While IT departments attempt to persuade IT directors to invest in vast and expensive computer systems to improve the flow of knowledge through their organisations, there are other ways to improve information flow, according to a leading expert.
Making socialising easy for employees is one of the best investments a company can make to tease out knowledge it doesn't know it has got. That was one of the points made by management guru Michael Earl, professor of Information Management at the London Business School, at the IT Director's Conference last weekend.
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As examples he gave British Airways' new headquarters, which is designed as a village street to encourage casual interaction, and the installation of kitchens on every floor at Reuters' head office.
This was one of six broad approaches companies need to take to maximise the capture and use of knowledge in an organisation, he said.
These six approaches are:
Codify and validate the knowledge that you have already got, by, for example, setting up an intranet bulletin board codifying best practice
Build directories of company experts, what their knowledge areas are and how to find them
Provide as many knowledge flows as possible to as many people as you can in the hope that something will be useful and used
Build networks to pool knowledge using knowledge intermediaries, such as best practice, discussion, and task-oriented moderated groups.
Create physical space to enable knowledge to flow, to maximise potential for physical meeting
Market all of this internally to create a mindset that values knowledge, using, for example, a knowledge asset/balance sheet.
What conference delegates said
Some views on the IT director's role and staffing an IT department:
"One-in-three IT staff are actively looking for a new job (David Masding, NCC)
"Finance directors feel vulnerable because IT has overtaken the finance department in terms of importance. Organisations are now more dependent on IT than on any financial aspect of how it is runs" (David Taylor, Certus)
"Staff who leave in their first year cost two years' salary (David Masding)