In KM circles, one seems to hear about the same companies over and over. That’s because KM has been a really difficult discipline that has always taken a lot of people-power and time to create goodness. So a small number of companies has done great things—and these programs have been studied, documented, investigated, and duplicated (at least parts of them), to varying degrees of success. These tend to be large, global companies serving often volatile, complex industries. And one or two generally stand out in their industry for their KM excellence.
With the proposition that knowledge helps companies innovate more, better serve customers, and generally make better decisions, we would expect these best-performing KM companies to be the best performers in their own industries.
Fluor is one of those companies. It “delivers engineering, procurement, construction (EPC), maintenance, and project management to governments and clients in diverse industries around the world,” according to its website, and I’ve heard it mentioned by at least four KM consultants recently. Plus, this week it was named by FORTUNE as the top-ranked engineering and construction company in its 2014 World’s Most Admired Companies list. This is the third year in a row that Fluor has earned the top designation in the engineering and construction market sector.
After hearing about that distinction, I did a quick comparison of Fluor’s five-year stock price performance as compared to its publicly traded peers. Not surprisingly, Fluor (FLR) stock outperformed that of what seem to be its closest competitors*: Jacobs Engineering Group (JEC), URS Corporation (URS) and Foster Wheeler AG (FWLT). Is this because they focus on KM? Obviously it’s just one facet of the organization’s strategy but from what I’ve read about Fluor (most recently in the book “The New Edge in Knowledge” by APQC’s Dr. Carla O’Dell and Cindy Hubert) it recognizes its KM program as a significant contributor to higher revenues and reduced costs.
How can most companies duplicate this performance when they may not have the resources of a Fluor, and may not have been steeped in KM principles and processes for many years? Let’s link this to the current resurgence in KM interest, and its drivers. Perhaps because I work for a technology company (Coveo) and have done so for many years (before Coveo at Taleo, SelectMinds), I tend to see things in terms of technology shifts. More automation always enables more efficiency in complex areas.
In an upcoming blog post I’ll examine three trends that seem to be converging to enable more companies to excel at what should be a core competency–creating, sharing and reusing knowledge, and which I believe are part of the current drive for KM: The ongoing consumerization of IT, Predictive Analytics and a move towards technologies that engage not only customers and prospects, but employees.
How do you believe most companies will be able to catch the KM wave that is coming? What do you think is driving the resurgence in KM?
*Excludes Chicago Bridge and Iron Company AV (CBI), as it has grown through multiple acquisitions most years since its Initial Public Offering in 1997 so its results didn’t seem easily comparable.