Abstract: The prominence of business process outsourcing (BPO) continues to intensify in today’s hyper-competitive marketplace. Engaging in BPO can help an organization focus on its core competencies, while gaining specialized knowledge, skills, and processes in auxiliary spaces. The literature is laden with evidence that engaging in a BPO will help organizations secure financial, operational, and even strategic advantages. While there is little doubt that organizations can attain these benefits, few BPO arrangements work out as planned. Managing risks in BPO arrangements is paramount. In this case analysis, we describe a significant failure through chronological description of scandals that took place at one of India’s largest outsourcing vendors, Satyam Computer Services. In describing the study, we draw attention to the fact that organizations need to (1) improve their sensing capabilities and keep abreast of strategic transformations at their outsourcing vendors, (2) be able to plan for and execute contingency plans, and (3) balance the risks and rewards of BPOs in terms of knowledge and capabilities dependencies.
Thomas H. Davenport wrote a nice post on the Harvard Business Review blog on why the US Intel. Community failed to stop the Christmas Day Bomber from boarding a flight to the US. Tom highlights my paper published in the International Journal of Public Administration that examined information and knowledge management in the US Intel Community.
To access Tom’s Harvard Business Review blog, please click here [LINK]
To access my paper, Information and Knowledge Management in Public Sector Networks: The Case of the US Intelligence Community, International Journal of Public Administration, 32 (14), 2009, 1219–1267, please click here [LINK]
To read a short blurb on the University of Washington Information School website, please click here [LINK]
Peter C. Ellis and I have a paper published in the current issue of Business Information Review.
Abstract: Attempting to merge the topics of environmental sustainability and information management, this article works towards defining both fields and constructing a viable framework that creates a strong relationship between the two topics. Reviewing literature on information management and environmental sustainability, the authors argue that the two topics must become inseparable — the work in one discipline must inform and advance the other. The need to do so is further underscored by the evolving nature of both disciplines.
To access the article, please click here [LINK]
Reference: Ellis, P.C., and Desouza, K.C. “On Information Management, Environmental Sustainability, and Cradle to Cradle Mentalities: A Relationship Framework,” Business Information Review, 26 (4), 2009, 257-264.
Here is a simple exercise: Find 20 people in your organization. Ideally, choose people across the various hierarchical levels and functional departments of your organization. Ask each person two questions: How would you define a good idea? How do you recognize a good idea? Chances are high that if you work in a typical organization, you will arrive at 20 different answers! Some individuals may not even be able to articulate what is a good idea or to clearly describe how to recognize good ideas. Is this a problem? You bet it is! One of the major challenges faced by organizations as they try to come up with good ideas is the lack of a definition of what constitutes a good idea. It is common to find organizations that take the stance that a good idea is in the eye of the beholder, or in contrast, that a good idea is like pornography, you will recognize it when you see it. Similarly, most organizations lack a clearly defined process on how to recognize good ideas. As one manager put it, “employees may not recognize a good idea if it smacked them right on their faces.”
The organization that wants to foster a spirit of intrapreneurship must: 1) clearly define what is, and what is not, an idea, 2) arrive at a typology for the various types of ideas, 3) articulate a process for refining thoughts into ideas and then into ‘good’ ideas, 4) reward employees for sharing ‘good’ ideas, and 5) reward employees who serve as brokers (or intermediaries) for mobilizing ideas from one corner of the organization to the next.
What are some practices that your organization has in place to address these issues?
For more details, please stay tuned for my new book on intrapreneurship…or drop me an email!
The current issue of the International Journal of Administration contains a paper that I authored on collaborative information and knowledge management. The paper is titled "Information and Knowledge Management in Public Sector Networks: The Case of the US Intelligence Community."
This article contributes to the public management literature by exploring the critical challenges that underpin the construction of robust information and knowledge management strategies in networked settings. The ability of the network to sustain itself, thrive, and achieve its objectives depends on the success that the network has in organizing and coordinating its constituent organizations. The network's collaborative information and knowledge management strategy is critical to the functioning of the network and the achievement of objectives. A robust information and knowledge management strategy will bring organizations in the network together, help them share resources, collaborate on efforts, and further their objectives in a holistic manner. An inadequate information and knowledge management strategy might lead to disconnects in organizations due to lack of information sharing, poor collaborative knowledge generation, lack of coordination, leading to a fragmented network. Drawing on a multi-year, multi-method, and multi-organization study of the United States Intelligence Community (USIC), the article puts forth a comprehensive framework to examine information and knowledge management challenges within the USIC, as well as other public sector organizations.
Keywords: information management; knowledge management; public sector networks; intelligence agencies; intelligence community
To access the paper, please click [LINK]
I will be serving on a panel with the co-project leaders of the Global Text Project, Rick Watson (University of Georgia) and Don McCubbrey (University of Denver) at the 2nd Annual SIG GlobDev Workshop. The goal of the panel is twofold – 1) to continue to raise awareness about the project and recruit professors to participate in the effort, and 2) to update the IS community on the work to-date, the opportunities on the horizon, and the challenges we face. My prepared remarks focus on 1) highlighting the work being done by graduate students in the Masters of Science of Information Management program at the Information School, University of Washington, and 2) outlining ideas on how we might build learning communities around each textbook. I am looking forward to a stimulating discussion.
If you have ideas, what should you do with them? How do you know which ideas to pursue (and which to abandon)? As an idea creator, how do you know which ideas will get the attention of managers or how to present ideas for consideration? As a manager, how do you screen the numerous ideas you get from your staff? These are not simple questions to answer. Unfortunately, this stage of the intrapreneurship process represents the Achilles' heel for most organizations. Too many organizations spend a lot of time, effort, and resources to get ideas from their employees but then do not know what to do with them. Equally discomforting are cases where employees spend too much time creating ideas for which there is no organizational interest or need. The end result is a lot of waste – from the individual to the organizational level.
