M&S rolls out knowledge management network

High street retailer Marks & Spencer will next month complete the rollout of an information-sharing portal across its 600 strong...

High-street retailer Marks & Spencer will, next month, complete the rollout of an information-sharing portal across its 600 strong IT department.

The deployment will be repeated across the company in coming months.

The knowledge network, based on Microsoft’s SharePoint Portal Server technology, is designed to enable staff and contractors to share expertise and information, reflecting M&S’ corporate strategy to be “simply more efficient”.

The network, which was piloted in six communities within the IT group, gives staff easily accessible and up-to-date information enabling improved decision making, said Gary Colet, knowledge network manager at M&S.

“The network has allowed us to maximise re-use, which boosts efficiency and it has also improved communication,” he said. “It has helped us break down silos within the IT department - there is no excuse for not sharing any more.”

The system, rolled out in conjunction with IT services firm Conchango, has also increased system efficiency by cutting the number of internal e-mails being sent, Colet said.

“Before we used the network we used shared drives and relied on people remembering to forward information,” he said. “We aim to reduce e-mails and inbox clutter. We are pushing hard to use subscription, so that people only see information that is relevant to them.”

Colet said the major challenge M&S faced when rolling out the network was user acceptance, rather than any system issues.

“It is not about technology, it is about behaviour and motivations - people do not change overnight,” he said. “We have made an effort to help them understand, with community knowledge managers who work together with staff, informally, on best practice. Training on use of the system itself is online, which makes it easy and reduces our costs.”

Departments such as financial services and product development have already expressed an interest in using the network. “The model is deliberately generic and that has been a lot of demand from other parts of the business.”

M&S Knowledge Network: Key Features

  • A document repository containing best-practice guidelines with all documents stored in and indexed by SharePoint.
  • An easy-to-customise front end, based on user preferences.
  • A custom-built e-training application enabling new users to learn functionality in their own time, and at no extra cost.
  • The ability to track take-up.
  • Secure access, ensuring that documents can be only be read and amended by the appropriate people.

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