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The International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) is an American multinational

technology and consulting corporation, with headquarters in Armonk, New York, United
States. IBM manufactures and markets computer hardware and software, and offers
infrastructure, hosting and consulting services in areas ranging from mainframe computers to
The company was founded in 1911 as the Computing Tabulating Recording Company (CTR)
through a merger of three companies: the Tabulating Machine Company, the International
Time Recording Company, and the Computing Scale Company. CTR adopted the name
International Business Machines in 1924, using a name previously designated to CTR's
subsidiary in Canada and later South America. Securities analysts nicknamed IBM Big Blue
in recognition of IBM's common use of blue in products, packaging, and logo.
In 2012, Fortune ranked IBM the No. 2 largest U.S. firm in terms of number of employees
(435,000 worldwide, approximately 100,000 in the US), the No. 4 largest in terms of market
capitalization, the No. 9 most profitable, and the No. 19 largest firm in terms of revenue.
Globally, the company was ranked the No. 31 largest in terms of revenue by Forbes for 2011.
Other rankings for 2011/2012 include No. 1 company for leaders (Fortune), No. 1 green
company worldwide (Newsweek), No. 2 best global brand (Interbrand), No. 2 most respected
company (Barron's), No. 5 most admired company (Fortune), and No. 18 most innovative
company (Fast Company).
IBM has 12 research laboratories worldwide and, as of 2013, has held the record for most
patents generated by a company for 20 consecutive years. Its employees have garnered five
Nobel Prizes, six Turing Awards, ten National Medals of Technology, and five National
Medals of Science. Notable inventions by IBM include the automated teller machine (ATM),
the floppy disk, the hard disk drive, the magnetic stripe card, the relational database, the
Universal Product Code (UPC), the financial swap, the RDBMS and SQL, SABRE airline
reservation system, DRAM, and Watson artificial intelligence.
The company has undergone several organizational changes since its inception, acquiring
companies such as Kenexa (2012) and SPSS (2009) and organizations such as PwC's
consulting business (2002), spinning off companies like Lexmark (1991), and selling off
product lines like ThinkPad to Lenovo (2005).
In November 2007, US-based International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) was
inducted into the Global Most Admired Knowledge Enterprises (MAKE) Hall of Fame. A
panel comprising executives from Global Fortune 500 companies and KM experts chose the
winners of the 2007 MAKE awards. IBM was one of 21 winners. Commenting on the
winners, Rory Chase, Managing Director of Teleos, which administers the MAKE program,
said, These organizations have been recognized as global leaders in effectively
transforming enterprise knowledge into wealth creating ideas, products, and solutions. They
are building portfolios of intellectual capital and intangible assets which will enable them to
outperform their competitors now and in the future.
IBM had won the KMWorld Awards in 2005 too, in the KM Reality category. The winners
were chosen from among 120 nominees by a panel comprising analysts, vendors, and
employees of KMWorld magazine. On choosing IBM, KMWorld reported, In years past,
they have recognized customers that have implemented a solution, but this time around they
acknowledged a vendor for its internal knowledge management (KM) program, because in
this particular case it has resulted in significant benefits to all its customers.
IBM creates complete business solutions that integrate hardware, software and
services and, hence, requires true enterprise-wide knowledge exchange and
They were building the entire IBM Company around the concept of knowledge
IBMs KM initiatives date back to the early 1990s, when the company was
reorganized under Louis Gerstner (Gerstner). He brought in several changes in the
company, and at that time, the company started paying attention to KM. IBM used
KM as a means to bring about transformation and turn the business around.
The KM program in the company facilitated exchange of knowledge within the
company among the different business units.
IBMs KM strategy consisted of turning the company into a leading knowledge
management based company, using technology for sharing knowledge, and building
the required IT infrastructure.
The main objective of the KM framework was to facilitate knowledge sharing and
collaboration among employees.
IBMs first KM initiative started in 1994. At that time, the companys focus was on
providing knowledge about work and co-workers so as to enable reuse of knowledge
assets at the business unit level.
