HomeTRY THE ONLINE TRAINING FACILITYSection 2 - Analytical tools for auditing knowledge, corporate culture and knowledge linking with strategy2.6 Indicative Questionnaires to Support Organisational Knowledge Management Actions

A. Organisational Knowledge-SWOT Analysis



A.1 Introduction?>

 

The following practical framework will support managers willing to implement a K-SWOT to focus their actions in both the internal (Strengths and Weaknesses) aspect of developing a knowledge strategy as well as the external (Opportunities and Threats) aspect.

 

 

A.2 Internal View: (Identifying Strengths and Weaknesses)

 

As has been stated earlier the aim here is to focus the analysis on the internal side of firm’s strategy (resources and capabilities). Moreover, the Resource Based View of a firm suggests that firms should position themselves based on their unique, valuable and inimitable resources and capabilities rather than the products and services delivered from those capabilities. The following practical framework will support managers willing to implement a K-SWOT to focus their actions in the SW side of developing a knowledge strategy. The SW framework consists of 2 sections. The first one includes the company’s main operations while the second one refers to the supportive operations. Both the main operations as well as the supportive operations contribute to the value creation of a firm and these operations should be analysed in detail. The following questions are only indicative and provide a general model for SW analysis in a typical manufacturing company. To better address knowledge needs, the questions should be customised to include specific organisational elements. Alternatively, if a particular operation is considered as crucial because it contributes more to firm’s value than other operations, then it should by analysed in more detail.

 

 

A.2.1 Control Points & Questions for the Internal View Analysis:

 

During SW analysis managers must try to answer the following set of common questions for all of the firms operations. These common questions are presented only once in the following grey area to avoid unnecessary repetition:

A.2.1.A Common Questions  / Control Points for all Operations:

 

·         How important is this operation for our business?

·         Have we analysed this operation in into smaller elements so as to better address its knowledge requirements?

·         What are the main knowledge areas, required for this operation?

 

1st note: Identifying all these knowledge areas is very important because it will help managers to develop knowledge maps defining the competition in this industry. Subsequent strategic positioning is developed based on these knowledge maps.

 

·          What is the level of our knowledge in these knowledge areas (core, advanced or innovative)?

·          What are our learning capabilities in these knowledge areas (core advanced or innovative)?

·          Do we have any internal knowledge gap for all the above-mentioned knowledge areas?

·          To what extent is the required knowledge for this operation in tacit or explicit format?

·          Is there any Knowledge Management tool that we could use to meet our internal knowledge gaps addressing all knowledge dimensions (tacit, explicit, etc) and all KM processes (knowledge creation, knowledge use, knowledge transfer, etc)

 

2nd note: To be able to discuss, select and implement KM tools, which will support the linking of strategy and knowledge after a SWOT analysis, managers can read the TRAINMOR-KNOWMORE handbook to identify and understand various supporting KM tools. Using this handbook managers will have the opportunity to learn more about particular KM solutions as well as discovering where they apply, which knowledge or knowledge process is addressed by which tools (tacit, explicit, knowledge creation, knowledge transfer) etc.

 

 

A.2.1.B Specific Questions / Control Points for Specific Operations:

 

MAIN OPERATIONS

 

 Supplies-Control Points:

·          How efficient are the material management systems (MRP, ERP)?

·          How effective is the raw material storage process?

·          What is the level of our knowledge in relation to this / each operation (core, advanced or innovative)?

·          What is firm’s reputation in relation to suppliers?

 

Production-Control points:

·          How good is the firm’s productivity when compared to competitors?

·          What is our technological knowledge in production systems?

·          Is production control effective in support of quality improvement?

·          Is production control effective in terms of cost reduction?

·          What is firm’s reputation in relation to production?

 

Distribution-Control points:

·         How effective we are in terms of delivery / distribution?

·         How effective are we in terms of product availability (satisfying direct demand)?

·         What is firm’s reputation in relation to distribution?

 

Marketing-Control points:

·          How efficient / effective are we on market research?

