In 2000, Sainsbury's launched a business transformation program to move the UK supermarket chain toward a “faster, simpler, and together” approach to customer service. Jamie Oliver, the Naked Chef, was one of the main spokespersons. I was fortunate to be involved in a portal and knowledge management effort to support this transformation that began about a year later and has provided some significant results. Jamie continues as a major spokesperson and theme as evolved to “making life taste better.”
Operating within Connect, the new enterprise portal infrastructure, Sainsbury’s created a series of functionally aligned knowledge management sub-portals in such areas as product development, call centers, retail stores, supply chain, etc. The product development group served as the pilot, starting an “Idea Bank” to improve the new product development process. Each one of these functional initiatives had a business case driven by performance within the function. Connect was both the portal name and a branded concept promoting collaboration. This common infrastructure allowed for communication across the functions to better enable innovation through enhanced knowledge sharing across the enterprise.
For example, Careline is a service that allows customers to make inquiries on Sainsbury’s products, recipes, and health issues. The call center employees have increased accessed to FAQs to better answer these questions and other groups, such as senior management, have access to the call logs to better understand customer concerns to drive strategic directions. The call center reps also have access to these logs to personalize their responses to new inquiries.
This KM Review article provides more detail on how Sainsbury's used knowledge management and the new portal to reduce the time to market for new products, help employees discover new possibilities for collaboration, and allow staff to respond more flexibly to customer needs.