Top tips: Making a difference in professional services KM

This brief article by Simon Atkinson, Chief Knowledge Officer at Ipsos, highlights important considerations for making a difference while working in knowledge management. Ipsos is a global research and consulting firm.

One of the things that is immediately apparent to anyone starting out on a knowledge management mission is the very wide range of territory that KM initiatives cover:

  • You can focus on knowledge transfer, to ensure your organisation is really capturing the know-how that it has accumulated over the years
  • Then there are the lessons learned initiatives that many organisations have put in place in order to document and take action, particularly when things go wrong. Construction firms for example often have initiatives in these areas
  • Many organisations, particularly in the consultancy field, have included desk research services in their programme, for example to support big pitches
  • Others have developed detailed project databases, enabling colleagues to search what has been done for client x or y. Some sectors, particularly in the legal field, have gone further and digitalised much of their catalogue of previous work – enabling the relevant material to be easily searchable
  • The KM textbook says that informal knowledge transfer is important. This can range from making good use of Yammer to building a bespoke enterprise-wide system to facilitate the sharing of information

One thing that is of course clear is that you can’t do all of the above at once. Indeed, some of the above may not actually be appropriate for your organisation and the people who work there. 


Think about focus, purpose and context

Our own experience taking on a new KM mission in the market research industry has seen Ipsos develop a nuanced and realistic sense of how to go about things, even though we had a temptation at the beginning to try to do a bit of everything and see how things go. Here are some initial reflections on what seems to be important when developing a KM programme:

  1. Don’t try to take on too many projects: you need to focus on doing one or two things well, get people using whatever it is you are offering, and move from there.
  2. Never stop thinking about why you exist and who your end clients are: taking your eye off the ball here will see you lose relevance. Quickly.
  3. Take the time to really think about the engine that lies behind what you are trying to do. This covers both the technology solution you are using, but also the operators of that technology. Trained KM professionals are absolutely essential here, literate in the world of tagging and taxonomy.  They will help you lay careful foundations for something which works. 


Simon will be speaking more about this topic in his case study session 'A new vision for knowledge' – notes from a professional services business at Knowledge Management 2018 as part of the KM Summit.