·          How innovative are our promotion and advertising operations?

·          What is our capability in terms of identifying alternative promotion channels?

·          What is the level of goodwill towards our products?

·          What are the current developments in our market share? (growing, declining?)

·          What is firm’s reputation in relation to marketing?

 

Customer Service-Control points:

·          Are there margins for improvement in our terms / guarantees?

·          Do we efficiently exploit customer complaints or customer feedback?

·          Do we know enough about our customers?

·          Are there margins of improvement in terms of the firm’s responsiveness to customer queries?

·          Are there margins for improvement in our spare parts availability and repair service supply?

·          What is the firm’s reputation in relation to customer service?

 

 

SUPPORTIVE OPERATIONS

 

General business Infrastructure-Control points:

·        How effective is the firm in identifying alternative new markets and entry opportunities for new products?

·        How well have we succeeded (in percentage terms) in meeting the aims of the strategic plan?

·        How good are we in co-ordinating all of the supportive processes?

·        Do we have sufficient funds and working capital and do we manage these elements well?

·        How effective are the firm’s information systems and do they provide sufficient support?

·        What are our capabilities in terms of having timely information for decision-making?

 

Human Resource Management-Control points:

·        How effective are we in terms of staffing, training and personnel development operations?

·        What can we do to better analyse our training needs (knowledge gaps)?

·        Do we know enough about the firm’s social networks?

·        How effective is our salary / motivation system?

·        Is absenteeism a problem?

·        Does our current work environment and organizational culture support knowledge management?

·        Do we face problems with sudden personnel departure (loss of crucial knowledge)?

·        Do we need to review the firm’s relationships with the relative unions?

·        Do we know the level of personnel satisfaction experienced by employees?

 

Technology Development-Control points:

·        How effective is our R&D department?

·        How are relationships between the R&D department and other departments?

·        Can we improve our responsiveness in terms of product development time?

·        What is the quality of our R&D laboratories and the relevant equipment?

·        Are the skills of the R&D executives sufficient?

 

Supplies-Control points:

·        Are there alternative suppliers in our industry?

·        Do we need to improve ourselves in terms of on time delivery of raw materials at a low cost and of acceptable quality?

·        Have we optimised the delivery schedule?

·        Do we need to review our relationships with suppliers?

 

 

 

A.3 External Analysis (Identifying Opportunities & Threats)

 

The external analysis element of a SWOT analysis is designed to identify opportunities and threats and is divided into 3 different environmental elements: the general environment, the competitive environment and the competition analysis.

 

A.3.1.A Indicative Questions / Control Points for Firm’s General Environment (social, legal, political, cultural, etc.)

 

Social/cultural environment

·         Is there any current or future social trend (demographic, life style, fashion, etc) that could affect our business negatively or positively (threat or opportunity)?

·         Do we have enough information to know our customers’ social and cultural profiles as well as the underlying consumer behaviour?

·         Are there any other issues from the social and cultural environment that affect our business?

·         Are there any other underlying forces from the social/cultural environment that could affect our or competitors access to knowledge and how?

·         How should the firm position itself in terms of knowledge requirements to better address the forces in the social/cultural environment?

 

Note: After a careful and extensive analysis of the social environment, managers might identify a potential business opportunity or threat for the firm under study. This opportunity or threat implies a future knowledge-based strategic position. The following questions aim to more clearly identify external knowledge gaps among the firm and its rivals.

 

·         Are our current knowledge and learning capabilities sufficient to deal with this opportunity or threat?

·         Are the current knowledge and learning capabilities of our rivals sufficient to deal with this potential opportunity or threat?

 

If the firm’s knowledge and/or learning capabilities are superior to competitors then this external gap is considered as a knowledge opportunity, otherwise it is considered as a knowledge threat.

 

 

Technological environment

·         What is the level and life cycle of our technology? Are there any possible areas of improvement or change?

·         Do personnel have the required knowledge & skills to adapt to new technologies? Have they the required knowledge & skills to effectively operate the existing plant / machinery.

