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How EY Used Knowledge Champions to Change Its KM Culture

APQC talked to Darrin Brogan of EY about how culture change in KM is a daily challenge. Brogan is content strategy, quality, assurance, and measurement leader for enterprise content in EY’s knowledge organization. He’ll be delivering a presentation titled “Don’t Wait for Content: Using a Targeted Knowledge Collection Approach” at APQC’s 2014 Knowledge Management Conference on April 10-11 in Houston, Texas.

APQC: After years of using open submissions to collect internal knowledge assets, EY has shifted its content strategy toward targeted knowledge collection. What led to this shift?

DB: Multiple factors led to this shift. In a firm the size of EY (175,000 people), it is very difficult to establish a pervasive knowledge sharing culture and equally difficult to ensure that the highest quality content is shared. We also recognized that, when knowledge sharing is everyone’s responsibility, then it’s really no one’s responsibility. By identifying specific, targeted approaches to knowledge collection and leveraging the firm’s subject matter resources in key service areas, we were able to better identify the best-of-the-best content and leverage a finite number of individuals in the firm to enable the harvesting process.

APQC: One of the reasons your program was successful was that you changed the process and the culture by engaging content suppliers. What difficulties did you encounter changing the KM culture at EY?

DB: This is something we continue to struggle with every day. The best way we’ve found to change the culture is to gain the trust and sponsorship of business-unit leaders and to ensure content strategies are tied into business priorities. Similarly, our connections with business leaders have allowed us to better identify knowledge champions within the business. Our knowledge champion networks are essential to driving a stronger knowledge sharing culture. If all the messaging comes from the knowledge organization, eventually the business will tune us out, but if we effectively coordinate our efforts with knowledge champions and tie our objectives to business strategy, we are able to enhance the KM culture.

APQC: How do you identify and repair gaps in your content?

DB: We do our best to measure the effectiveness of our content strategy in several ways. We have a globally centralized KM function, so we are able to conduct content inventories across our various community networks and/or product types.

APQC: Knowledge submissions have increased 160% this year at EY, and overall knowledge submissions have increased more than tenfold since the initial launch of program in 2010. What was the key to making this happen?

DB: The most important factor has been the 2010 globalization of the knowledge function. Prior to this change, we had many duplicate processes, inconsistencies in standards and policies, and a general lack of coordination across geographies, all of which contributed to confusion within the business. For example, prior to globalization, there were 50+ different tools & processes for capturing credentials within the firm. Now we have one.

APQC: You have focused on reducing the amount of time spent contributing knowledge while increasing the amount of knowledge in your collection. What was your biggest hurdle to achieving those goals?

DB: Targeting the right people with the right content. As referenced above, making everyone in the firm responsible for knowledge submissions is not a strategy, nor does it generate a steady flow of content submissions.

APQC: Finally, you talk about getting employees to be proactive about submitting internally generated content. Passively hoping the right content will come is not a successful strategy. What motivational tactics work best?

DB: In a professional services firm, there is no single motivational tactic for increasing submissions. People are not averse to sharing knowledge. The whole “knowledge is power” concept, whereby people refuse to share for fear of losing their “power,” is not the reality I see. People don’t share because they don’t have time, because the process is not simple enough and/or is not connected to their daily business activities, and because they do not have the context for how their content will be used. If you ask someone for a proposal because we are trying to win a pursuit on a similar project in a different part of the world, they will share it, but if you ask them to share because it’s the right thing to do, it’s not going to happen.