Mikael Marklund , pp. 49. MAM/Sektionen för Management, 2010.
Changes in big companies resulting in new organizational structures and cost cutting are pushing more and more of the knowledge and information handling to sub-units in a multi-national structure. For big knowledge-intensive companies that act in the global market place, internal information handling is becoming a challenge. The study and reflections are based on experiences from Ericsson, a knowledge-intensive global telecommunication company. This company delivers complex cross-functional products (solutions) and has a decentralized organization. It faces the cost of managing distributed product information and the challenge to gather relevant information in the sales departments. One can easily characterize the company’s complex and unique product offerings as having multiple dependencies. The solutions are composed by building blocks, i.e. different sub products, delivered by different product units. The different sub products suffer from limitations in how they can be combined into solutions. This study addresses the information gaps in a decentralized organization regarding this specific issue. It focuses on identifying vital information without driving cost and requiring organizational changes.
Stakeholder identification was done from a value chain perspective. The type of information that would give the most profitable solutions was identified during group sessions and individual interviews. An asymmetric compatibility matrix (ACM) was developed to fit the purpose of keeping low maintenance cost and without requiring organizational changes. The ACM was applied and process maturity improvements were evaluated with the use of the Process Enterprise and Maturity Model.
The Ericsson specific study shows that the use of an ACM for product compatibility information makes it possible to define information responsibility that is sustainable over time. Thereby the maintenance cost for this information can be brought down to a minimum. Furthermore, the study shows that the effort of gathering information for the sales organizations to provide customer solutions can be reduced by the use of an ACM offering generic compatibility information. Users of the ACM would be able to re-use its information and focus on customer specific sales and deployment issues rather than re-do what others already have done. Cost of sales as well as business risks would thereby likely decrease, affecting the bottom line positively. Furthermore new business opportunities are assumed to be addressed better since relevant generic information is made available up front. Other positive expected benefits are prevention of network malfunctions and increased customer satisfaction.
From this study it can be concluded that an ACM can be a powerful tool for gathering cross-functional product information in large decentralized organizations at a low cost, without any organizational changes, and with a high process maturity. Further research would be needed if one would consider validating the general applicability of the ACM in other processes.