.
In order to describe the application of the Knowledge Network in Compaq Global Services I will give examples of how it is used by following Compaq's Opportunity Roadmap through the complete life cycle of a customer engagement. While this discussion cannot possibly cover all the activities in this process, it will focus on some examples that are most supported by the Knowledge Network.
The process of bidding, winning, and delivering customer projects is a complex, cross-functional effort that requires a disciplined approach. Using a disciplined approach increases the bid/win rate and reduces inefficiencies in the bid process. In delivery, this approach improves communication and professionalism and has proven to increase profits and customer satisfaction. Absence of such a disciplined approach can lead to loss of project control, diminished margin, and customer dissatisfaction. The Opportunity Roadmap is the disciplined approach that is used within Compaq.
The Opportunity Roadmap is a standard process that:
• Identifies the key stages of a program or project opportunity
• Specifies the required major business activities, reviews, and approvals.
The Opportunity Roadmap helps to ensure that both Compaq and our customers make the best investments. The Opportunity Roadmap requires early involvement by experienced project managers. This early involvement helps to ensure that the proper resources and management controls are deployed successfully.
The Opportunity Roadmap consists of six stages that represent an internal view of the process required to successfully create, evaluate, develop and propose, negotiate, implement, and support projects. Clearly defined, mandatory decision points mark the end of each Opportunity Roadmap stage.
The Opportunity Creation stage identifies programs and projects to be evaluated. The account team identifies business needs or problems at the customer that may be opportunities for Compaq. An Opportunity Review is held during this stage to determine whether or not this is a reasonable opportunity to pursue.
• Key Contact Lists provide a way to find out whom to call for help. The support of country and regional managers is obtained for help and resources. Region/country PMO Managers are available to help in multinational or cross-region projects. KMs in each function and geography provide specific information on their areas of expertise to answer questions as they arise.
• The Project Experience database is reviewed for similar types of engagements.
• Practice Solutions Sets are reviewed to identify any existing solutions that match the opportunity.
• Lessons Learned specific to this stage are reviewed.
The Opportunity Evaluation stage is where a rapid evaluation is made to assess the size of the effort and the expected returns or risks associated with winning or losing the bid. A decision is made in this stage whether to commit money and resources for proposal development.
• Third-party product/service suppliers are identified and evaluated based on performance on previous projects. A review is made to determine if necessary teaming agreements are in place.
• A high-level review based on prior experience with similar projects is made to identify and quantify overall risks and contingencies. During this review we determine our level of experience and capability with the proposed solution.
• Lessons Learned specific to this stage are reviewed.
Development and Proposal
In the Development and Proposal stage the team develops and submits a proposed solution that will address the customer's needs. The solution should be one that meets the customer's business requirement and budget and which Compaq can deliver profitably.
• When getting ready to bid a new project, the Proposal Repository is used to find similar proposals that have been done in the past. This helps reduce cost of bidding as well as improves the quality of bid to the customer.
• The Project Experience database is used throughout the project life cycle. It is especially important during the planning process, when it is used to find plans from a similar project and identify material and solutions that can be reused. Solution Sets and packaged applications from qualified partners from similar projects are also evaluated.
• The methodology database is used to help develop an opportunity and to manage a project. Standard templates and techniques are available for the different types of projects, and cover all phases of the project lifecycle.
• Specific skills are determined and resources identified.
• A project briefing document is created in this stage as part of the review process. This document describes the key elements of the proposed project. This key document is submitted to the Project Experience database for future project reference.
In the Negotiation stage the team addresses the customer's reaction to the proposal and works with the customer to obtain a mutually agreeable signed contract.
• Lessons Learned specific to this stage are reviewed.
• A Win/Loss Review is conducted at the end of this stage. A report is submitted to the project experience database for future use. It provides information on why we won, or lost, the opportunity and how we can improve from this sales experience.
In the Implementation stage the solution is implemented and outstanding due diligence activities are completed.
• Checklists and guides provide help on completing key project activities.
• Lessons Learned specific to this stage are reviewed.
• Project Manager and PMO Manager Guides are available to help individuals better understand their roles and the expectations of others.
• The work breakdown structure, proposal, and project plan are all submitted to the Project Experience database at project kickoff.
• Project reviews are done on a regular basis and knowledge gained in one project can be used on many others.
• A project closeout report that includes an update to the key project documents, the final project report, and any other useful documents are submitted to the project experience database. Key ingredients to knowledge management in the project closeout report include third-party evaluation, reusable components, and recommendations.
• Lessons Learned are captured and categorized. They are available for review to help avoid future project problems.
The Management/Support stage covers the period after a solution has been implemented and transition activities have been completed. During this period, the account manager and the team support the customer by managing ongoing operations, ensuring customer satisfaction with the results, and by identifying with the customer new opportunities. All the knowledge management activities mentioned in previous stages would apply in this stage.
Project Management Development
The Knowledge Network also supports development of project management skills and reinforces the importance of sharing project experiences. A career path is delineated along with the skills and knowledge required for each project management job level. Links to specific development activities are included to help individuals with their development plans.
A Project Management Development Program based on the PMBOK® Guide covers topics from project management fundamentals to the most advanced topics. Specialized courses on Compaq specific areas are included as well. Tips are available to help individuals to determine what courses to take.
PMP® certification is supported and encouraged. PMPs share their experiences in becoming certified and these are then posted on the web to help others prepare for their certification.
A prestigious project management training event brings together a large part of the Global Services project management community for a week of intensive learning and sharing of experiences. These training events are specifically designed with the objective of project managers sharing their experiences both formally and informally. Project experience sharing is an integral part of and reinforced continually during the event.
Training is available in the form of web tours to learn more about navigating within the Knowledge Network and the project management pages in particular. Two-hour tours are scheduled on a regular basis to accommodate participants worldwide.
The Global Services Knowledge Network is in a state of continuous improvement with additions and enhancements being made on an ongoing basis. The knowledge management program is positioned to make use of appropriate new tools and technologies as they become available. Pilot programs are conducted regularly to assess the value of new tools and systems.
Thomas H. Davenport and Laurence Prusak in Working Knowledge—How Organizations Manage What They Know gave a working definition for knowledge: “Knowledge is a fluid mix of framed experience, values, contextual information, expert insight and grounded intuition that provides an environment and framework for evaluating and incorporating new experiences and information. It originates and is applied in the minds of knowers. In organizations, it often becomes embedded not only in documents or repositories but also in organizational routines, processes, practices, and norms.” In other words, KM should be integrated in the normal work that is being done, not added as extra work. This is the approach we have taken with the Knowledge Network at Compaq Global Services.
Proceedings of the Project Management Institute Annual Seminars & Symposium
November 1–10, 2001 • Nashville, Tenn., USA