Siemens AG, a $73 billion electronics and electrical-engineering conglomerate. Siemens is well known for the technical brilliance of its engineers, but much of their knowledge was locked and unavailable to other employees. Facing the pressure to maximize the benefits of corporate membership of each business unit, Siemens AG needed to learn to leverage the knowledge and expertise of its 460,000 employees worldwide.
The roots of knowledge management at Siemens go back to 1996, when a number of people within the corporation with an interest in knowledge management (KM) formed a community of interest. They researched the subject, learned what was being done by other companies, and determined how KM could benefit Siemens. By 1999, the central board of Siemens AG confirmed the importance of knowledge management to the entire company by creating an organizational unit that would be responsible for the worldwide deployment of KM. At the heart of Siemens s technical solution to knowledge management is ShareNet,
ShareNet is simply a website that combines elements of a database repository, a chat room, and a search engine. Online entry forms allow employees to store information they think might be useful to colleagues. Other Siemens employees are able to search the repository or browse by topic, and then contact the authors for more information using one of the available communication channels. In addition, the system lets employees post an alert when they have an urgent question.
Although KM implementation at Siemens involved establishing a network to collect, categorize, and share information using databases and intranets, Siemens realized that IT was only the tool that enabled knowledge management. Randall Sellers, director of knowledge management for the Americas Region of Siemens, states: In my opinion, the technology or IT role is a small one. I think it s 20 percent IT and 80 percent change management dealing...