Thursday, August 11, 2005

Knowledge Management

Typically national origin may not be something to comment on, but in this case it gets a little ironical. Lisa is an immigrant from Jamaica, I am Indian. All of senior level management is American.

While the outsourcing jamboree continues with reckless abandon, Lisa has taken it upon herself to stem the tide of critical business process knowledge flowing irretrievably offshore to the point we are dead in the water without the vendor and a few key resources who refuse to commit to paper what they have to memory.

When she got me on board, my brief was to pick the brains of the most critical vendor resources offshore and onsite and document the knowledge that was locked in their heads. Some of them have been mucking around with these systems for five years or more. A brain augmentation may have been an easier procedure. Knowledge is their keys to the kingdom and there is obvious reluctance to part with it.

While Lisa loves it that I know the exactly what to ask can extract information fairly rapidly, it is the same traits that make me not quite as popular with the Indian brethren.

There is an unstated expectation that I would do more to protect their interests and jobs. There might even be a little bit of the Raj hangover in how I am viewed as the traitor to the Indian cause. While they understand I am doing a job, my moral position is questionable - insider, outsider or interloper ?

I have a conscientious objection to being held hostage by any vendor who acquires specialized knowledge and uses it to unfair advantage. Like Lisa , I believe in opening the field to multiple outfits eliminating dependency on one and worse on a select few individuals. Retaining custodianship of business process knowledge in-house is key to outsourcing success - precisely what Lisa is trying to accomplish.

It is interesting that India is becoming a hot destination for MBA interns from top US business schools. It is important for businesses and individuals in this country to know how the other side lives and works. I wonder what the brethren think about knowledge being tapped right at the source and by foreigners.

It seems to me that the traditional Indian instinct to save for a rainy day shows in how over-zealously protective offshore vendors are of their knowledge of the client's critical business processes and systems.

Enjoying the sun while it shines and getting a shot of American entrepreneurship while they are at it may be the right thing to strive for instead.

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