Knowledge Know-How

Throughout his career, Joseph Batista, director of enterprise and Internet initiatives at Compaq Computer Corp., has been on something of a crusade to get Compaq to use the same technologies that it touts to customers to support the knowledge needs of its own employees. One of his efforts produced an intranet portal that provides East Coast field representatives with research and marketing materials. The Planet East portal, which debuted in June 1999, provides information to more than 1,400 users and, according to Compaq, has made salespeople 37 percent more responsive to customer requests.

More recently, Batista has been using a brainstorming workshop called iVelocity to make Compaq's product knowledge and implementation experience available to customers. The idea for iVelocity originated in the way Batista worked with Conjoin Inc., a vendor of intranet development tools in Bedford, Mass., to develop Planet East. Compaq was Conjoin's first customer and was involved not just in shaping Field.First, its publishing tool, but in advising the startup on business strategy. Now iVelocity has become a way for Compaq to be more useful to its customers--and to generate millions of dollars' worth of new business in the process. Batista's team has been conducting workshops for two years and had completed 87 of them through the end of last year.

Batista talked with KMM's Steve Barth about how he networks with subject matter experts and collates research on best practices to make iVelocity work for both Compaq and its customers.

As "chief creatologist" (and unofficial title),what do you do?

I try to help customer companies accelerate their business plans. We are so big and have so many hidden assets that neither the customer nor the average sales professional in the field realizes what we can do for them. We try to think about our resources in a different light. We look at what we have, listen to the customer and begin to play out certain scenarios.

Which customers get this treatment?

They basically fall into two pots: emerging market startups and the midsize-to-large enterprise customers who are trying to figure out new business plans using the Internet or an intranet. They want to know: What is happening in the e-business space? How do I improve my supply chain? How do I improve customer relationships? How do I maximize the intellectual capital inside the company?

Do you brainstorm with them?

The iVelocity workshop has a core team of people across functional organizations inside Compaq. The core team represents the large product groups. We tap into industry and domain expertise.

What is an example of your group solving a customer's problem in this way?

A company in New York City called SwingCam Inc. is trying to build a kiosk for driving ranges that video-captures your golf swing, analyzes it and shows how you can improve. We sat down with them and developed a whole technology envelope: from building the kiosks that go into these driving ranges to the storage required for very large video files to actual recommendations on implementation and design. Compaq is a big player in the kiosk business.

How does knowledge management fit in?

We use our corporate intranet and our portals to identify the latest that is happening in the product groups. Before the session we do a little research, using a business plan or executive summary from the customer. We have a virtual library of research from our groups. During the session, questions might come up. Because we have a finite capacity in our heads, we might be hooked up via a wireless connection or modem connection back to our intranet so that we can research a question online.

What about the knowledge of individuals?

When you look at the intellectual capital that is in content, where does this stuff usually reside? Well, 80 percent of it might be on the enterprise servers, but there is a lot of intellectual capital on laptops--not only in iVelocity documents and notes but also in term sheets and documentation. There is always a lot of history in there, and we try to bring new stuff in on a daily basis.

We all have the M700, which is a large laptop with about 12 gigabytes of disk space. I have a writeable drive so that we can copy things for customers onto CD. Some of us have wireless Internet access already hooked in. People depreciate a laptop over three years, but that laptop might be worth $700,000 because of the intellectual capital on it. How do you optimize that corporate memory? We know how to do that at the enterprise level, right? We use tools that help us identify, search, synthesize, assemble and disassemble it.

What impact has the workshop had on the bottom line, for both Compaq and customers?

For Compaq, we have identified opportunities that might not have existed--close to a hundred million dollars' worth. An interesting byproduct is that, since 50 percent of our time is spent in the emerging market space, we also get to see interesting technologies that we might want to adopt internally or build solutions around.

Some customers have said that as a result of the session they have been able to implement their project up to 120 days faster. Other customers have said it offers an opportunity to scale their business plan upward. For instance, SwingCam can go out and secure contracts knowing that Compaq can deliver and support their kiosks on a national basis.

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