Knowledge Management – The way forward.

The source of a sustainable competitive advantage for any organization is derived from the access and subsequent exploitation of resources, and today, knowledge is being heralded as the most important of such resources that is available to organizations (Drucker, 1993). For the larger and mature organizations, often process capability knowledge is the primary source of advantage, whereas for the organizations seeking to grow and out-grow competition, in addition to process capability knowledge, knowledge management focus would also include market knowledge, rapid product development, or the creation of knowledge through research. However, it is important to recognise that even mature organizations need to create knowledge to avoid falling into the stagnancy pit. This is exactly what knowledge management attempts to provide more succinctly to the organizations. Knowledge management aims are to create conditions under which competitive advantage can be maintained, by creating,  acquiring, retaining and exploiting the knowledge for the welfare of the organisation.

Knowledge management is the way organizations today are attempting to make the otherwise intangible knowledge tangible and distributable, throughout the organization, in search of the illusive competitive advantage. Today, in this evolving world where insights on data or business intelligence plays an extremely crucial role for the sustainable development of an organization, knowledge management has become a key area of focus.

Beckett et al. (2000) has provided an interesting framework by which many organizations are actually managing their data within with a growing focus to manage the data outside the organization also. Through research, the authors highlight how effective knowledge management can provide a wider scope of continuous improvement to obtain benefits for the parent organization, by providing higher quality information, better quality information, removing information asymmetry, and subsequently increasing the levels of organisational expertise which can be applied to it to create substantial improvements for the organization.

The sole focus of organizations today is to convert internalized tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge, so that it can be commoditized and less dependency is there on an individual for being the source of knowledge. With a high attrition rate in organizations across industry, it becomes extremely pertinent that knowledge once created within the organization stays inside the organization and does not become unusable once the creator of the same changes base, within or outside the organization. That is the sole objective of the initial knowledge management systems.

For improving the knowledge management practices within the organization, companies today are increasingly adopting rewards systems, collaborative systems, post-project reviews, knowledge mapping, establishing communities of practice with cross-project learning platforms, creating expert directories, competence management systems, best practice transfer, mentor-mentee relationships, knowledge fairs, formal knowledge repositories, measuring and reporting intellectual capital, knowledge brokers, social media and social network mining systems.

While it is important for organizations to understand the importance of knowledge management systems, even one aspect that many organizations often overlook is using the knowledge outside the boundaries of the organization, but within the value chain. Realizing this, the recent focus has been the development of customer knowledge management systems, where customer tacit knowledge is use to co-create value for the customer in the best possible way, and finally value for the company. Another group of stakeholders who are being introduced into the knowledge management realms are the supplier networks, where knowledge management is often used to create otherwise non-contactable value for the stakeholders. The way forward for knowledge management systems into the future is to capture the tacit knowledge outside the organization but within the value chain (and within multiple stakeholders) to create value for both.

Today, it is pertinent that all the senior executives of organizations realize the potential benefits of effective introduction and management of knowledge management systems, that can benefit the organization. Today, while organizations are facing increasing levels of competition due to the effects of greater competition, knowledge management provides an important way for organization to utilize the most valuable resource available to them, to gain competitive advantage.

4 Cs of Marketing – The Marketing Mix

R.F. Lauterborn (1993) proposed a 4 Cs classification to address the growing focus of marketing strategist on the consumer. While the 4 Ps framework for defining the marketing mix has been popular for decades, the four Cs have gained in terms of importance, considerably in recent times.

The 4 Cs consists of CONSUMER, COST, CONVENIENCE and COMMUNICATION.

4Cs_Marketing_Mix_L

The roots of the 4 Cs of marketing can be traced back to the classical 4 Ps marketing mix. However, with the onset of database marketing, the focus has shifted in marketing from a consumer transactional view-point to a consumer relationship viewpoint (and very recently consumer engagement). However, the basic focal strategic issues remain unchanged at its very core.