·         Have we sufficient knowledge to adopt state of the art technologies or improve / expand our current technological level? How can we gain access to this knowledge / technology?

·         In our sector and in all of our main and supportive operations how do we rate against state of the art technology?

·         Do we need to better protect our patents and know-how?

·         Are there any other underlying forces from the technological environment that could affect our or competitors access to knowledge and how might this happen?

·         How should the firm position itself in terms of knowledge requirements to as to better address these dominant forces in the technological environment?

 

If managers identify a potential business opportunity or threat according to the above analysis, then the next questions will help them to specify if these forces constitute knowledge-based opportunities or threats:

 

·         Are our current knowledge and learning capabilities sufficient to deal with this opportunity or threat?

·         Are the current knowledge and learning capabilities of our rivals sufficient to deal with this potential opportunity or threat?

 

Political/Legal environment

·         Are all of our business operations and activities fully covered by legal legislation as well as other national and international competition rules, etc?

·         How might impending political changes alter our business? Are there any possible changes to laws regulating new personnel salaries, employee contracts, environmental laws, tax laws, import export regulations, investments, etc?

·         Does government’s stability affect our business and if yes what is the situation now and how it could develop in the future?

·         Are there any other underlying forces from the political/legal environment that could affect our or competitors access to knowledge and how?

·         How should the firm position itself in terms of knowledge requirements so as to better address these dominating forces in the political/legal environment?

 

If managers identify a potential business opportunity or threat according the above analysis, then next questions will help them to specify if these forces constitute knowledge based opportunities or threats:

 

·         Are our current knowledge and learning capabilities sufficient to deal with this opportunity or threat?

·         Are the current knowledge and learning capabilities of our rivals sufficient to deal with this potential opportunity or threat?

 

 

 

A.3.1.B Indicative Questions Control Points for Firm’s Competitive Environment (Customers, Suppliers, etc)

 

Note: for all of the following Issues / Control Points managers can ask the question:

 

Q:         Are there any current developments amongst the following issues (control points) which could provide opportunities or threats for our business?

 

Subsequently, if managers identify a potential business opportunity or threat on consideration of each of the Issues / Control Points below, then the following questions will help them to specify if these forces constitute knowledge-based opportunities or threats:

 

·         Are our current knowledge and learning capabilities sufficient to deal with this opportunity or threat?

·         Are the current knowledge and learning capabilities of our rivals sufficient to deal with this potential opportunity or threat?

 

 

Customer’s Issues / Control points

  • Customer characteristics and behavior
  • Is the company critical for the customer? *
  • Is the customer critical for the company? *
  • Other alternative solutions the costumer has?
  • Can the customer find better prices?
  • Any possible benefit for a co-operation agreement with the customer

·        How should the firm position itself in terms of knowledge requirements so as to better address the dominant forces in the customers’ environment?

 

*A customer is critical for the company when the customer number is small and the number of competitors big.

 

 

Suppliers Issues / Control Points:

  • Do we know who can supply appropriate raw materials?
  • What is the quality of the raw materials we use?
  • How reliable are our suppliers
  • What are the terms of credit we currently use?
  • What is the possibility of a specific supplier raising the price?
  • Are there any alternative solutions?
  • What are the alternative solutions?

·         How should the firm position itself in terms of knowledge requirements so as to better address the dominant forces in the suppliers’ environment?

 

 

Competitors Issues / Control Points:

  • Do we know our competitors?
  • Do we know their market share?
  • Are there any market entry barriers in our businesses?
  • Do we know the structure of our competitors’ stock capital and any possible recent changes?
  • What is the level of integration and the level of concentration for our competitors?
  • Do we know the structure of their fixed assets and their operational efficiency?
  • Do we know if they have availability of key personnel or if they have staffing problems?

·         How should the firm position itself in terms of knowledge requirements so as to better address the dominant forces in the competitors’ environment?

 

 

Labor Market Issues / Control Points:

  • Are suitable key personnel available in our region/country?
  • What is our capability for internal training?
  • Are potential recruits interested in working for our firm?
  • Do we currently provide competitive salaries?

