Sharing Knowledge

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So, what happens when you hire one of the big consulting firms?

One of the things that they sell people on is the knowledge capital inherent within the organization.  Your project is probably not new to them as someone has likely done something similar before.  Being able to tap into that global knowledge base is one of the key selling points of the big guys.  But how often do they capitalize on it?

When I was with Accenture back in the 90’s they had the world’s largest installation of Lotus Notes.  More people, more data than anyone else in the world.  We shared data all over the place. I needed information about a project, darn near anywhere in the world, I could find it.  Projects that were considered very successful had large amounts of data available.  Those that were less successful had less data.  I was able to look at technical documentation for projects all over the world and adapt them to a local customer.  The main purpose was to share information and allow someone in, say Edmonton, to gain the knowledge and insight from someone in Scotland.  It was actually quite successful.

That was 20 years ago.  A lot has changed since then, most notably with the technology, but what hasn’t changed is the fact that the sharing of a wide range of knowledge, from people all over the world, is what differentiates the good consulting companies from the lackluster consulting companies.  Perhaps one of the questions that should be asked of any company that you are looking to hire is:

How do you share knowledge within your organizaiton?

Listen to what the various firms say in terms of how they share knowledge.  And pay attention because how they share knowledge is how you need to think about sharing knowledge within your organization.  Even a firm you’re not going to hire will have valuable information for you.  They may end up having the best information sharing methods, but still fall short in being able to meet your needs in other places.  When you hire one of the big guys you are looking for someone who can say “Yeah, we’ve done this before and here’s how we did it”.  Unless you are a leading edge company and in the government we’re so far back the edge isn’t even visible, in which case the firm should say “We’ve done something similar before”.

And this doesn’t just apply to the application or system you want built.  A good consulting firm will look at implementing better development practices so that the application can be delivered faster than expected.  Why would firm do this?  Deliver faster?  Because we all know that there are going to be change requests.  By being able to deliver faster the firm can handle the change requests and potentially deliver the final product on the original schedule.

You see, it’s in the best interest of the consulting firm to have you view them as a partner.  if they view you as dinner a source of income then there is no sense of collaboration, of working together for a common goal.  And without that the project team suffers, the vision suffers, the business unit suffers and, ultimately, the customer suffers.  The government is in this for the long haul.  They don’t need people who view them as a couple of percentage points on their balance sheet.  They want, they need, firms who are committed to partnering with them.  To helping them out.  And how they share knowledge internally is an indicator of whether or not they are willing to share knowledge with them.

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