APQC Identifies 16 Best Practices Associated with Improving the Flow of Knowledge in Product Development

Research features best-practice insights and case studies from Ecopetrol, IBM, Intel, Rockwell Collins, The Toro Company

(Houston, Texas - April 17, 2012)  APQC, the benchmarking and best practices research firm, has released the results of its latest Collaborative Benchmarking study, Improving the Flow of Knowledge in Product Development.  This study, which represents a collaboration of APQC’s nearly 20 years of product development (PD) research with its unique expertise in knowledge management (KM), identifies best practices necessary for capturing and transferring PD knowledge in the face of ever-changing project team members, knowledge loss through retirement, and organizational and reward-driven barriers.

APQC and participating organizations selected and profiled five best-practice organizations in the study: Ecopetrol, IBM, Intel, Rockwell Collins, and The Toro Company. These entities were recognized for having strong processes in place to capture and transfer critical PD knowledge.

In its research, APQC identified 16 best practices.  Two of particular note include:

  • Embed knowledge capture and transfer activities into the PD stage-gate process. Prior to implementing knowledge capture and transfer activities within PD, an organization must understand where knowledge-sharing points are most critical within its PD process. Eighty percent of the best-practice organizations studied have an explicit process to capture, validate, and transfer internal best practices in PD.
  • Leverage existing groups to guide and vet knowledge. Rather than starting from scratch, organizations implementing PD knowledge capture and transfer processes should help these existing groups become more formal communities or networks.

The other best practice findings, organized according to the study scope, are:

Create a strategy for capturing and transferring knowledge

  1. Align PD knowledge capture efforts with key business drivers.
  2. Link PD knowledge capture and transfer efforts to existing improvement methodologies or principles.
  3. Communicate in the language of your “customers.”

Develop an effective process to capture and transfer PD knowledge

  1. Integrate a robust lessons-learned process into PD.
  2. Accelerate PD knowledge capture and transfer with targeted events.
  3. Distinguish among types of PD knowledge to capture and transfer.

Create organizational support for capturing and transferring PD knowledge

  1. Establish explicit governance and accountability for PD knowledge capture and transfer.
  2. Capture internal customer insights by partnering with business units.
  3. Create opportunities for leaders to learn from each other.
  4. Adopt change management principles and engage people to foster organizational support.
  5. Use trained change agents.
  6. Build and maintain a centralized, searchable repository for critical PD knowledge.

Continually review and improve the PD knowledge capture and transfer process

  1. Enlist and engage PD stakeholders to continuously enhance knowledge capture and transfer efforts.
  2. Use leading and lagging indicators to monitor the program’s impact over time.

“In an economy powered by knowledge, better use of knowledge can lead to shorter time to market and less risky and more vibrant new products,” said Marisa Brown, director, knowledge center, APQC.  “This study and the subsequent report provide insights into systemic approaches to capture PD knowledge and transfer it to the right people at the right time to create value.”

A complimentary executive summary as well as the full best practices report and individual case studies are available at APQC.

About APQC

APQC is a member-based nonprofit and one of the world’s leading proponents of benchmarking, best practices, and knowledge management. Working with more than 500 member organizations worldwide in all industries, APQC provides organizations with the information they need to work smarter, faster, and with greater confidence. Visit www.apqc.org or call +1-713-681-4020 for more information.

# # #