Lessons from transformation: improving innovation

Astin ThomasAstin Thomas, Chief Information Officer of KBC Advanced Technologies plc, opens up about their new knowledge management system.

Embedding major IT transformation projects within KBC has given way to the creation of an innovation steering group within the business. This has opened up exciting new career paths for non-IT staff within the company, while also helping to ensure the success of key projects.

Transformation projects come in all shapes and sizes here at KBC Advanced Technologies, but the impact is almost always significant and beyond the scope of the original initiative itself.

Take one of our key initiatives currently under way: building a new knowledge management system. This system is vital to our organization, especially within the context of the wider oil and gas industry where a huge swathe of engineers are retiring or on the cusp of doing so. Putting this in place is beneficial for our overall succession planning — but it’s also important to enable the new generation of talent coming into the workforce.

As part of this IT transformation, we are aiming to ensure that anyone in the business can easily find the insights and information they need, or access the right individuals with expertise in a particular domain.

This headline goal may be simple, but the project itself is complex. We are linking disparate search systems across our CRM platforms, knowledge portals, HR databases and more, to put insights at the fingertips of our people — just how you would currently search for information in the outside world. For example, if you are searching for high-pressure, high-temperature systems, you should be able to filter this information very quickly, right down to what experts we have, where they are and so on.

From IT impact to organizational change

The interesting lesson from all of this is just how quickly a straightforward IT goal can evolve into a wider change program. Projects like this can be major hits, but also unfortunate misses — often depending on whether the wider business helps to take ownership of the transformation process.

On the basis of this realization, we have set up an internal process improvement change management board. Members of this board help decide which strategic IT projects we should take on and how best to achieve take-up in the business once they are completed. All strategic, enterprise-level projects, including this knowledge transformation work, go through the group— and it’s a vital part of helping ensure we achieve wider adoption. For example, they help identify contacts in business units whom we can train up as power users to provide local support on any projects. They also support in getting the business more engaged — and, in turn, it has opened up new careers within our business, which is great to see.

There are other more obvious lessons too. You need to get the “textbook IT” stuff out of the way to free up time for this transformation work. And IT needs to ramp up its stakeholder management. All this becomes a bit like the “north star” that you have got to aim for. It’s a journey and requires focus, but the end-game is worth it.


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