Consider the case of a global technology organization. The organization, founded in the mid 1990s, had seen unprecedented growth during the Internet boom days. As one senior executive remarked, “we were not only running on all cylinders, but were actually borrowing cylinders and fuel rods to keep up with demand.” The organization grew from humble beginnings (3 students!) to just under 200 employees in five years. It now has 10 clients in US states and 3 international clients (based in London, Brussels, and Amsterdam). As soon as the glory days came to a screeching halt with the dot.com bust, the organization, like many of its compatriots in the industry, had to do some hard thinking to redefine business strategies. To this end, the organization solicited ideas from its employees concerning the company's direction for the future– the slogan – 10 for 10: 10 big ideas for the next 10 years! The goal was to get the firm to think big and to identify 10 broad areas that 1) they would want to invest and build capability in, 2) they would want to build collaborative capacities by reaching out to start-ups and established firms, and 3) they would require re-tuning (or complete obliteration) of their current strategic focus. The company did what any other organization would do; It solicited ideas from employees across all ranks. The company commissioned online “idea drop boxes.” Employees could send in their ideas via filling in a brief online questionnaire. Within a week, the company had over 500 ideas (about 2.5 ideas from each employee!); and by the end of the four week idea solicitation period they had captured over 1200 ideas (a little more than 6 ideas per employee!) As one executive remarked, “we underestimated the whole [idea solicitation] thing…employees were scared…their friends were losing jobs, companies like ours were closing, venture capitalist were getting tighter with the purse strings…all of this contributed to fear…employees wanted to help the company, and themselves, by sharing their best ideas that would not only keep us afloat but secure a better future…” This was the easy part-- getting ideas-- the big challenge ahead for the organization was what to do with these and how do to go about screening them. Over the course of the next five months, the firm tried its best to bubble up the best ideas through applying various screening procedures, getting comments and feedback on ideas from internal (i.e. employees), as well as external (i.e. board of directors, collaborators from academia, venture capitalist, etc), sources.
Unfortunately, the organization did not have a robust process for advocating and screening ideas. The end-result is best summarized by a statement made by the CEO – “absolute disaster…we ended up pissing off more staff than those we appeased, lost good employees who felt their ideas were not duly considered, and what hurts me most, is employees lost faith in the organization as a place that valued ideas…front-line programmers and system designers who are our most important assets felt ideas get promoted based on ones political network and clout…we all lost, I will never do this again…we might never recover the trust and camaraderie that we had prior to this undertaking.”
The bad news for organizations is that the advocacy and screening stage of the intrapreneurship process is fraught with difficulties.
To learn how to build sustainable processes for idea advocacy and screening, please contact me (or wait for a future posting…or my new book)
It has been a while since I actively blogged. I have engaged in “passive blogging” over the past few months. This has involved posting snippets of upcoming speaking engagements and papers that have been published. This has been helpful in getting the word out and networking. For the next few months (or years, if I stay disciplined!), I am hoping to engage in active blogging. I will share my thoughts on two major topics: 1) innovation – leveraging ideas for innovation, and 2) managing intellectual assets – how organizations are building and deploying intellectual assets. I will also share thoughts on other random issues from entrepreneurship to terrorism and government information policy. I will do this for two reasons: 1) to engage you, my reader and /or website visitor, into a dialogue, and 2) to keep me honest on my writing projects. Over the last few months, I have built a huge backlog of writing projects. Blogging will help me share notes, musings, and ideas, as I draft concepts, papers, or even get close to completing two book projects. Stay tuned for more details...
I have co-authored a paper with Miha Škerlavaj (University of Ljubljana) and Vlado Dimovski (University of Ljubljana) that examines network-based learning. The paper will appear in a special issue of the Journal of Information Technology. I hold a five-year honorary visiting professor appointment at the Faculty of Economics, University of Ljubljana.
This paper employs the network perspective to study patterns and structures of intra-organizational learning networks. The theoretical background draws from cognitive theories, theories of homophily and proximity, theories of social exchange, the theory of generalized exchange, small-worlds theory, and social process theory. The levels of analysis applied are actor, dyadic, triadic, and global. Confirmatory social network analysis (exponential random graph modeling) was employed for data analysis. Findings suggest: (1) central actors in the learning network are experienced and hold senior positions in the organizational hierarchy, (2) evidence of homophily (in terms of gender, tenure, and hierarchical level relations) and proximity (in terms of geographical and departmental distances) in learning relationships, (3) learning relationships are non-reciprocal, and (4) transitivity and high local clustering with sparse inter-cluster ties are significant for intra-organizational learning networks.
I will be giving a talk for the Washington Technology Industry Association based on my recent book, Managing Knowledge Security (Kogan Page, 2007). The talk will take place on December 7, 2009 at Seattle University. For details, please click here [Link]
Based on his recent book, Managing Knowledge Security: Strategies for Protecting Your Company's Intellectual Assets (Kogan Page, 2007), Desouza will describe how human intelligence operations are conducted to ascertain competitive intelligence. Warning his audience of business practitioners that most organizations fail to understand that their core resources intellectual assets are constantly under attack, and that protecting these resources is as important as any other part of the strategic agenda. Desouza, gives advice on how to recognize dangers of human and technological breaches, hazards of outsourcing and business alliances, implementation of breach prevention measures, and the necessity of working with disaster scenarios. He illustrates his advice with cases from his personal experience working in the fields of competitive intelligence, knowledge management, crisis management, and security operations.