The details which a manager designing a marketing mix using the four Cs needs to focus on are as follows:

  • Clients / Consumer (customer) is the king. No longer can products be developed and pushed to the consumer in the hope of conversion of a purchase decision. Gone are those days when consumers had to buy products to satisfy needs for a simple lack of substitute. The market is over saturated with great products. Consumer behavior needs to be studied thoroughly from the product development phase itself. The attributes of any product should be almost built-to-order in current times, and substantial inputs should be taken from primary market research.
  • Pricing is crucial. The pricing strategies undertaken by any product development company should keep the perceived value of the product, to the consumer, in mind while deciding a pricing strategy.  Effort should be made to estimate a customer’s  tradeoffs  among  multiple attributes in a product so as to arrive at the perceived total value while  pricing  a  multi-attribute product.
  • Convenience of the service delivery or product purchase location is crucial. The place utility often is a differentiating factor in the success stories of many a promising product. It becomes extremely important especially if the product purchase is a low engagement decision making process, like that of purchase of day-to-day products.
  • Communication is crucial.  As opposed to the initial focus of brand promotion, communication of the brand personally so as create a brand awareness and brand cognition is extremely crucial for a sustainable pull strategy.  Every brand is perceived to have a personality. Communicating the same using proper communication channels becomes crucial for the success of any marketing campaign.

 

While the focus of designing a marketing mix has shifted from the 4 Ps to the 4 Cs, it is extremely crucial to understand that the underlying core remains the same. The major shift has been due to a paradigm change of focus from the product or service design to understanding the customer. This is where a 4 Cs strategy scores over the 4 Ps or 7 Ps strategy.

By the way, did you read our article on the 7 P’s of Services Marketing?

A discussion of 3 core issues in Information Systems Research

Information systems research looks at the interface of three aspects of the firm, Technology, Process and People. In this essay, we look at the issues discussed by three of the highly cited papers in Information Systems research.

The article “A Framework for Research in Computer Based MIS” by Blake Ives, Scott Hamilton, Gordon Davis talks about 5 major research models by “Mason & Mitroff”, “Chervany, Dickson & Kozar”, “Lucas”, “Mock” & “Gorry & Scott Morton”. It also forecasts a model to generate future potential hypotheses for research. In the Mason & Mitroff Model, the focus is on defining the IS as A person of a certain Psychological type who faces a problem within some organizational context for which he needs evidence to arrive at a solution, where the evidence is made available through some mode of presentation. In the research by Chervany, Dickson & Kozar, the focus is on the isolation of dependent and independent variables which determine effectiveness of an IS.  Lucas formed a descriptive model of situational, personal & attitudinal variables & their impact on usage of the system & performance of the IS user, where behavioral issues have been studied in depth. Mock studied how behavioral constraints on system developers and users, impact the usage of the system and their individual performances. Gory and Scott Morton focused on how an IS provides information for management decision making. The authors of the paper designs a model with 3 IS environments, 3 IS processes & 1 IS subsystem, existing within an Organizational & External environment. On the basis of interaction between the variables of these types, the author divides IS research into broadly 5 types, 1 to 5, which again are subdivided into multiple subtypes. The framework focuses on providing a basis to formulate a hypothesis which is relevant to MIS research.

The article “The Identity Crisis within the IS Discipline: Defining & communicating the disciplines core properties” by Isaac Bensbasat & Robert Zmud, focuses on what is IS research all about and how to make it a distinct area of research. He focuses on how to build IS research by investigating closely related areas than distant issues. He states the 3 requirements for IS research, that of claimed central character, claimed distinctiveness and claimed temporal continuity required for IS research to evolve as a discipline. He stresses on the need for an identity in the MIS field by obtaining cognitive & socio-political legitimacy. The authors are concerned that the Interdisciplinary nature of IS cause application of varied theories from multidisciplinary backgrounds which is important for building theory but may dilute the focus of research. They express their concerns of errors of exclusion of core constructs & errors of inclusion of non-core construct in studies of IS and IT artifacts. The core properties focusing on the managerial, methodological, technological, operational, behavioral issues and the impacts of IT should be studied in IS research, in the context of the nomological net. IS research should also investigate relationships involving 1/more core constructs only, and heavy reliance on theories of reference disciplines to achieve legitimacy should be minimized.

