Many of those who participated in Cincom-sponsored surveys agreed that too much in an organization depends on “tribal knowledge.” Too much front-office time and energy involves “chasing the experts” because the knowledge everyone needs to complete an order is available only in certain “employees’ heads.” Much has been written about how Knowledge Management systems empower knowledge workers, but few companies have proactive plans to protect their IP (Intellectual Property). Much has also been written about how difficult Knowledge Management is to implement. At no point is the value of long-time employees as great as when they announce their retirements. Only then do their co-workers and managers realize the knowledge that will be leaving the office permanently. It is one of the major reasons that so many retirees continue working as much-better-paid consultants in their fields.
Sales managers responding to the Cincom-sponsored surveys reported than nearly a quarter of engineering team members with expertise in customized products were nearing retirement. This means that soon the experts that salespeople currently rely on will no longer be readily accessible. Part of the resistance toward automation and integration in the front office is the fact that “knowledge is power.” Those with knowledge built over years of experience are understandably reluctant to make their knowledge more generally available, and thus, reduce their perceived indispensability.
However, manual front-office methods waste time, money and energy. The right metrics must be selected to accurately measure these losses.
Once they are, then the positive impact of automation and integration on employees’ efficiency and company profits becomes evident. Unfortunately, IT Managers responding to Cincom-sponsored surveys said that Knowledge Management initiatives had only “average” priority, according to their CIOs. On the other hand, being customer value-driven, reducing costs and introducing new technology received “very important” rankings by about 85% of those surveyed. With Knowledge Management, all of those higher-priority goals could be met, along with a number of others.
The goal is to make the connection between Knowledge Management and other company priorities very clear to decision-makers. For example, reducing the length of the sales cycle can be a major factor in increasing company profits and customer value, plus reducing costs. Sales cycles are obviously longer for customized products, and most companies at least partially justify the 10% to 25% premium they charge on this factor. However, when a good deal of the additional time needed to complete a customized order is spent “chasing the expert,” then that premium gets eaten up quickly in opportunity costs.
Sales managers responding to the Cincom-sponsored survey said that their average salespeople could sell without engineering or IT assistance only 25% of the time or less. Fewer than 10% of their sales forces sold customized products without assistance more than 75% of the time. However, Knowledge Management systems can empower salespeople to sell without direct technical assistance. Their companies may have a huge competitive advantage as a result because they can almost guarantee customers a much shorter sales cycle.
This is an excerpt from “Executive Strategies: Reducing Risk.” This eBook has been developed to show you areas where you can reduce risk—without alienating your customers. To read the full paper, click here.