The possibilities with knowledge are much more and what limits us is our imagination and the narration that we gave to everyone on KM. The attempt of the blog is to explore one such possibility with revenue. Hope you will get some insights from this. It is written in a story/case study mode.
Mr John was having that dizzying, on top of the world feeling. He had to pinch himself a couple of times to convince he was not dreaming. His team has just been recognized with the CEO award, for their contribution towards increasing revenue drastically. This award was normally won by the sales team and in their company’s history, it was the first time any support function is winning this.
The Initial State
All this started with a complaint from the global sales office about KM function, on the lack of support for content management or promoting sharing/collaboration from them. The CEO quickly got into action and asked Mr John to provide KM support to the sales team. Mr John as usual went with the standard bouquet of KM interventions, which included content management, sharing/collaboration facilitation, setting up communities of practice, and facilitating lessons learned. Within a few months’ time, the KM team could set up a fairly mature KM practice for the sales function. The effort of the KM team was much appreciated by the CEO and sales head. While the impact of KM intervention was not directly visible on the sales figures, the sales head did inform that it was much easier for sales team members to get relevant content or coordinate with each other. However, Mr John didn’t have the sense of achievement. He had a feeling that he can help the sales team get more from ‘knowledge’. Hence he started reading and consulting to find what can be done further.
As Mr John went about in his discussion spree, he realized that even though the KM interventions made it easy for the sales team to find relevant knowledge, be that explicit (content management) or tacit (sharing/collaboration), there were a few challenges:
- It was left to individual sales team members to decide whether to reuse any knowledge or not
- Each sales team or individual had their own way of approaching a client and making a sale
- The KM function had limited control on ‘Knowledge’
Because of these, the learning rate was slow, which resulted in some teams being excellent and some poor in getting sales. The variance between excellent and poor was high. A lot of relevant knowledge was decaying in the repositories. The sales head once said, “If my sales team is able to leverage what it knows, our sales numbers will double or triple in a few years”. After all, the enemy was not outside but within.
Based on these challenges, the KM function decided to focus on the following:
- KM will focus on the tasks and not on the employees: This will ensure knowledge reuse is not sales team dependent.
- Ensure standardization: This helped in ensuring faster learning and bring down the variance.
In the case of the sales team, the task was to win new business. It was realized that the KM function’s focus should be on the ability to generate new business. The ability was defined in terms of process, tools, knowledge level of sales team and culture aspects. KM team went about working on the ability to generate new business and systematically improve it.
Standardization is a much-vilified word, but it is important for ensuring learning is shared across. KM team along with process team and training team worked towards ensuring standardization of the ability to win new business.
- KM team, along with a representative from the sales team and delivery team came together to identify best practices with respect to sales. This was defined in terms of ability to win business
- The ability to win business was then broad-based to bring down variance across the sales team
- After every sales cycle closure, a lesson learned activity was performed. This was done irrespective of whether it was a win or lose.
- The lessons learned were then classified under process improvement, sales team capability improvement, tools development and based on that relevant changes were made to the standard defined ability to win deals
- Each sales cycle was considered as a learning cycle to capture new insights
The company realized that each sales cycle was resulting in new learning, which was ‘ploughed’ back and used to further improve the ability to win deals. In a period of around 6 months, the win-loss ratio started getting impacted. The company started winning new deals and this could be seen in the revenue generated. A year after the KM intervention started, the sales improved 50%, something the company was expecting to achieve in 3 years’ time frame. By going through unchartered territory, the KM team could find new ways to leverage knowledge and help the Organisation.
The objective of the above story/case study was to highlight an approach by which we can increase revenue by leveraging knowledge. There are many more examples like this. One needs to remove revenue and add some other performance parameter and be a bit creative.