Few would argue that for most organizations, staying ahead of the competition requires continuous innovation to differentiate themselves from others in the marketplace.
To achieve this – to make the right decisions at the right time – they need to understand their business functions and IT infrastructure. In other words, they need the right knowledge.
This blog looks at how the IT knowledge gap can have a significant impact on an organization’s ability to innovate and how such risks can be prevented.
Some have failed to bridge that gap. The electronics giant Sanyo, retailer Comet and the well-documented case of Woolworths are all recent, and well-known, examples of organizations that have made a number of critical decisions about the health of their business. The fact they made the wrong call is undisputed. The question, then, is what lack of understanding caused them to choose the wrong path?
To better understand this, we need to explore a few questions: What is the Knowledge Gap, what creates it, and how do we prevent it?
Organizations can become comfortable with the level of knowledge that is collectively held internally and therefore rely on a limited number of specialists within their core functions, particularly IT.
The organizations mentioned above faced unexpected challenges. These could include an increase in demand or change in business strategy and ‘the Knowledge Gap’ could have caused them to fail to react positively – or quickly – enough. The same could happen to yours.
Figure 1 illustrates an apparent gap in knowledge which can be exacerbated by a number of factors. Organizations could, for example, be working on multiple projects, planning a number of product launches and/or having to comply with new regulations. These are common themes and likely to occur on a regular basis, stretching organizations’ ability to successfully meet all demands.
In short – the Knowledge Gap is the distance between the capabilities an organization has and those they want.
What creates a Knowledge Gap?
There is no fixed list of factors which influence an organization’s Knowledge Gap, although in our experience the Gap is influenced by three main factors: People, Process and Technology (Figure 2).
Let’s look at each factor in more detail.
People underpin any organization’s success but, frequently, many rely on a few, highly-skilled staff and an unexpected change – such as those already outlined – can cause disruption.
Organizations are constantly evolving. The introduction of new IT systems, technology and processes to name just a few examples will impact on the people within an organization, often requiring them to develop a new skill set. Any organization without the resources or capabilities to invest in new staff or to further train current staff will ‘fall short’ and a gap will appear.
Take – for example – the transition from the typewriter to desktop PC. The shift required entire workforces to learn and adapt their working ways. That quantum leap could occur again…
Business applications, systems and databases were originally built to suit the then-current, work environment, staffing, processes and technology. But what was fit for purpose then – anything from 10 to 50 years ago – may be less so now. The challenges that modern businesses and organizations face today are very different and those people, processes and staff may not be able to handle them efficiently.
Example? Take the move away from cheque books. What was once the default mechanism for transferring money is now being phased out. Most of us now bank online and use our mobiles, consequently the banks have had to adjust their processes to suit.
Technology plays a big part in the creation of a Knowledge Gap. Generally speaking, technology has increased in complexity over the years to the extent that some organizations don’t always understand their own technological infrastructure – and usually have very few IT professionals with the knowledge to interpret these systems.
Consequently, the changes and alterations needed to bring the system up to modern standards are often postponed or delayed – impacting the organization’s ability to innovate in years to come. A common scenario for organizations is that decades-old technology is being asked to meet today’s more demanding specification requirements.
There’s no better example of how technology can rapidly change than the introduction of smartphones, GPS, access to thousands of apps, high quality cameras. These are all features that were unimaginable just ten years ago.
And organizations themselves will expect to have thousands of applications, hiding thousands more inter-dependencies, each with hundreds – if not thousands – of individual programs, screens and points of data access. A simple, manual alteration to this network just isn’t feasible.
What underpins all of these factors?
Time. The Knowledge Gap is not shaped overnight. Instead, it usually evolves and expands over many years. As time passes, complexity, change and deviation have all crept into a once well-designed system which worked efficiently but is understood by very few people a few decades later.
How do we prevent a Knowledge Gap?
In the 1980s, JVC’s VHS, Sony’s Betamax and Philips 2000 range fought a format war for control of the market in consumer-level videotapes. The war raged for many years; Betamax had the better technology while VHS had the better marketing. By the mid-80’s VHS held over 80% of market share in the US, despite Betamax having a two year head start.
The success of VHS was due to a number of dynamics, including better distribution channels, more distinguished partnerships and relevant business and marketing plans. Betamax simply did not hold the same level of knowledge as the VHS technology.
This prime example of a Knowledge Gap can be linked to all three factors mentioned earlier: People, Process and Technology. And once one or more of these factors doesn’t perform as expected or required then a gap in knowledge is likely to occur.
Close the Gap
So how can we prevent the gap? The right enabling technology can deliver efficiencies that close the Knowledge Gap and bridge the Betamax-style chasm before it opens up. With Micro Focus Enterprise Analyzer, developers within an organization have the detailed information – the insight – they need to support the gap-bridging modernization activities needed to move forward with confidence.
If you want to know more about how Enterprise Analyzer can bridge the Knowledge Gap within your organization, then our white paper, Bridging the Knowledge Maintenance Gap, has all you need.