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This blog post follows on from my June article, which discussed, ‘What’s going on inside organisational capabilities?’ This month I delve deeper into how bringing together the specialised knowledge(s) of diverse employees supports the development of organisational capabilities, with CingleVue International as my case study.
To recap briefly, capabilities are mostly intangible, tacit and implied, and are located within organisational activities as well as within individuals. They aren’t necessarily outlined in company guideline or procedure manuals, since they are not easy to transmit explicitly. Knowledge is a good example of an intangible organisation-specific resource and is considered to be the most important as well as being the most likely to afford a company its competitive advantage (Grant, 1996; Hitt, Bierman, Shimizu & Kochhar, 2001). Bringing together the specialised knowledge(s) of employees and generating innovative solutions that align with company priorities and customer needs is essentially, “the essence of organizational capability”(Grant, 1996, p. 375).
CingleVue International was an early adopter of internationalisation. According to Lamotte and Colovic (2015) the criterion for ‘international new ventures’ is that they made at least 25% of their annual sales outside of Australia in their first three years after registration as a company. Tamar Cavusgil and Gary Knight identify that, “early adopters of internationalization begin with a global view of their markets, and develop the capabilities needed to achieve their international goals at or near the firm’s founding” (Cavusgil & Knight, 2004, p. 125). Early internationalisation affords CingleVue a special kind of flexibility that includes cross-border alliances for product development, resource optimisation, experience and diversity. The use of advanced information and communication technologies makes it possible for CingleVue to work effectively across four time zones and three countries, despite the resource constraints typical of new starters (Lamotte & Colovic, 2015). The Research & Development [R&D] team at CingleVue draws on the company’s accumulated knowledge about providing enterprise solutions and facilitates the opening of new markets, which leads to regular reinvention of the company’s development and operations environments (Cavusgil & Knight, 2004). An innovation culture combined with knowledge capabilities that are constantly growing and expanding leads to the constant evolution of new ideas, product development and customer service (Cavusgil & Knight, 2004).
Grant (1996) identifies that at the foundation of knowledge integration is the specialised knowledge that individual members of the organisation possess. For example, at CingleVue, despite having a fairly small workforce, we have employees with specialist knowledge in the areas of research, programming, DevOps, networks/infrastructure, business analytics, quality assurance, user interface/experience design, marketing, customer service, human resources, and product and project management and support. The next layer of knowledge integration is the specialised tasks that employees perform. At CingleVue, these include activities such as performing literature reviews, writing research proposals, preparing marketing plans, information architecture, designing and building proofs of concepts, writing user stories and developing code, amongst others. These task-specific capabilities are then integrated into broader functional capabilities such as marketing, manufacturing, research and development and financial and performance management processes (Grant, 1996).
At the higher levels of knowledge integration, “are capabilities which require wide-ranging, cross-functional integration”, such as new product development (Grant, 1996, p. 377). Within CingleVue’s DevOps environment there is the need for development and operational teams to work closely together throughout the product development process. Clients and partners from different parts of the world collaborate with us to inform and improve our knowledge generation capabilities, which ultimately helps us to co-create solutions that meet current and future needs. This collaboration is particularly apparent with regard to the ongoing development of our Virtuoso Enterprise Learning and Instructional Support Platform.
The flow of knowledge within CingleVue can also be understood in terms of the knowledge-chain, which encompasses “the adaptability of an organization to an ever changing market” (Benjamins, Fensel & Gómez-Pérez, 1998, p. 5-10). External awareness is an organisation’s ability to understand how the market perceives the value of its products and services as well as how those markets can change in both direction and need. Alongside internal awareness (the understanding that an organisation has of its skills and competencies), external awareness facilitates our discovery of successful markets (Harrington & Voehl, 2007). CingleVue International actively supports school districts within the United States of America and Australia and responds with agility to changing client needs. In addition, we are well positioned to serve new markets as educators across the globe seek to find better ways of responding to the complex and individual needs of students using an enterprise system.
At every stage of integration, CingleVue works to ensure that communication across countries and time zones is effective, in order to make sure that as a team, we “access the breadth and depth of functional knowledge pertinent to the product, and integrate that knowledge” (Grant, 1996, p. 377). Significantly, Olivier Lamotte and Ana Colovic found that a higher level of education across staff is important for supporting early internationalisation. CingleVue has a multicultural workforce characterised by high levels of training and education, where the skills needed to “reach out to foreign markets” (Lamotte & Colovic, 2015, para. 49) are present. Overall, the diverse and specialised knowledge(s) of employees are brought together to continuously support the development of strong and effective organisational capabilities within an international context.