Procurement Communities of practice – plugging into the world

Zak von Gordon.JPGAlong with resources and labour, knowledge is a necessary factor in the production of goods and services. However, unlike other production factors knowledge promotes greater performance when it is shared.

Zak von Gordon, CPO of the Aveng Group spoke to SmartProcurement about Communities of Practice (COP), a type of knowledge sharing based on social networking that has the potential to spread procurement knowledge at an alarming rate.

A COP is a network of people, think of it as a FaceBook fan page for Strategic Sourcing: input comes from many different backgrounds and levels of experience and the likely result is a Eureka! moment for someone battling with a problem.

The increasing prevalence of social networking in today’s society – Gartner reports that social networking will overtake email by 2014 – has facilitated its adoption as a non-threatening environment in which to voice questions.

“The power of COPs is the speed at which information can be transferred though a group and how this translates into results. COPs gain momentum under their own steam,” explained von Gordon.

The process of capturing leading practice, supporting implementation and benchmarking the results is constantly subject to innovation as people engage with each other and grapple with problems.

The result is better performance and improved revenue, enthused von Gordon.

“COPs lend greater autonomy to knowledge workers. It’s a way of breaking through the noise of the competition and innovating the ways of creating and adding value.”

But while COPs may be the next step, some organisations still need convincing of the benefits of basic knowledge management.

There is an 87% correlation between improved KPIs and the adoption of a knowledge management system, explained von Gordon.

To put it plainly, quality, agility, cost and speed are all improved with better knowledge.

Meanwhile, IT departments that see social networking as a risk to bandwidth will need convincing.

However, Von Gordon is confident that IT will jump on board once it realises that the financial outlay on extra bandwidth could be outstripped by business innovation and revenue growth.

Zak von Gordon is the chair of CIPS Southern Africa’s Gauteng branch.

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