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Practical Knowledge Management to support Front-line Decision making in SMEs

Objective

The aim of the project is to support front-line decision making in SME companies by making use of a knowledge management approach. Know IT will develop an innovative, web-based software system to help SMEs to capture, store, maintain and disseminate knowledge that supports front-line workers to make better and more profitable business decisions. This will help SMEs to continuously improve employee productivity, customer profitability, customer satisfaction, new products development and overall business success. The Know IT system will be an intelligent, web-based software system that supports front-line workers to make better and more profitable business decisions. This will help SMEs to continuously improve in terms of employee productivity, customer profitability, customer satisfaction, new products development and overall business success. The results of the project will be widely disseminated using intermediary bodies, workshops and the Internet.

Objectives:
Decisions at all levels in a company contribute to the success of the business. But decisions that maximise a sales opportunity or minimise the cost of a customer service request happen on the front lines. These decisions are extremely important for businesses, and are the focus of this project.
The objectives of the project are:
.
To develop an intelligent, web-based system (implemented as a portal solution) to support front-line decision-making in SME companies.
.To use this system to help front-line workers to make better -and more profitable- business decisions, avoid wasting time and money resolving problems and increase customer satisfaction.
.To improve products and services by making use of the knowledge obtained from the front lines.
.To support SMEs to provide to their customers Internet-based self-service capabilities.
.To exploit and disseminate, using this evidence, the Know IT software system.

Work description:
The project will make use of methodologies for knowledge management and state-of-the-art software tools to develop a practical software system to support front-line decision making in SME companies. First, the users will be asked for their requirements in terms of IT supported front-line decision making. A European survey will be used to check whether these requirements are more generally valid for European SMEs. The full specification for the KnowIT requirements will be generated by the SME proposers, and the RTD performers will transform this in a methodology, which is then validated by the users and the user groups. The methodology will be embedded within the software system and the first prototype produced. The software system will then be fully validated by the users (earlier versions will have been briefly tested and validated). The Know IT system will be an intelligent, web-based software system that supports front-line workers to make better and more profitable business decisions. This will help SMEs to continuously improve in terms of employee productivity, customer profitability, customer satisfaction, new products development and overall business success. The results of the project will be widely disseminated using intermediary bodies, workshops and the internet, and commercialised (after the end of the project) in the form of an off-the-shelf software product.

Milestones:
The first milestone will be at the end of the user requirements task, the first version of the exploitation plan will have been produced and internet page published.
The second milestone will be at the end of month 10 to review the Know IT methodology and software specifications.
The third milestone will be at the end of the project, when the main project results will have been validated, the latest version of the web site reviewed, and the latest version of the exploitation plan reviewed.
Know IT methodology

KNOW IT is a methodology designed specifically for the small enterprises that offer a simple and effective methodology to improve the management of the company. KNOW IT wants to be a tool of utility for employees in the front line.
The methodology explains the "why" and the user manual of the Know IT software explains the "how". The methodology covers a wider scope than the software: the methodology explains what things the company must do and, in some cases, Know IT has the software to do those activities and in other cases, the methodology only presents a draft of a procedure, without software support. Software is a tool, not an end in itself.
KNOW-IT seeks to put within reach of the small companies a work methodology that allows the manager to make an integral review of all the front line areas, in order to think about how the organisation is working and what the organisation should make to improve in a continuous and systematic way.

Know IT software
KNOW IT is a web-based, practical software system that provides to the front-line employees of the sales and service departments integrated support for content management, workflow and interaction management. In this way, it helps front-line employees to make better and more profitable business decisions.

Know IT consists of the following modules:
Business performance
Using this module, front-line employees can access information about the strategy, the goals and the performance of the company (for example, customer complaints per product/month, sales volume per month).

Products & features database
Know IT maintains information about products (product families, types) and product features as well as rules for cross-selling suggestions. This is used when sales or service employees interact with the customers. The product features make possible to search for products based on the desired characteristics.

Customers and contacts database
Know IT manages comprehensive information about customers and contacts and provides powerful search and retrieval facilities. It allows immediate access to the history of a customer (past orders, service requests, complaints, etc) and integration with back-office systems.

Business opportunities
For the employees in the sales department, Know IT provides workflow support (activities, responsible, due dates, etc.) and interaction management (all the interaction with the customers is recorded and can be accessed at any time). It also provides cross-selling suggestions based on rules.

Service requests
Like in the case of sales, Know IT provides workflow support and interaction management for the service requests.

Customer complaints
Know IT supports management of customer complaints (recording, analysis).

Support centre
This module enables the company to author and maintain a practical knowledge base for front-line decision-making (on-line guidance and troubleshooting). This is knowledge useful to the sales and service departments (e.g. when trying to solve the problem of a customer, dealing with special orders).
The module provides a dynamic structure, which allows new information to be stored within the system by the company itself, without the need for external support. Also, it can be used as a training tool to teach employees the correct approach to front-line problem solving and what to do in various situations when problems occur.

Analysis & Feedback module
This module provides valuable information concerning the efficiency of sales or service processes as well as the performance of the company products/installations. It provides statistics like
- Inquiries, offers, sales per customer / product
- Service requests per customer / product / problem
- Complaints per customer / product / cause.

Internet self-service
This module allows the company to provide through Internet:
- Part of the information contained in the products & feature database. This enables customers to search for products that match their requirements and place inquiries electronically.
- Part of the guidance and troubleshooting information of the support center.

Mobile users
Our plan is to develop, after the end of the project, a new module that will support mobile devices like PDAs and mobile phones. This will allow the users to have remote access to the system and access customers, contacts, business opportunities.

Know IT combines CRM (Sales support, Customer service support and Interaction management) and enterprise portal functionality (management, classification and navigation of information) into a single, practical product appropriate for SME companies. It has been developed as a portal solution, providing to front-line employees one-stop shopping for context required to support front-line decision-making.

Funding Scheme

CON - Coordination of research actions

Coordinator

TECNICAS DE CALENTAMIENTO S.A.
Address
Sabino Arana 62, Bis
48640 Berango
Spain

Participants (3)

ALGO'TECH INFORMATIQUE
France
Address
Technopole Izarbel
64210 Bidart
INDUSTRIAL ELECTRICA CASSANENSE S.A.
Spain
Address
Crta. Girona A San Feliu Km 11
17244 Cassa De La Selva
RODOS AIR
Greece
Address
Kamirou 1
85100 Rodos