The management and storage of organizational information is necessary for the attainment of organizational objectives. An analysis of Frito-Lay and RTA cases reveals that both companies needed a knowledge management system response to address the problems of access to organizational information for use mainly by staff in performing their tasks within their organizations. Both organizations engaged consultants to set up knowledge management systems for them.
A centralized knowledge management system would ideally assist in reducing call handling time at RTA and likewise save knowledge retrieval time at Frito-Lay, thus enhancing efficiency for both organizations. At RTA the approach was to build a system suitable for re-use of information as opposed to Frito-Lay where new knowledge had to be created and interpreted for use. Both approaches succeeded in addressing the existing problems. In order for the systems to be effective, accurate information inputs for both systems were needed.
Introduction It is imperative that knowledge be available, organized and accessible at all times for it to be useful for all the intended purposes. The absence therefore of a properly functioning and efficient knowledge management system leads to problems that hinder organizational performance. This paper compares and contrasts two approaches to knowledge management systems developed in response to problems that staff faced in performing their duties at Frito-Lay and Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA).
Robertson (2001) gives an account of the knowledge management project at RTA and Shein (2001) describes a case study on the knowledge management system spearheaded by the sales force at Frito-Lay. Concept of Knowledge Management at Frito-Lay and RTA Frito-Lay and Step Two (the consulting firm for RTA) shared the same concept regarding knowledge management as evidenced by their submissions that a centralized electronic knowledge management system within each organization would enhance efficiency in the organization’s day to day operations.
Both companies believed that employee performance was key to the proper functioning of the organization and that a useful system of managing knowledge would ease the burden on employees scampering around for information, thus enhancing their capability to perform. However, the only difference was in what each of the two organizations expected the system to process. Comparison and Contrast of Problems Faced Frito-Lay and RTA shared a major common problem in that their staff was hindered in performing their duties due to the poor accessibility and availability of organizational information.
At Frito-Lay, staff that had the job of retrieving knowledge wasted a lot of time doing so, especially because they had to cater for numerous requests emanating from different salespersons needing the same type of information. At RTA, in contrast to Frito-Lay where information was available but scattered, much of the knowledge was not documented and was also in paper form. Some of the information needed updating and rewriting in manner considered easy to read.
Some similarities can however be drawn considering the situation at Frito-Lay where knowledge was not available because each salesperson had also kept valuable information stored in their own system, a similar case to the undocumented information which came directly from the RTA staff’s heads. Information sharing and communication was another problem that was experienced at Frito-Lay especially given that the salespersons at Frito-Lay were geographically dispersed.
Due to the lack of a centralized knowledge management system, online collaboration and brainstorming for the geographically dispersed salespersons was impossible. Equally important was this problem at RTA where because of the lack of a centralized knowledge management system, communication was not easy between all levels of management and frontline staff. At RTA a unique problem existed because a large numbers of new staff were recruited to the newly established and centralized call centre and they needed knowledge to smoothen their work at the same time reducing pressure on their superiors and the help desk.
Comparison and Contrast of Solutions to Problems Faced As a solution to the problems, both Frito-Lay and RTA engaged the services of consultants who had experience with knowledge management systems. A knowledge management portal on the corporate intranet was viewed as an answer to the problems at Frito-Lay and likewise databases were set up based on Apache webservers at RTA. Similarly for both organizations the systems were based on capturing and consolidation of information to a central location.
The two systems allowed for communication online. Differences however existed in the approach taken to building the systems. The differences between the users of the system and hence the design, basically emanated from the fact that for RTA, call centre personnel needed a system that processes information without engaging them yet at Frito-Lay the system was needed to assist salespersons to understand and interpret the information. Both consultancy firms worked with internal staff to develop the systems.
At Frito-Lay a pilot team was used to test the system, whereas Step Two had the advantage of installing and customizing a system they had already tested elsewhere. Step Two therefore concentrated on improving the design and the content. In spite of this, Frito-Lay enjoyed the advantage that their pilot team made an input and their consultant also made use of technology systems that had already been approved at Frito-Lay. Conclusion and Effectiveness of the Two Solutions
In conclusion, information became easily available and could be shared to feed into key decisions impacting on the organizations. Information only becomes useful when it is available on demand leading to its efficient use. I therefore believe that both solutions effectively addressed the problems by easing the information access burden. In both cases the knowledge management system worked to cement work relationships, confidence and trust amongst the employees as they executed their duties.
I would say the approach and design of each system was well aligned with the organizational objectives. The underlying assumption at RTA was that the data input into the system is accurate and produces the right predetermined outcomes to assist call centre staff with routine information provision. The approach at RTA therefore was aimed for creation of consistency whereas at Frito-Lay the system was designed to allow the sales force to produce creative dynamic outcomes. The only shortcomings I would foresee would be simply of a technical nature expected with any new technology introduction.
Such problems I believe can easily be managed by constantly reviewing and making the necessary adjustments to the systems. References Robertson, J. (2001, August 10). Knowledge management project for Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA), Retrieved March 27, 2009 from: http://www. steptwo. com. au/papers/rta/index. html Shein, E. (2001, May 01). Case Study: Frito-Lay Sales Force Sells More Through Information Collaboration, Retrieved March 27, 2009 from: http://www. cio. com/article/30167/Case_Study_Frito_Lay_Sales_Force_Sells_More_Thro ugh_Information Collaboration.
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