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The Do’s and Don’ts of Introducing Knowledge Management

Steinbeis experts provide support on the analysis of an automotive client’s level of maturity

An interesting assignment for the team at the Steinbeis Consulting Center for Knowledge Management in Augsburg: A carmaker asked the consultants for support with the introduction of a knowledge management system. The challenge was not just to manage general information and how knowledge was shared; recertification under the new ISO standard 9001:2015 meant that the company would have to improve how it dealt with knowledge. By analyzing the maturity level of systems, the Steinbeis experts were able to gauge the current situation and provide the client with a made-to-measure knowledge management proposal.

Analyzing the level of maturity of a company provides a snapshot of the status quo with respect to knowledge management. This allowed the Steinbeis Consulting Center for Knowledge Management to develop a practical tool for introducing knowledge management in all areas of the business quickly and without complication. Analysis also provides a comparison between the current situation and the target scenario, and this can be used as a basis for planning specific actions and next steps.

When the experts analyzed the maturity level of the automotive customer, in the area of the business that was evaluated they were already in a good position to start using holistic knowledge management. The “actuals” with respect to knowledge development and innovation were an exact match with the “targets.” Deviations were also only minimal when it came to the strategic direction of knowledge targets, the IT systems that had already been introduced, and the current status of knowledge within the company. The maturity level analysis did however reveal shortfalls with respect to leadership and management support, business processes, and staff satisfaction and motivation. The areas in which the company had the most catching up to do were collaboration and communication.

Understanding the status quo enabled Christina Stoisser and her team of Steinbeis experts to conclude that although things were already quite good, previous knowledge management initiatives had not succeeded in improving information sharing in the company as much as had been hoped. The software at the company was not doing enough to support collaboration. This was leading to process errors and even creating work, with a knock-on effect on the satisfaction of employees, who felt demotivated. A lack of support from senior management was only making the situation worse. The company was in danger of entering a downward spiral, and this put all previous knowledge management initiatives at risk.

To do something about the situation, it was important to build on what had already been achieved. In essence, the division of the company had all the tools it needed to manage knowledge professionally. The tools just needed linking up properly. The solution came in the form of a knowledge dashboard, which all existing stand-alone solutions could plug into via special interfaces. Instead of going through up to ten login procedures, staff now only needed to identify themselves once. They could then access the entire knowledge database of the company, whether they needed data from sales or customer service. Any new documents that were created were automatically fed into the overarching system and no longer had to lie fallow on local disk drives or in personal folders. This also meant that from now on, only one record of each file would exist – the most up to date.

“The value this added in working with the fountain of knowledge available in the organization became noticeable on day one,” explains Christina Stoisser. Employees reported significant time savings when looking for the right information, using project documentation to interact with others, or gaining approvals. The noticeable benefits the new system delivered resulted in rapid acceptance among employees. Another source of motivation came from senior management, who became actively involved in the flurry of information exchange through the knowledge dashboard, also providing support during the introduction phase with an internal marketing campaign. As a result, instead of resignation, within a short time employees were brimming with enthusiasm for the realigned knowledge management concept.


Christina Stoisser
Steinbeis Consulting Center Knowledge Management (Augsburg)