The article “MIS RESEARCH: Reference disciplines & a Cumulative tradition” by Peter Keen also focuses on suggesting a way in which MIS research may evolve into a classical discipline having its own identity. He states that the concept of having microeconomics & computer science as the reference field limits the scope of MIS research. The researchers should focus on defining the dependent variable in their study and build on the work done by predecessors. The research should now focus on building theory from multiple reference disciplines to help IS keep evolving as a discipline and not build frameworks only. The research should not be dependent on technology evolution but focus on management, information and systems issues. Since MIS as a discipline has strong implications for practice, the focus on theoretical research should not be diluted. The focus of the researchers should be to publish in quality IS journals. Research should focus on the management of the use of technology to benefit business processes and resolve technical, managerial & organizational issues.

All 3 papers focus on mentioning the scope of IS research and what researchers should focus on in the future. They stress on the need for building theory to make MIS evolve as a discipline, and not be too dependent on reference disciplines for the purpose. Also they stress ways to evaluate if a research is actually investigating issues closely related to IS or not. Also they stress on how hypotheses formulation should be done for research in IS and what should the constructs aim to achieve.

Customer Knowledge Management

Coined in 2002 by García-Murillo and Annabi, customer knowledge management is the newest thing in the series of customer value management (See customer life time value management & customer network value management). Gathering,  managing,  and  sharing  customer  knowledge  can be a highly valuable  competitive  tool that  companies  and scholars have not yet considered to the extent possible it can be done. Today, the insights of the customers should be used right from the very beginning from the product development stage to the final stages of the product life cycle. García-Murillo and Annabi (2002) gives a pretty comprehensive framework of knowledge management, across the entire continuum, that a firm needs to practice throughout the  value chain to deliver value for the potential customers.

Having customer insights and managing the same through good processes and is important for getting  better and more timely design of new products and services; early warning of possible turbulence and competitive intelligence; customer commitment and loyalty; and deriving the maximum benefits from the synergy of collaboration. So how should one manage the insights customers may have effectively to draw the maximum value for the firm?

Today, a lot of informal knowledge lies in the knowledge portals available in the web.  There are so many blogs and online forums where there is a high level of potential customer engagement, through mutual exchanges of information and discussions. Knowledge management through the mining of such unstructured data is one of the surest way to capture the customer sentiments and knowledge. If the insights can be successfully incorporated into the processes while the firm is developing a product, it may be a sure gateway to success.

Today many companies are incorporating a higher degree of customer engagement activities in their relationship management strategies. It is being felt that active voice of a customer can have an effect beyond the customer’s lifetime value and the customer’s network value. The insights can be actually incorporated within the product finalization stage itself, so that the customer can be engaged and bound into a relationship, even before the product is formally launched into the market. Not only this tactic draws higher brand recognition, it paves the path for a higher relationship development of the firm with its customers. Gibbert et al. provides an excellent framework for managing the knowledge of customers through three focused strategies, namely, Prosumerism, Team based co-learning and mutual innovation.

  • Alvin Toffler (1980) first used the expression “prosumer” to denote that the customer could fill the dual roles of producer and consumer. The CKM process transforms the customer into a co-value creator, endowing them with new competencies and benefaction opportunities.  It liberates the customer from the platform of only past, accumulated knowledge by stimulating the knowledge within them for the co-production of value.
  • In team based co-learning, the inter-linkages with the customer base and their interactive joint learning with the customers require a higher level of engagement of the firm with the customers. Customer may be actively involved in the product refinement itself.
  • Mutual innovation is possible when the firm actually starts incentivising the potential customers for the mutual creation of value. This is often feasible only if custom made products are being manufactured, and less feasible for standardized products.

In all the three cases, it is evident that there is immense benefits that can be reaped if customer knowledge management can be done to co-create value with the customers. The insights of the customers can be of extreme significance to sustainably market a product throughout the product life cycle. Hopefully, in the future, a higher degree of customer engagement will be available while developing the product itself and throughout the PLC curve.