By creating the knowledge base, they planned to deliver solutions to its clients with
more accuracy and higher speed. The program they undertook was called Intellectual
Capital Management (ICM) and its main aim was to make KM a formal practice
across the company.
The asset reuse program was extended across different units of the company
globally, to facilitate capturing and reusing the assets and intellectual capital that had
created a significant impact in each division. The program was also implemented in
other divisions of the company.
In 1995, IBM came up with a new business model in which it developed communities
of practice. These were self-organized communities, where employees with similar
job functions and similar interests, came together.
In IBM, communities of practice were known as knowledge networks. They were
responsible for gathering, evaluating, structuring, and spreading knowledge. The
knowledge thus disseminated was shared among colleagues. The knowledge networks
included methods, processes, tools, experiences, and documentation.
Knowledge networks adopted a set of roles for managing the knowledge. The roles
included a leader and a core team. The core team consisted of a router who went
through all the publications that were submitted, and decided on who would be
evaluating those publications. The core team also consisted of category owners, who
were experts in a particular field. They were responsible for managing the knowledge
generated in a specified area.
The communities of practice represented knowledge in several areas that included
enterprise systems management, testing methods and practices, organization change,
e-business, and systems management in industry areas like automotive, finance,
healthcare, insurance, etc.
In 1997, to turn itself into a KM driven company, IBM upgraded its IT infrastructure
by investing around US$ 400 million to facilitate knowledge sharing. This included
the largest single-company rollout ever of groupware to 240,000 Lotus Notes users.
The corporate KM program in IBM set the direction for KM activities in the
company, provided leadership and guidance, and deployed KM solutions across the
The projects that the company carried out generated knowledge. Such knowledge was
managed through project management support and tools. At the end of the project, the
knowledge generated was placed in the Intellectual Capital Repository
IBM encouraged frequent interaction among team members, which generated
knowledge that was either tacit or explicit. To share and reuse the knowledge and to
manage it effectively, IBM used Lotus Notes/Domino, e-mail, etc. The company used
several KM tools to capture, share, and manage knowledge across the company.
These tools included K Portal, ICM AssetWeb, Competency network, On Demand
workplace, etc.
K Portal:
IBMs KM portal, called K Portal, was used as a tool to help employees find
the relevant documents, customer references, and details of the customers
products, and contact external sources. The portal was also used to access
information about competitors and their products and about the people in the
company who had expertise in certain areas.
To capture the data and retrieve the documents, K Portal used a technology
known as Grand Central Station (GCS). GCS used a crawler to locate the
documents in the Lotus Notes and Web sites. The data was extracted in several
formats such as Lotus Notes and Microsoft Office applications. The
information was also obtained from attached documents and was used for
indexing and analysis.
In K Portal, the crawler gathered data from different disparate repositories and
database websites. The content was then transformed into the XML format.
The content of the documents was indexed in a searchable text index and the
documents were categorized. It used the Knowledge Map Editor tool that
specified the repositories to access, and how to categorize the documents.
ICM AssetWeb
The Intellectual Capital Management AssetWeb (ICM AssetWeb) a Lotus
Notes-based application, was essentially a portal that was widely used for
sharing knowledge in the company. Though this was initially developed for
internal use, it was later made available for external users and was among the
most widely used KM tools.
Review, classification, and certification of documents were a part of the
document management process in ICM AssetWeb. This was carried out by
teams of experts within the company. Security was also ensured as the users
were required to enter their ID and password to access some of the documents.
ICM AssetWeb enabled IBM to obtain data from different sources, both
internal and external, and use the knowledge to provide its clients with better
solutions. Several tools like multiple database search, version management,
etc., formed a part of ICM AssetWeb. ICM AssetWeb had a search tool called
Navigator that enabled users to search and find the required topic.
To foster the culture of creativity and idea generation, discussion forums were
made a part of ICM AssetWeb through Knowledge Caf, which was a Lotus
Notes application. Knowledge Cockpit was a business intelligence tool.
Knowledge Caf and Knowledge Cockpit
Knowledge Caf was a repository of information maintained centrally. It
provided easy access to information that employees needed. It had several
categories, which made sorting the information easy.
