Digital technology has long since guided manufacturers’ knowledge-based initiatives—mainly to support the industry player’s quest to eliminate unprofitable growth, develop innovative products, and enter lucrative markets.
The COVID-19 pandemic, which has called attention to the fragility of the manufacturing sector, appears to have resolutely tipped the balance in favor of the organization that not only acquires and creates new knowledge through the use of technology but persistently disseminates it throughout the firm.
As previously stated, organizations that strengthen know-how and promote expertise exchange by leveraging a well-founded digitization strategy can identify potent opportunities to facilitate top-quality product innovations.
The vexing challenge is that industry players today face harder choices, and all of them have varying views on whether they should make additional investments in digital technology or remain hesitant until the global economic uncertainty subsides. Digital technology is a key element in advancing successful knowledge-intensive environments but, as experts point out, a decreasing willingness to invest in digital transformation has been prevalent among manufacturers—an issue that can be intensified by COVID-19’s impact on the industry at large.
It’s an unavoidable risk and yet, in spite of that, manufacturers have to reverse course and start readying for making the switch to a digitally-led knowledge management strategy. The lack of proper communication channels and digital tools will eventually impact the knowledge sharing behavior of employees, especially now that field service organizations are forced to limit onsite support. Many technicians are deft at offering timely virtual investigations and fixing service issues remotely, but if they cannot tacitly share their knowledge with others in the organization, a penurious collective capability will spread across the firm—which may also lead to a collective loss of organizational memory if the technician ultimately leaves the company.
At a time when knowledge transfer must be embedded in every organization’s vision and facilitated by digital communication, professionals should not only adopt but also perpetually adapt to an intelligible human-machine collaboration plan. Each firm has to routinely revise its guidance and knowledge management mechanism, and make additional digital investments when the time comes.
Deloitte’s Knowledge Management and the Digital Native Enterprise report supports this statement, as it claims that:
“Technology is changing the way people perform work, hence the operating models of organizations will need to be re-evaluated and adjusted within the predictable future. Furthermore, workers need to create and develop the ability to work alongside and collaborate with machines that are able to learn, make decisions, and perform a variety of cognitive functions.”
It’s unlikely that digitization obliterates the need for human input; a large amount of mission-critical know-how resides in the heads of the individuals, experts say. Rather, an extensive digitally-led initiative amplifies the manufacturer’s expertise, and positively simulates knowledge capture and sharing—an aid, in other words, to better manage the firm’s knowledge assets and simultaneously facilitate competency management for achieving a superior competitive advantage.
Initiate Change Through Datification
A knowledge-based organization is dependent on a set of highly important elements—the input and output of knowledge, commonly known as data that reflects internal policies or intangible procedures, such as skills obtained through in-practice experience and internalization. This tacit knowledge is distinctly arduous to diffuse within the firm. It is, however, a key differentiator that aids smarter decision-making and brings significant value to an organization.
How can firms gain access to this strategic asset and more importantly, pass it on to others?
One possibility is to take that individual process and, with the help of collaborative technology, turn it into specific, organized, and widely accessible data. Or, more precisely, make effective use of datification.
Research confirms that datification is considered to “[pave] the way to new forms of service orientation for both manufacturing and service sectors, with ramifications and consequences for their mere transformation into knowledge-intensive settings.”
Datification itself is knowledge-led—and knowledge is famously said to be socially constructed. As a result, the growing popularity of integrated knowledge networks (and even storytelling or mentoring sessions) is not a tad surprising. Structured team-based collaboration adds value to the creation, dissemination, and application of knowledge by ably connecting agents who otherwise would not intersect.
The flow of knowledge dissemination can be rapidly facilitated by data platforms. Using data systems as collaborative spaces is an adept way of sustainably transferring tacit knowledge and reshaping it into an explicit form that provides a contextualized understanding of a given environment—and, in the process, create stronger professional ties to better coordinate on product/service innovations.
Discern the Value of Competency Management
While it’s true that know-how is an impalpable asset, competencies hold the potential to make this organizational value tangible.
A concrete example of such a situation is developing a culture of knowledge capture and transfer by identifying the individuals that possess the behaviors or skills needed to achieve this goal.
Clearly, not all professionals will opt for a knowledge-based organization, and those who fit perfectly into this culture need to be tightly aligned with the firm’s strategic goals—which is why it’s essential for any organization to carefully:
- Determine the mission-critical knowledge, skills, attitudes, and experiences that are in line with the company’s cultural strategy;
- Recognize potential knowledge gaps and provide the appropriate tools needed for employees to re-skill and develop their potential;
- Cultivate an environment that encourages professionals to engage in knowledge-sharing activities and rewards them for making collective decisions.
Having an integrated information technology infrastructure facilitates both knowledge and competency management. Today, digital systems stand to reshape how industry players collect, store, and synthesize data to identify the knowledge enabler and expertly align it with mission-critical competencies.
A standalone competency management system is also a viable option for assessing the knowledge of professionals and effectively tracking their progress. The insights retrieved and refined through technology punctually translate the organization’s core competencies into effective and, in all likelihood, long-term knowledge management strategies that focus on data dissemination.
Invest in the Future of Knowledge-Based Work
COVID-19’s economic impact has prompted a large number of manufacturers to question the necessity of future digital investments.
Yet organizations that already own the adequate technological resources are better prepared to exploit and diffuse the knowledge necessary to outmaneuver this crisis—and more.
The role of the knowledge worker, as predicted by experts, is to “[share] highly contextualized and validated knowledge or insights in an effort to support digital transformation.”
Today’s knowledge-based economy dictates the necessity to power through disruption by complementing the manufacturer’s expertise with digital technology and promoting information exchange to capture new competitive advantages.