Values and Attitudes: a case study (2)

Our values are principles or beliefs that serve as guidelines to help us make decisions about actions, behaviors and life choices. They reflect what we value and how we feel about the rightness or wrongness of things. Attitudes are how values are manifested in our actions and thoughts to others. ATTITUDES are our feelings towards certain ideas and dictate how we react in concrete situations.

In this case study, we analyze the values and attitudes in Lagaan, the bollywood superhit movie of 2007. (Part 2)

Identifying Instrumental Values.

Bhuvan’s value of collectivism was in his accepting the challenge.Also Captain Russels individualism and superiority complex was portrayed when he decided to actually lay down the challenge to bhuvan, and this was clearly not appreciated by his superiors.The raja’s values of Dharma over Karma was expressed when he was asked to consume meat,in return of the favour asked.The collectivism of the villagers was expressed when they united to fight against the wrong that was being done towards them.The uncertainty avoiding values of the villagers were expressed when they did not want to tke up the challenge.Then Deva Singh Sodhi’s instrumental values came in the act in his joining the team,against his terminal values of fighting against the british.The values of the caste system became evident when bhuvan invited kachra to play,but eventually bhuvan managed to ignite the collectivism of the villagers. Collectivism was again portrayed when Lakha’s Individualistic act of betrayal became public. The values of winning,at the cost of ethical sportsmanship,was portrayed by the british players during the game.

Biographical Characteristics:

Age:  The impact of seniority has been seen throughout the film, especially in times when Bhuvan tries to speak in defiance of the british raj, but the senior villagers prevent him from doing so.When bhuvan actually first started to play the game, an incident occurs, when the ball moves towards gauri, and when she tries to give it back to him, she is ordered by her father to tend to household activities. Throughout the film, it is seen that the important positions in the village social architecture, like the mukhiya, is held by senior persons.It is not as if seniors do not let the juniors to speak out their perspectives and views, but the status of seniors still remains. In fact, there has been several occasions throughout the movie when the youth can actually make the senior citizens see reason although initially they were less inclined to do so. The age factor has been key in deciding the values of the individuals, with respect to their openness. The youth had been actually portrayed to be more upto the challenge, and ready for a change, while the seniors were not really ready to accept changes in their thought processes.

Gender:  It has been observed through out the film that feminine characters has been portrayed as those with feelings, and although the society of the village has been purely patriarchal in terms of holding the key positions like the mukhiya,women has been associated with  respectful persona that cared for the rest, and saw to it that the family needs were taken care of. They tended to the old, weak and the injured and sick people.It was especially illustrated when during game practice sessions gauri came with the meals for the players, and even coerced them to eat.During the practice sessions, when the players got bruised, under the guidance of Harikaka, they tended to the players. The behavior of Elizabeth has been a sharp contrast to that of her brother, who was arrogant and unkind, to the core and expressed masculinity.

Caste: Caste system was prevalent in those days, and that also took a centre stage in the later half of the movie when Bhuvan invited kachra to play in his team. Kachra was referred to as being untouchable or “Achut” and the rest of the team initially was very adamant about leaving him out of the team. It took the inspirational character of Bhuvan to actually convince the villagers to move away from the caste bias and play unitedly and portray collectivism.

Race: A scene flashes to the inner eye is when throughout the movie, the Indian villagers were mistreated by the british raj as being native and insults were hurled at them at random and they were severely penalized even for small “mistakes”. The Indian villagers were shown to be beaten up, and Captain Russel went to the extent of saying that the natives would for ever live under the soles of the britishers. This shows the complete disregard of the human being and the racist feelings and attitudes that took centrestage when the plot of the movie unfolded. Even the british loyalists were not free from insults, and towards the end of the match, it was seen that even the most loyal Ramprasad revolted due to the constant differential behavior that was meted out to him on a regular basis.
Our values are principles or beliefs that serve as guidelines to help us make decisions about actions, behaviours and life choices. They reflect what we value and how we feel about the rightness or wrongness of things.

 

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