Knowledge Cockpit allowed the experts in a subject to mine information. It
had mobile agents that collected information from the Internet. Knowledge
Cockpit also obtained information from several other sources and channeled it
to a single location.
Competency Network
As a part of its KM efforts, IBM created a competency network a
community of experts within the company. The main task of the community
was to collect and share intellectual capital with others across the company.
There were several competency networks in the company, with each being
responsible for creating, evaluating, and structuring the data that became a part
of its database.
On Demand Workplace
In the year 2004, IBM started a portal for online training, called On-demand
Workplace (ODW). This portal focused on critical job roles in the company
and provided the employees access to asset management programs and best
practices in different fields. One such program was Learning@IBM. Based on
the geographic location, job profile, business unit, etc., Learning@IBM
provided learning recommendations and resources, which users could access
right from their desktop.
It provided the employees with mandatory sessions, recorded the details of
employee training, and also offered additional training sessions as per the
convenience of the employees. Learning@IBM was highly popular and in
August 2005, it recorded more than 400,000 page views.
ODW served more than 300,000 employees of the company (between 1998
and 2003) all across the world.
ODW provided the employees with personalized access to all IBM resources.
As of 2007, ODW had recorded more than 2.8 million page views per business
day, and 130 million hits per week. Around 80 percent of the employees in
IBM visited ODW at least once a day. ODW integrated content learning,
expertise, collaboration, and business applications.
There were six basic elements in ODW collaboration, business unit tools,
content, enterprise tools, expertise, and e-learning.
As there were more than 300,000 employees in IBM, locating the required
talent and expertise could occasionally prove to be problematic. To address
this issue, IBM launched BluePages, a corporate directory with instant
messaging and e-mail facilities. As of mid-2006, more than 80 percent of the
employees in IBM were registered with BluePages; it recorded more than 4
million searches every week.
BluePages provided a wide range of information on members and using the
links available, the members could be contacted. BluePages was placed on the
banner on the top of IBMs W3 ODW. It could also be accessed through the
Lotus Notes.
The Role of the Manager @ IBM
IBM designed a company-wide initiative, The Role of the Manager @ IBM,
which aimed at transforming the role of the managers in the company. One of
the components of this initiative was ManagerJam, which enabled all the
managers in IBM working all across the world to share best practices. The
session took place on the corporate intranet. This was based on a virtual
environment, through which managers discussed six topics building careers,
managing performance, fostering innovation, translating strategy to results,
human face, and new customer landscape, which were identified as crucial.
IBM employees willing to volunteer acted as moderators and facilitators of the
discussion forums. Their role was to support and maintain the flow of the
discussions by encouraging dialogue among the participants, and providing an
insight about the topic being discussed. A session was conducted for around
48 hours in May 2001, and over 25 percent of all the managers in the company
participated. Most of the managers said that they intended to apply what they
had learnt through the session in their daily activities.
After this session, on several occasions, IBM used the intranet to interact with
the employees, clients, and others. Jam in IBM referred to online discussions
to bring out different perspectives from the employees. Between July 29 and
August 01, 2003 a session called ValuesJam was conducted. The session was
led by the Chairman and CEO of the company, and witnessed participation
from thousands of employees. In this session, the employees discussed what
defines IBM and IBMers?
The result of this session was the reformulation of the almost a century old
core values of IBM. The new values that were to guide the company were
Dedication to every clients success
Innovation that matters, for our company and for the world
Trust and personal responsibility in all relationships.
Another session called WorldJam was conducted between October 26 and
October 28, 2004, with the objective of identifying actionable ideas which
would help the company reflect its values. About 56,870 employees
participated in the 54-hour session, during which several thousands of
proposals came forward which were deliberated on, and 191 proposals were
created. The employees were asked to rate these proposals over the next seven
days and 35 top rated proposals were to be considered by the top management
of the company.
The InnovationJam conducted in 2006 witnessed participation from
employees, business partners, and clients of IBM which included 67
companies in 104 countries. This was a 72-hour session during which
participants discussed the exploiting of IBMs research technologies and their
application in the real world. The result was an investment of US$ 100 million
on ten new business ideas.
