How Consultants Should Manage Knowledge

Back in 1999, Morten Hansen, Nitin Nohria, and Thomas Tierney drew our attention to the process management consultants go through to manage knowledge. Although technology has largely changed this landscape, their fundamental ideas are still relevant and largely forgotten in today’s enterprise.

As a consultant, you’re relying on one thing: knowledge. If you aren’t able to leverage existing consultants and their ideas, then you’ll quickly fall behind. Beginning in the 90’s, C-Level executives began making an investment in knowledge management. Through extensive research, interviews, and case studies, this article tells us the main strategies a firm can take.

In general, a consultant had two options: codification strategy or a personalization strategy:

Codification Strategy

“Knowledge is carefully codified and stored in databases, where it can be accessed and used easily by anyone in the company.”

Personalization Strategy

“Knowledge is closely tied to the person who developed it and is shared mainly through direct person-to-person contacts. The chief purpose of computers at such companies is to help people communicate knowledge, not to store it.”

One is a repository of knowledge for the consulting firm to refer to. The other is for real-time person-to-person communication.

Codification vs Personalization

In the HBR article, we are told to implement an 80-20 split between the two. 80% on one strategy, with 20% on the other. The type of service your offering, and how you approach your clients on the day-to-day will determine which strategy wins the majority.

If you attempt to master both, you’ll find trouble:

“I have been using a particular consulting company for over a decade now. One of the main reasons I have used them so regularly is because they have intimate knowledge of my company and our industry. The firm’s partners who have worked with me also know my style and my strengths and weaknesses. The advice I have gotten from them has been sensitive to our unique needs. Recently, though, I have found that they are trying to push cookie-cutter solutions. It’s almost as if they are simply changing the names on the same set of presentations. While some of their advice is useful, I am not sure if that’s enough. Frankly, I expect more—and they sure as hell have not reduced their rates.” - CEO of a major U.S. company

It’s that hard balance between authenticity and automation. An organization upwards of 1000 employees requires recycled ideas. At the same time, you’d think they would be able to communicate efficiently to add a human touch that is unique to that specific client.

When we talk about managing knowledge, we’re speaking to not only managing it internally, but also extending that knowledge to the public, whether that be the general public or your clientele. The flow of information inside a consulting firm needs to be fast and efficient. In the same vein, that information needs to be governed as the type of audience shifts to the external to build new leads through content marketing.

In 2017, we can now document real time communication through platforms where they can be stored and reused. Our dependence on technology has forced our hand in blending codification and personalization together into a cohesive strategy. In the end, they both complement each other. Codification gives us a bank of resources in which to spark real time conversation. Personalization creates the very ideas that need to be captured and stored to be drawn upon again in similar conversations.

Information and knowledge are opening up to a bigger audience. As we know, clutter overwhelms consumers where they find hundreds of articles related to the same thing. Consultants need to share and curate the ones that matter into one destination where people can collaborate and engage with one another.

Looking for more information on how Pressly can help you manage knowledge? Click the link below.