Knowledge Management and Collaboration Analysis of the Siemens Healthcare Consulting Group

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Knowledge Management and Collaboration – Analysis of the Siemens Healthcare Consulting Group

EVA GATTNAR, JENS SCHNEIDER, BRIGITTE STROETMANN AND OKAN EKINCI Siemens AG Healthcare Sector

Allee am Röthelheimpark 3a, Erlangen, Germany GERMANY

{eva.gattnar, jens.js.schneider, brigitte.stroetmann, okan.ekinci}@siemens.com

Abstract: For consulting companies, the knowledge generated and shared in the organization represents the core service. The effective usage of available as well as the quick production of new knowledge for the solution of customer problems within the consulting process represents a major challenge. Customers expect high problem solving competence, empathy for the situation and reliability in handling consulting projects in the course of the consultation service. Consequently, comprehensive customer satisfaction along with economic project execution through effective knowledge management and collaboration is a crucial factor for the success of a consulting project and consulting services.

Key-Words: - knowledge management, collaboration, consulting services

1 Introduction

It is well recognized today that knowledge is one of the most competitive resource for the dynamic global business environment [1]. The ever rising awareness regarding the impact of successful KM strategies results from the fact that knowledge assets represent the fount of a company’s competences that are deemed essential for customer satisfaction, competitive advantage and product innovation.

Companies are undergoing fundamental changes as the emphasis has steadily moved from physical or explicit assets to tacit knowledge assets.

Explicit knowledge has a tangible dimension that can be easily captured, codified and communicated.

It can be shared through discussion or by writing it down and stored into repositories, documents, notes, etc. Examples might include a telephone directory, a project library or market and competitor reports. In contrast, tacit knowledge is linked to personal perspectives, intuition, emotions, beliefs, knowhow, experiences and values. It is intangible and not easy to articulate, so it tends to be shared.

Especially in international consulting firms explicit as well as tacit knowledge are key as knowledge is their main product. As a consequence, most consulting companies have developed highly sophisticated knowledge management systems.

Consulting firms heavily depend on the expertise of their people, focus on customer relations and employ network architectures. The nature of their work is project-based, and emphasis is placed on applying creativity for solving client problems. Thus

a collaborative, pro-active knowledge management strategy is essential for a successful consulting project.

This paper describes first the collaboration in consulting based on collaboration services. As relationships are essential in collaborations, the relationship between consultants, clients and knowledge generation is focused on. Conclusively, personification and codification strategies are discussed as well as project knowledge support.

Finally, the collaborative knowledge management strategy implemented at Siemens Healthcare Consulting is presented.

2 Collaboration in consulting

2.1 Consulting services

Management consulting firms are providing business services that are based on the application of highly specialized knowledge and expertise.

Thereby, consultancies have three core assets consisting of people; client relationships and the intellectual capital that the consultants themselves work hardly on to develop. All three assets have knowledge as a core component in common. Since relevant knowledge in enterprises does not already exist in individuals, but is continuously produced and revised in a social process, knowledge can be defined as a dynamic social construction of reality dependent on the specific experiences made by individuals [2].

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Consulting is providing business services in several industries. The domain-specific consulting knowledge builds a central input factor in the process of service and is as much important and as much complex and specific as the creating service itself is. Hence, the consultation success is dependent on this production factor in a particular way. Due to the fact that the value added is primarily dependent on high qualified, committed employees, knowledge management is assigned with the role of a main respectively key process. In order to counteract the short half-life period of specialized consultation knowledge, a systematically run knowledge management for the actualization and preservation of the input factor knowledge is adduced for consulting.

2.2 Relationship between consultant, client and knowledge generation

Collaboration with the clients is essential in consulting to become an equal partner of the client and to not just stay a provider of a service. Even worse, making a distinction between consultant and client might be counter-productive. Referring to one another as collaborators improves usually the relationship and the consultancy project outcome.

Therefore the support of collaboration is essential in consulting.

Consulting, understood as a knowledge intensive service, is based on common knowledge and knowledge which presents a competitive advantage.

In the course of time the competitive advantage degenerates while expert knowledge turns into common knowledge if no new, specific knowledge is developed. Knowledge is only then a competitive advantage if it really contributes to a value generation for the client and is seldom in comparison to the competitors. The relative market position can be held longer the worse the knowledge of the competitors is imitable respectively substitutable.

