H&K's worldwide advisory group -- an executive committee made
up of practice leaders and office managers who meet biennially
to tackle long-range issues affecting the company -- met in
February 1999 to address the issue of knowledge management.
Feedback from employees indicated that H&K's intranet was fallow
because its data was outdated, irrelevant and largely
inaccurate. Employees complained that it was useless for
anything other than looking up biographies of other employees to
figure out who'd be good for a new project. Even then, the bios
were so out-of-date -- many belonged to employees who'd left
the company as much as two years earlier -- that workers
didn't trust the system to handle even this minimal function.
The group considered trying to revamp the existing intranet, but its creators had
long since left the company. Building from scratch offered better odds of
success. "Anyone brought into the role as leader of the old intranet would have so much
baggage to deal with that they'd never succeed," says Graham.
Ultimately, the group, which was led by Tony Burgess-Webb, the newly appointed
global Internet practice leader for H&K, identified three "buckets" of knowledge
integral to a KM system: H&K's internal knowledge of its own products and services,
external knowledge such as outside research, and economic forecasts and client
knowledge, including account activity, templates and budgets. The group decided a
portal-type intranet would best fill these needs. By June 1999 Graham, then responsible
for KM services in the company's Canadian offices, was appointed as the worldwide
director of KM services and was charged with finding a vendor.
The organization settled on Intraspect's Salsa application, built on the Intraspect
Knowledge Seerver (IKS) platform, for its intranet/extranet. The company was
particularly impressed by IKS/Salsa's ability to capture and archive e-mail discussions
between H&K employees and their clients. "Our e-mail volumes had quadrupled since 1996,
growing to the point where our real corporate memory lies in people's e-mail folders,"
Intraspect's system lets an employee or client send or archive e-mails on hK.net by
simply adding an account-specific hK.net e-mail address to the routing list. When
someone sends an e-mail to everyone on a project team, the system
automatically adds the hK.net address to the distribution list, and the e-mail goes
into a client-specific e-mail repository. Each e-mail becomes indexed by subject and
includes attachments. The archives are searchable by phrase or keyword.