·         How should the firm position itself in terms of knowledge requirements so as to better address the dominant forces in the labour market environment?

 

 

 

 

Financial environment

·         Inflation rates

·         Interest rates

·         Employment rates and anticipation

·         Level of salaries

·         Monetary inflation or overpricing

·         Energy cots and availability

·         Are there any other underlying forces in the financial environment that could affect our or competitors access to knowledge and how?

·         How should the firm position itself in terms of knowledge requirements so as to better address the dominant forces in the financial environment?

 

 

 

A.3.1.C Indicative Questions / Control points for Firm’s Competition Analysis.

 

Note: for all of the following Issues / Control Points managers can ask the questions in relation to their competition:

 

Q:         Are there any current developments amongst the following issues (control points) which could provide opportunities or threats for our business?

 

Subsequently, if managers identify a potential business opportunity or threat on consideration of each of the Issues / Control Points below, then the following questions will help them to specify if these forces constitute knowledge-based opportunities or threats:

 

·         Are our current knowledge and learning capabilities sufficient to deal with this opportunity or threat?

·         Are the current knowledge and learning capabilities of our rivals sufficient to deal with this potential opportunity or threat?

 

 

Threat posed by Newcomers - Control points:

The threat posed by newcomers is based on ease of entry to the market. The most common market entry barriers to be examined include:

  • Effectiveness of product differentiation
  • Switching costs (the cost to switch from one product to another)
  • Price policies and extra discounts for current costumers
  • Cost of production advantages compared to competitors
  • The amount of capital investment required to enter the market
  • Government enterprise policy

 

 

Substitutes threat issues-Control points:

An analysis of the threats posed by substitution includes the following questions:

  • Are there any other product offerings in the marketplace, which satisfy the same customer needs?
  • How easy is to persuade current costumers to consider an alternative that will satisfy their needs?
  • Are there any other substitute products that are better and cheaper?
  • Is anyone in the market trying to satisfy customers with a different approach?
  • Is there anyone in other business sectors who could somehow try to attract our current customers?

 

 

Costumer Negotiation Power / Control points:

 

Powerful costumers can:

  • Press for lower prices
  • Negotiate for better quality
  • Lead to struggles between the competitors

 

The costumers are powerful when:

  • They buy a considerable proportion of the firms production
  • They could produce what they currently buy
  • There are many alternative suppliers as the product is very common
  • To change suppliers doesn’t cost so much

 

 

Supplier Negotiation Power issues-Control points:

 

Powerful suppliers may affect company profits by raising prices or reducing quality. In order to do that, they must be in a powerful negotiating position. The suppliers are powerful when:

  • There are a small number of suppliers and a big number of buyers
  • The product they sell is rare
  • There aren’t many or product substitutes in the market or not available at all
  • They could produce what their customers produce and could become a competitive threat
  • Their product is protected by a commercial agreement providing them exclusive rights (patent, trademark, etc).

 

 

Level of competition strength Supplier-Control points:

 

The following questions facilitate competition analysis:

  • Who is the most powerful competitor?
  • How does the company compare to the most powerful competitors?
  • How do customers perceive the competitor’s quality, service, and reliability?
  • How does our cost structure compare to competitors?
  • What is the current financial strength of competitors?
  • Is there any way to reduce competition strength?

·        Under what conditions might the competition become stronger or weaker?

 

 

A.4.1 Synopsis of SWOT

 

This SWOT analysis will identify several internal and knowledge-related strengths and weaknesses as well as several external knowledge-related opportunities and threats for the firm under study. Managers can use the following matrix to prioritize them before continuing with strategy formulation.

 

 

Chance of Occurring

 

 

Possible impact to the firm

 

 

High

Medium

Low

High

 

High Priority

High Priority

Medium Priority

Medium

 

High Priority

Medium Priority

Low Priority

Low

 

Medium Priority

Low Priority

Low Priority

 

 



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