Consultancy projects are aiming knowledge generation based on client’s domain-specific circumstances, providing consulting services and implementing the outcomes in sustainable competitive advantages which are measureable in terms of business successes. Thereby, the following action fields of knowledge management can be differentiated: the strategic and operative knowledge management as well as the information and data management. While strategic knowledge management passes the knowledge staircase from top to bottom in order to answer the question which knowledge is needed in order to stay competitive,

the operative knowledge management contains collaboration, networking of information for knowledge, ability and negotiation.

2.3 Personification and codification

There are two different knowledge management strategies preferred in the consulting environment.

In some companies information technology plays an important role in the handling of knowledge. Hereby this is accurately codified and stored in databases.

Again in other companies knowledge is seen as closely tied to a person. This is mainly forwarded via direct interaction with other individuals. The purpose of the information technology in this case does not lie within the storage, but in the support and substitution of information [3].

The two common knowledge management strategies can be described as a personification strategy and as the IT-supported form named codification strategy. The choice of one of these management strategies defines the extent of the IT- support through collaboration tools which a company needs. In terms of the technical oriented approach of the codification strategy, knowledge is generally compared to explicit knowledge in documented form.

This knowledge can be provided to the consultants with help of the information technology and collaboration applications. Prior functions of supporting systems should facilitate the visualization, search, structuring, publication and presentation. In contrast the human oriented approach of the personification strategy mainly deals with implicit knowledge which is not available in a codified form. Communication, expert search, cooperation and community support shape the focus in this case. With their help highly specific consultation services can be offered [3].

2.4 Project knowledge support

Collaborative knowledge management develops direct and purposive potential in order to improve the competitiveness of a company and deliver solutions for the challenges of the market.

Customers expect high problem solving competence, empathy for the situation and low uncertainty in handling consultation projects in the course of a consultation service.

On behalf of consulting companies the economic project execution next to the comprehensive customer satisfaction is of centrality. Hence, four aims for the introduction of knowledge management in consulting arise [3], [4]:

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1. Higher effectivity of the projects

The results of the consultation services are critically questioned due to the tough competitive situation. The market pressure under which the customer companies lie demands an effective consultation service in order to win a competitive advantage for the customer. The improvement of the competitive situation for the customer is related to innovative solutions which contain fewer hazards for the consulting company. However, prior knowledge is necessary for this.

2. Higher effectiveness in project work

With the strategic setup of knowledge and its specific reuse the profitability of service provision is supposed to be improved.

3. Enhancement of the own profitability

The image of the consulting company sustainability determines the price which can be achieved on the market. An enhancement of the own profitability on the one hand encompasses efficiency increasing criteria, but includes the deployment of available knowledge as marketing instrument and argument for better prices.

4. High customer satisfaction

Acceptable cost effectiveness must be revealed for the customer. With each project the knowledge of the consultants about the customer is deepened, which is the reason why follow-up projects can be transacted more economically due to a shorter project initiation phase. That again intensifies the customer loyalty.

3 Collaborative Knowledge

Management Strategy implemented at Siemens Healthcare Consulting

Collaborative knowledge management describes a strong linkage between knowledge management and collaboration initiatives. By adding collaborative features – or by being added to collaborative initiatives – knowledge management is expanding its capabilities and business value to a great extent.

Consulting firms whose primary expertise resides in personal networks might see knowledge management as a means of organizing internal tacit knowledge and personal networks. Little emphasis is placed on technology by these firms. Conversely, consultant firms that are leading with best practices

and methodologies put their efforts into formalizing, organizing and making available the vast amounts of explicit knowledge.

Siemens Healthcare Consulting group follows a collaborative knowledge management strategy. It places value on the tacit knowledge that individuals have and combines it with explicit knowledge (e.g.

scientific journals, clinical workflows, guidelines) thus improving communication, collaboration, and information transfer. It evolved from the need to connect people more efficiently, rather than to consolidate the available problems and solutions.

A dedicated team of KM “workers”, who are actively managing the operational KM process, co- ordinates the KM activities. The aim is to improve knowledge creation and sharing processes in the organization. The team also co-ordinates the basic processes of the knowledge life-cycle (see Figure 1), which include the Identification of Knowledge Need, Creation, Sharing, Collection, Storage and Update.

