Monday, July 29, 2013

How to Institutionalize Tribal Knowledge

Is your knowledge going to walk out the door when key old-timers begin retiring?

Herb and Bob Genentech Biotechnology was invented in the 1970's by Bob Swanson and Herb Boyer. Commercialization of this stuff (large-scale biologics manufacturing) started taking off in the 1980's.

We're closing in on 30-years since biotech manufacturing started. If you joined as a junior employee (in your 20's), you're now in your fifties. If you joined as a more senior employee (in your 30's), you're about to retire.

Chances are, a lot of your core competency is sloshing around in the brains of these folks. And when those guys are long gone, all that's left will be hard drives full of spreadsheets and documents.

How do you institutionalize tribal knowledge?

google dna logoZymergi has solved this problem for biotech companies with the help of Google. Prior to Google Docs and Google Mail for the enterprise, Google sold their search engine as a physical appliance. Customers purchase their machine, slide it into a server rack and configure it to crawl your web-enabled network drives.

(The process is iterative since there's quite a number of files on public network drives that ought not be there)

From here, you basically get an intranet site that looks and feels like Google, except now, instead of searching the internet, you're searching critical enterprise documents, powerpoint slides and PDFs.

The limitation with the out-of-the-box solution is that scope is limited to files on a network drive. Yet in an enterprise environment, your usable knowledge may be stored in back-end relational databases used by systems like SAP or TrackWise. How do you liberate the knowledge stuck behind the front-end application that has been engineered to run a business process (as opposed to serve data)?

ZST is Zymergi's answer. ZST is a web-application that does one thing: make web-pages out of relational database data. Coded in the .NET Framework, the ZST runs in the Windows environment, and when configured, can expose your relational data to search engines for indexing.

With QA discrepancy data and engineering change order data juxtaposed with scientific memos, anyone with authorized access can learn your business the way they learn other subjects: using Google and on the... intranet.

Want to see all discrepancies, change orders, process flow diagrams, campaign summaries, science memos about CD11a production culture pH?

Want to know about all contaminations at the seed train scale across the entire manufacturing network?

Managing the biologics manufacturing workforce of the future will require institutionalizing tribal knowledge.  One way to tech transfer from tribal elders to young blood is with ZST and an intranet search engine.

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