So I have worked in a number of consulting firms doing KM roles and other things.
I think saying that “consulting firms are good at knowledge management” needs unpacking.
Yes, it is true that consulting firms:
- have people named knowledge managers
- have knowledge management systems
- promote those in proposals to their potential customers
- win MAKE awards
- in some ways, you could say that knowledge is what they sell.
Consulting firms have traditionally been partnerships. And partnerships tend to skimp on capital investment (because it means less profit for partners). Often you find the technology systems within consulting firms are out of date and far worse than what they recommend to their clients.
Likewise, the key metric is billable hours. That means that there is often a tension between doing something that builds the business (like KM) and something that directly yields revenue. And the latter generally wins.
And as partnerships, consulting firms tend to operate in a tribal manner - there will be a senior partner managing a practice area with a bunch of people reporting to them. And knowledge sharing within that group will be good. But it will be inconsistent and opportunistic between groups.
This means that even getting basic information (“where have we implemented Adobe EM in FMCG companies?”) can be more challenging than it should.
I would say that of all industries, consulting is the one where the gap between what is sold to the outside world in terms of KM and what actually occurs within is the largest.
Which is not to say that good KM work does not occur within consulting firms.
It’s also worth thinking about the life cycle of knowledge in consulting firms. These firms generally need to refresh their offerings every 2-5 years (because after a while, everyone has implemented SAP). So typically, you don’t care about what was done 5 years ago (esp. given you may have an annual staff turnover of 10-20%).
That’s different to engineering and asset-intensive businesses - where your assets will hopefully last for decades and where you should be maintaining knowledge of them.
In short: What consulting firms do KM-wise is shaped by the fundamentals of their business. If you are not a consulting firm, spend some time thinking about the differences in your fundamentals.
+61 423 784 504