Figure 1: Knowledge live-cycle process

To implement the knowledge life-cycle model, the team first had to identify the organization’s medical knowledge needs. These were determined by a profound analysis of the current and future healthcare market, demographic developments, as well as by screening the most life-threatening but preventable diseases, like coronary artery disease, stroke and/or lung cancer, in connection with Siemens Healthcare’s mission to fight the most threatening diseases. In addition, identifying and interviewing medical experts inside and outside the firm that have profound expertise regarding the above mentioned diseases were key drivers in the identification of disease trends. Once the trends had been identified and researched, the findings were compared with staff skills and experiences, thus enabling the identification of medical knowledge gaps.

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If the necessary medical knowledge was not available, the “creation process” was initiated. The company focuses on a person-centered view of knowledge creation to enable the constructive and subjective nature of such a process. In this regard, the utilization of diverse knowledge sources, drawing upon different organizational functions and professional disciplines is an essential success factor. Medical knowledge is provided by dedicated Clinical Competence Centers; they provide the necessary broadness of medical knowledge combined with extensive clinical expertise.

The “new” information together with the existing information is “collected and stored” in a web-based database called “medic”. Any input to the knowledge base is evaluated and commented on by the medical experts and thus adapted to the need of the organization. This meta-information serves to give an overview of the relevance of a publication, the author, etc. and to allow an improved keyword search.

Siemens Healthcare’s approach to successful knowledge “sharing” is the implementation of push- pull strategies within the organization. KM Services offered are a combination of pull (self-service) and push services (facilitated transfer of knowledge) specially designed to meet the needs of the organization. For example: the information is pulled from operational, technical and clinical areas and pushed, in the shortest time possible, to the staff of the organization and decision makers.

In total, the KM program offers three services:

First, the mentioned pull services – contribute &

retrieve knowledge as and when it is needed.

Second, the mentioned push services driven by the need of the organization and third, individual expert advice where peers and experts join hands to discuss and share knowledge.

Since the “Medical and Health economic information center” called “medic” serves as the central platform for medical and health economic knowledge, the company places the utmost importance on keeping the stored information updated and current. Basically, the medical knowledge is updated whenever new medical findings are made available. Every single document has a time stamp, which reminds the responsible physician of the respective Clinical Competence Center to review the document and approve or reject it for the knowledge base. A similar process is implemented for the health economic information which is updated by experts from the Healthcare consulting Group [5].

4 Conclusion

Knowledge constitutes a central input factor in the process of service and is as essential and as complex and specific as the creating service itself.

Consulting, understood as a knowledge-intensive service, is based on common knowledge and knowledge which presents a competitive advantage.

However, knowledge can only become a competitive advantage if it truly generates value for the customer and makes him distinguishable from competitors.

Nowadays, knowledge is a key to value creation in most industries, but for consulting companies, the knowledge generated and shared in the organization represents the core service. The effective usage of available as well as the quick production of new knowledge for the solution of customer problems within the consulting process represents a major challenge. Customers expect high problem solving competence, empathy for the situation and reliability in handling consulting projects in the course of the consultation service. Consequently, comprehensive customer satisfaction along with economic project execution is a crucial factor for the success of a consulting project.

In summary, the goal of a knowledge-orientated company management consists in generating knowledge through collaboration and implementing it in sustainable competitive advantages which are measureable in terms of business success. Active knowledge management is an indispensable tool for a company to reach a competitive advantage.

Especially in consulting projects, knowledge management plays a crucial role. Hence, four aims for the introduction of knowledge management in consulting arise higher efficiency of the projects, the enhancement of own profitability, a higher effectiveness in projects as well as high customer satisfaction.

References:

[1] Sharif, M. N., Zakaria, Lim Shu Ching, N., &

Low Soh Fung, Facilitating Knowledge Sharing through Lessons, Learned System.

Journal Of Knowledge Management Practice, 2005.

[2] Heller-Schuh B., Kasztler A., Analyzing Knowledge Networks in Organizations.

Proceedings of I-KNOW 2005. Graz, Austria, June 29-July 1, 2005.

[3] Gattnar, E., Schneider, J., Dehmel, A., Heiland, S., Stroetmann, B., Ekinci, O., Knowledge Management in Consulting Activities, in:

KMIS 2014 - International Conference on

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Knowledge Management and Information Sharing, 2014.

[4] Gattnar, E., Eck, R. , Ganzheitliches Wissens- management – Grundlagen und Konzepte, in:

Podium der Wirtschaft, Recht & Soziales, Band 27. VHK, Altdorf bei Nürnberg, 2013, pp. 85- 107.

[5] Stroetmann, B., Aisenbrey, A., World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology, Vol. 6, 2012, pp 498-503.

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