Challenges To Knowledge Management At Katzenbach Partners

Katzenbach Partners LLC is a management consulting firm.  The firm’s competitive advantage is its people, their knowledge and experience.  At the time of the case, the firm aimed to have an annual growth rate of 25% with 500 employees in eight international offices.  Katzenbach’s knowledge management approach needed to provide the functions of: connecting firm members, managing documents and fostering intellectual capital development.  The firm’s growth presented Katzenbach with both organizational and technical challenges to their knowledge management approach.

Organizational Challenges: Historically,  knowledge management at Katzenbach relied almost entirely on each employee’s network of colleagues. In the early years of the company, due to the firm’s small size, this was both efficient and effective.  Each consultant was able to maintain a fairly accurate mental map of the various projects and areas of expertise of other consultants.  However, as Katzenbach grew into an international firm, its organizational challenges to knowledge management grew as well.  The sheer number of consultants, in multiple locations, lessened the likelihood of firm members maintaining a well-rounded network of colleagues for information exchanges.

Technical Challenges: On average, each consultant annually created 44 PowerPoint documents plus numerous other documents.  Each document went through many rounds of edits.  A “shared folder” approach was used to manage these documents.  Barring sensitive company or client information, anything in the shared folders was accessible to the entire firm.  Using shared folders was not a requirement, so it was used to varying degrees.  Access to Katzenbach’s network and shared drive was difficult to achieve for consultants working at client sites and on airplanes. Consequently, the most recent version of a document could often be found in an email instead of on the shared drive.

The different industries the firm served: healthcare, financial services and energy, had dedicated areas on the firm’s intranet site, The HUB. When Google search was rolled out to The HUB, it allowed firm members to search the contents of the shared drive.  However, the results were not considered useful.  A Google search of the shared drive for “organizational design” generated 941 results.

The organizational and technical challenges to knowledge management the firm faced are not unique to large firms like Katzenbach.  Katzenbach came up with a knowledge management solution using Enterprise 2.0 technologies integrated into their, The HUB, intranet site.  A hybrid approach of formal and informal document classification was used. The formal approach involved classifying documents in a predefined way.  The informal approach involved using tags where anyone in the firm could tag a document in a way that was most useful to them.  All tags were public to the firm so one document could be tagged by multiple users allowing for a much more complete picture of the document’s  contents than if its tags were only generated by the author.