The typical Information Worker (IW) needs to work with many different applications in order to carry out her daily tasks.
While each of these applications can be user friendly, the context switches between applications is a real pain, both to the IW, and ultimately – to the enterprise.
Take, for example, this (almost true) email a developer in SAP receives from his team lead:
What’s going on with customer case #257505? John tells me it is related to table ACH1, and occurs only in DB2. Please check ASAP – I’m on my way to Larry.
In this case, our developer would probably need to use 3 different applications, navigate each, copy, paste, wait – and lose a lot of time an attention.
Employees losing time and getting distracted end up being a productivity issue for the enterprise. Another problem arises when the employees are tired of looking for the information. When the employees don’t use the information (or knowledge), the enterprise might suffer from more severe problems than merely less-than-optimal-productivity: quality issues, for example.
In this post and the next 2 (or 3 – it’s up to you and your feedback), I will present several real life examples that prove the title: in each of these examples we’ll see the business need for Knowledge Embedding, and the respective simple solutions we came up with (simple and effective equals beautiful, for the sake of this blog).
Let’s start with example #1: Templates
In large organizations, templates are used almost everywhere – sales reps use their PowerPoint template (.pot) for selling products, product people use a Microsoft Word template (.Dot) for writing Software Requirement Specifications (SRS), and pretty much everyone uses the company’s multi-purpose PowerPoint template for presenting pretty much everything.
(if your organization works with OpenOffice rather than Microsoft Office – please forgive me, but I think you recognize this situation, too).
Templates have 2 essential roles:
First, they serve as great means for knowledge sharing in regards to group, division or enterprise best practices. Doing so, they contribute to productivity, quality, and so on.
Secondly, they are essential for compliance (everyone who has gone through an ISO audit can tell how important templates are).
Typical problems using templates in large organizations are:
First – employees need to search for “the” template – the right one, most updated, approved template.
Secondly – using wrong versions of templates (an outdated version, or one that was changed by another employee), can cause damages (in quality, productivity, compliance).
So this was the business case. The solution we found was very simple. We call it – Template Auto Updater.
For the user, this solution means that she no longer needs to search for the templates, or worry she’s using an outdated version. All the user needs to do, is (let’s take MS Word 2007 as an example) – use the options: File > New > My Templates (or – if it’s Word 2003 – Templates on my computer). As a result, she’ll see the departmental templates (B1, in this case) and the SAP templates
How was this realized?
We’ve built a simple application, which synchs the templates from the departmental document store and from the SAP template repository to the employee’s desktop. Moreover – the user doesn’t need to install the Template Auto Updater – it is a central service for our line of business.
About a year after roll-out we see that our employees do use templates more often, and that they do use the right ones. We can safely assume that they find the templates considerably faster than before, and have confidence that the templates are the right ones.