Information technology (IT) and communications enable virtual teams to function effectively; yet, human interactions continue to be important, says A. V. Vedpuriswar in ‘Taking Your Business Global’ (www.visionbooksindia.com). “As opposed to conventional and routine cross-country transfers, some global companies are using skilled managers intelligently to solve problems in different business environments.”
An example he cites is of Dell, which uses teams of specialists moving around the world providing expertise in specific areas. “One such team, which picked up design expertise while setting up Dell’s manufacturing facilities in Texas, has spent time in countries such as Ireland, Malaysia, China and Brazil to set up plants there. In each of these countries, the team has spent typically six months to one year.”
The author rues that a common mistake organisations make is to view IT as the be-all and end-all of things. While IT has a key role in the knowledge dissemination process, converting knowledge into a form that can be digitised is often the more challenging task, he adds. “To convert implicit knowledge into explicit knowledge, employees in global companies should be encouraged to work in multinational teams and observe each other in action. This can yield useful insights, which can be documented and made available for sharing across the worldwide system.”
A section titled ‘partnering in a wiki world’ speaks of open platforms for participation by large communities of partners who innovate and create value for enterprises such as Google, eBay and Amazon. “For example, a significant portion of the goods on eBay are uploaded automatically from the inventory systems of third party stores that use eBay as an alternate sales channel.”
In the case of Amazon, gains are in the form of rapid innovation and growth through alliances. Amazon opened its APIs to its eCommerce engine in order to invite external partners to become co-developers, the author describes. These developers build ingenious applications ranging from websites that showcase selected categories of Amazon products to instant messaging applications which enable users to receive replies to their specific requests, he notes.
“Amazon’s web services give developers access to numerous software services and various kinds of data including text, product images and pricing. Developers can earn good money from commissions on traffic and sales driven through their applications. Amazon is not scared about letting go of its proprietary tools and data.”
Welcome to the new economy, in which physical assets are becoming relatively insignificant compared to intangible assets as Vedpuriswar distinguishes. He says the foundation for building intangible assets lies in knowledge acquisition and sharing.
So, “Companies need to view themselves as competing on the basis of their superior knowledge. They must foster a culture which encourages learning. Ongoing attempts should be made to convert implicit knowledge into explicit knowledge, and document this in a useful form.”