Culture & Competency

Large Company Collaboration Success–Digital Equipment with VAX Notes … in the 1980s

Patti wrote (in 2001) about the use of VAX Notes at Digital Equipment:

Imagine. You work in a global high-tech company with more than 100,000 people. Research and product development organisations are distributed around the world, as are the sales, marketing, and technical support groups that interface with customers. There are many complex products at varying stages in their life cycles. You have been in the company for a month, and a customer has just asked you a question about the technical capabilities of a product you haven’t even heard of. You promise the customer an answer by the next day. You are 95 per cent certain you will have the answer.

This scenario has been discovered, revealed and addressed by many vendors working in the knowledge management arena – and for good reason. The ability to find a subject matter expert quickly and get the answer to a question or assistance in solving a problem, is a key KM priority. It saves time (and money), enhances customer relationships and ensures that knowledge transfer happens to the right person at the right time. And yet we also know that tools are not the whole answer. Even the best tools will not give you a return on investment unless the employees of the company are committed to helping one another.

Employees of Digital Equipment Corporation worked in an environment that got this combination of technology and culture about right, back in the 1980s.

Patti reviews:

– the technology underpinnings – eg., that everyone had access to VAX Notes.

– the cultural underpinnings – eg., each Notes conference had a moderator, each new Notes conference had to be entered into a central directory of conferences, etc.

– the mutually reinforcing cycle between content and usage.