InnovationJam 2008 was held between October 05 and October 09, 2008.
Employees from more than 1000 companies participated in the event along
with the employees of IBM. Subject matter experts also took part in the
discussion whose central idea was enterprise of the future. It aimed at
tapping the insights of various leaders from around the world.
Collaboration Forums
IBM also provided its employees with several opportunities to collaborate.
One such forum was CollaborationCentral, a portal that provided collaboration
guidance, tools, and best practices. A part of the CollaborationCentral was
Team Rooms, through which teams that were located across the world could
share information and collaborate in their work. As of mid-2006, there were
around 27,000 active Team Rooms in CollaborationCentral.
IBM used a collaboration tool called e-meetings, which used web technology
to conduct meetings among the employees located across the world. Through
an outbound service, the customers, vendors, and business partners could also
participate in the Web conferences.
Another collaborative forum was the ThinkPlace. It was a web application
through which employees could share their ideas with each other. Employees
could browse through ThinkPlace and rate others ideas, collaborate with
others, and search for ideas that they could use. ThinkPlace was designed to
encourage open community-based collaboration in order to drive innovation.
ThinkPlace originated from the research labs of IBM to enable researchers to
share ideas. Later on, all employees began to participate and they posted their
ideas about solving the problems in the company and growing their business.
The ideas submitted by the employees were evaluated by experts on that
subject every month and those found relevant were pursued.
Instant Messaging & VoIP
Instant messaging was also widely used as a collaboration tool in the
company. It comprised a list of users who were online and were ready to talk.
IBM used VoIP to carry the voice and data signals. Through this system,
voice, voice mails, and faxes were converted into data that could be
transported over the Internet effectively. Another advantage of this system was
that the employee could work from anywhere around the globe with a single
phone number.
Blogs & Wikis
BlogCentral was a feature that allowed employees to create blogs and access
each others blogs. Blogging was done to encourage exchange and learning in
the company and with the clients. As of April 2006, Blog Central had 23,000
users and more than 3,500 active blogs. In Spring 2005, IBM bloggers began
using Wiki14 for creating guidelines for blogging. Through these guidelines,
the employees were individually made responsible for their posts. It was
required of employees to post their name and designation when they posted
blogs about IBM.
Role of Communities
At IBM, the business units encouraged the formation of knowledge networks,
when the need to share the knowledge was felt. The heads of the units
instigated the formation of groups with assistance from the specialists.
Over a period of time, several domains of knowledge became a part of the
communities. These included enterprise system management, application
development, testing methods and practices, e-business, systems management,
and industry level competencies in the chemical, automotive, petroleum,
finance, insurance, and healthcare fields among others.
The communities were fostered through a comprehensive KM framework that
included the vision, strategy, and value system of the company, incentives,
technology, processes, and leadership. Through this framework, the
community was aligned with the goals and the value system of the
The roles and activities of the community members included managing the
intellectual capital of the community, sharing knowledge that was tacit,
communications, socialization, content management, development and
execution of business strategy, and developing competency.
CommunityMap enabled employees to find new members, and also enabled
the communities to find new members. In CommunityMap, community
leaders created entries describing their community. The employees could
browse through the details of the community and could join, if they wished to
do so. CommunityMap had over 250 entries on varied topics like technology,
management, strategy, innovation, e-business, consultancy, industry, etc.
Benefits from KM
IBM in increasing efficiency by the reuse of captured assets and by the
transfer of knowledge to improve the skills of employees. It helped the
company innovate by bringing in the employees across time and geographic
boundaries to share ideas.
KM helped IBM derive business value by improving asset utilization. Due to
the increased efficiency, IBM was able to reuse the captured intellectual
assets, and improve the skills of the employees through knowledge transfer.
As a part of the asset reuse program, from 2004, in a span of two years, the
team delved into several cases where KM had been used successfully. The
team came out with 384 instances, due to which it realized cost savings of
US$ 81 million, US$ 2.6 billion in service revenues, and US$ 63 million in
asset revenues.
The time the company needed to find the experts in a particular field also went
down, resulting in productivity improvement of US$ 50 million per year.