Andersen’s Knowledge Space

PDM was invited to sit in on a recent edition of the exclusive Ark Group conferences ‘Developing an Effective Knowledge Management Intranet.’ We report here on an illuminating presentation of the Arthur Andersen* approach to knowledge management and Intranet deployment.

According to Michel Meyer, Arthur Andersen (AA) has one of the largest Lotus Notes networks in the world and its experience in the field goes back over 15 years - before knowledge management or Intranets were even though of. AA works along the lines of a three dimensional matrix of communities. These group workers geographically, by discipline and by industry sector.

Knowledge Space

AA’s Knowledge Space Portal (KSP) reflects this matrix organization and leverages intranet technology to allow these internal communities to communicate. The basic idea is to ‘learn local and share global.’ The portal offers simple, effective tools to effect such global sharing - of knowledge and best practices. Portal home pages are expert-authored, but users on engagements can submit content through a globally-available ‘contribute’ button. Such submissions are published in draft form before certification.

Intellectual capital

Logging on to the KSP, one is met with an entreaty to speak! - to explore and share AA’s intellectual capital. Search is possible through SQL Server-based Lotus Notes, but some AA communities have developed Thesaurus-based text searching. The knowledge base population was described as patchy - reflecting the difficulty of getting consultants to stop and capture knowledge gained on an engagement. But the 15 years of AA best practices have made up a substantial knowledge base, such that the KSP is more of a structured front end to the AA content, rather than a demonstration of the latest bells and whistles. Best practices are available through a set of hyper-linked documents. AA is ‘activating the knowledge pyramid’ by developing more best practices for its communities. Studies of usage patterns has allowed several experts to be identified.

Knowledge capture

Some 40-60 people are involved full time in writing for the KSP. There is a natural tension between work on an engagement, and developing the knowledge base. But as users see the benefits of the KSP, they are more likely to contribute. AA offer incentives to contributors - such as a mention in the annual job review rating. Overall KSP responsibility is shared - ‘no one is responsible for this lovely organic mess!’ A bad previous experience (Andersen Online) means that AA no longer believes in the dictatorship of a global Chief Knowledge Officer.

* Since this presentation, Arthur Andersen has become Accenture. We have preferred to keep the old terminology for this article.

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