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Yum Brands' Recipe for Global Collaboration

When Yum Brands set out three years ago to develop a global know-how-sharing framework to step up its ability to exchange information about best practices, the $11.3 billion restaurant company knew it had to build technology to let employees easily find, share and study corporate data.

Yum, which owns or franchises nearly 38,000 KFC, Taco Bell, Long John Silver's, A&W All-American and Pizza Hut restaurants, wanted to help its global workforce exchange ideas that would lead to profitable new products and operational savings, says Dickie Oliver, vice president of IT at the company.

"We're making pizza, tacos and chicken all over the planet. We need to have a structure to allow our collective know-how to be seamlessly shared," Oliver says. He hopes Yum's two-year-old collaboration system, dubbed iChing, will become the default work environment for corporate employees. Getting people to use the system, however, takes a combination of IT, policy and culture change.

Companies collect tons of data about their customers and products, but technology and cultural obstacles can prevent them from getting the full value out of it, says John Poulin, director and principal solution architect at Huron Consulting Group. One common problem: Employees simply don't know where to find the information they need.

Make it Easy IChing is meant to solve this problem. Built using Jive Software's Social Business Software, it includes wikis, blogs, meeting minutes, project plans and internal websites, along with various kinds of data. Employees create profiles in iChing that display their professional and personal interests, and they can connect with global colleagues based on those interests as well as their job functions, brands or location. These capabilities speed up communication, Oliver says, which helps employees vet ideas faster.

Forcing staff to populate iChing with their content would have been time-consuming and inconvenient. Instead, employees are tagging items-120,000 so far-where they reside, whether on laptops or on shared severs, so that colleagues can find them using enterprise search tools from Coveo. Product launch plans and other sensitive material may be designated "private" and viewable only by a subset of employees, while discussions on best practices might be tagged "open."

Current topics on iChing include Yum's plans to expand this year in France, India and Russia, and results from testing a variety of breakfast foods at KFC and Taco Bell. Meanwhile, Oliver plans to add applications and features to iChing that would make it a must-visit destination. In the works, for example, is a dashboard for managers, which would bring together several streams of information about employees, such as data that shows what training they've received.

IChing has fueled measurable business gains. Krushers, a line of frozen beverages at KFC, for example, started in Australia. After a group of managers dedicated to beverages used iChing to discuss Krushers' success and how it could be tweaked to suit local tastes, KFC stores in India launched their own version. "The concept was transportable. iChing got that happening," Oliver says. "We lift big ideas out of one geographic area and transport the idea to another."

Follow Senior Editor Kim S. Nash on Twitter: @knash99.

Read more about knowledge management (km) in CIO's Knowledge Management (KM) Drilldown.


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