December 06, 2000, 11:54 AM —
IN FEBRUARY 1999, the global public relations company Hill & Knowlton (H&K)
came to a grim conclusion: Its knowledge-sharing system had nothing worth sharing.
The organization was relying on an intranet that was designed to handle only
certain types of internal information, such as staff bios and case studies, that were
submitted in rigid templates. Unformatted content found in e-mail or research files
couldn't make it onto the site. Moreover, the system depended on employees to
voluntarily submit and update information, which they rarely did. As a result,
employees seldom used the system. The company's most important resource -- the wisdom
nearly 2,000 PR professionals in 34 countries -- went untapped.
So the organization charged Ted Graham, H&K's worldwide director of knowledge
management (KM) services, with the huge task of building a system that could capture
all the company's internal knowledge, combined with helpful outside knowledge, like
industry news from the Web and e-mail communications with clients, and make it
available to employees at the click of a mouse. "We wanted to create one-stop shopping
for [all kinds of knowledge] rather than having to go to four or five different places
for all the things you need," says Graham.
Graham has spent the past year putting together hK.net, a secure extranet that
enables employees to share knowledge with their counterparts all over the world. Better
yet, clients can also post and access information.
Developed hand in hand with Intraspect Software of Los Altos, Calif., hK.net is a
password-protected website that gives both employees and clients access to internal and
external storehouses of information. Users log on directly from their browser and see
an Hill & Knowlton news ticker at the top. Underneath, they can open one of
several "cabinets" to access information by area or region. There's also a "News You
Can Use" cabinet with company and industry news, as well as a toolkit containing
administrative information, case studies and the "HK Directory," a frequently updated
staff listing with links to biographies. The site also features "channels" for clients
that contain budget information, e-mail archives, schedules and work-in-progress
documents relevant to their accounts. Employees can contribute to a particular channel
only if they're on that team, and clients cannot access other clients' channels.