Do consultants reuse their research findings for similar clients, and if so, how do they document their insights/findings (i.e. do they use knowledge management tools or manage the research in some other way)?

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Do consultants reuse their research findings for similar clients, and if so, how do they document their insights/findings (i.e. do they use knowledge management tools or manage the research in some other way)?

Hello! Thank you for your questions of do consultants reuse their research findings for similar clients, and if so, how do they document their insights and findings. I understand that you are looking for information on whether consulting companies use knowledge management tools and if so, which ones. You would also like to know if they do not use knowledge management tools, how do they document their insights. The short version is that yes, consultants do reuse their research findings for other purposes, but the way in which they document their findings is highly dependent upon the company, mostly because the best knowledge management systems are developed from within and made a part of the culture. You will find my methodology and a deep dive of my research below.

Methodology

To find an answer to your question, I started with targeted Google searches that helped me hone in on whether or not consultants reuse their research findings. Although I was unable to find a direct answer to your question, I did find evidence that in general, consulting companies do store their research insights by using a variety of systems and procedures that allow them to recall their previous knowledge for future projects. After I determined that consultants do in fact reuse their research findings, I began by attempting to find out how consulting companies manage their knowledge to determine what tools they use, if any. This was trickier because most large consulting companies do not use 3rd party tools because they prefer to develop their own. In this way, companies can create a system that is naturally ingrained in the corporate culture. Meaning, they can incorporate informal systems and procedures into a management system that can be seamlessly integrated into existing structures.

That being said, I dug deeper and uncovered some information on what systems McKinsey, Bain, Ernst & Young, KPMG, Deloitte, BCG, and PwC use to manage their knowledge. Again, these big consulting companies typically use proprietary software systems that have been developed internally, but they might be useful for your understanding of how bigger consulting companies manage their knowledge so that it is easily accessible for future uses.

Finally, I provide you with a list of the top 10 knowledge management software products that smaller consulting companies are using. These are 3rd party products that allow smaller companies to store and organize their information in a meaningful manner. I do not go into depth on these products because that would push this request out of scope, but I wanted to at least give you the links to these products so that you can look into them further, or submit a subsequent Wonder request and have us provide a competitive landscape of the top products for you.

Findings

In short, the answer to your first question of do consultants reuse their research findings for similar clients is yes. According to Consultor, most consulting companies gather material "that the firm can use to enrich future business proposals or to provide food for thought on a new project." Essentially, the research they conduct is distilled down to the information that can be reused without violating any confidentiality agreements and stored in some manner that will allow future employees to access it for new clients looking for similar information. In fact, engaging in knowledge management is a responsibility given to all employees at most consulting firms. As an example, Fanny Stosskopf, Knowledge Manager at L.E.K. Consulting, said enriching the firm's knowledge management is "additional work that we ask our teams to take part in, and which has become increasingly complex over the years, notably to respect the confidentiality owed to our customers."

This article highlights one of the main ways larger consulting companies manage knowledge, which is they hire a dedicated knowledge manager to coordinate the processes of gathering, storing, and sharing knowledge. Fanny Stosskopf's job at L.E.K. Consulting, for instance, is to give the firm's teams ownership of the knowledge management process and to train "new consultants to seek out information."

Hiring knowledge managers is something all consulting companies I researched have in common. The various roles and a summary of responsibilities for each of the consulting companies examined here are below.

Bain's Knowledge Specialists "coordinate and manage the global or regional capture and sharing of Bain’s knowledge base within the relevant practice area" and "capture case-related information from client development and case team efforts into Bain’s global intranet platform. This includes the capture and processing of case summaries, proposals, case examples, capability and product insights, tools and templates, as well as the meta-tagging of case information to facilitate user searching."

BCG also uses the term "Knowledge Management Specialists" who handle "general Knowledge Curation activities, such as identifying, extracting and sanitizing meaningful content across various document repositories and sharing it back with the broader BCG community."

Deloitte has a Head of Knowledge Management position whose job is to connect their employees "to the content and information that helps our salesforce create and sell distinctive experiences for our clients" by "curating project experiences, capturing and connecting expertise, sustaining networks within and across teams, and enabling the leverage of third-party content."

Ernst & Young's Knowledge Managers "focus on developing and driving the implementation of knowledge strategy...to ensure the re-use of shareable knowledge" and "identify, evaluate, and capture campaign content, including proposals, credentials, and deliverables and disseminate via a single knowledge source."

KPMG's Manager of Knowledge Management has the primary duties of developing "content strategies and drive knowledge sharing behaviors, KM processes and solutions" and creating "solutions to help ensure that project teams can access important knowledge assets."

McKinsey hires Knowledge Consultants that "serve as content thought leaders to client service teams and clients, providing functional topic, industry or geographic expertise beyond that of a consultant."

PwC has a Knowledge Management department and regularly recruits for senior associates whose responsibilities include "collecting, analyzing, documenting and management of data and research publications."

In addition, all seven of the consulting companies profiled here have multiple knowledge managers or specialists for various lines of business. Their systems of knowledge management, which will be discussed next, are reliant upon individuals whose job it is to ensure maximum utilization of the knowledge management procedures put in place.

KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS

The systems used by consulting firms for knowledge management purposes are varied and typically highly customized for each company to better mesh with their corporate cultures. In fact, Paul Millard, former Research Analyst with McKinsey said, "It would be silly for another company to copy McKinsey's format. What made it successful is that it developed and evolved with the company." PwC notes a similar approach in its knowledge management system, saying, "PwC by its own nature is a fantastic knowledge-sharing organisation that depends on person-to-person connections. We swap knowledge on a one-to-one personal basis at the drop of a hat. Now if that is our culture then it would be crazy to introduce a system that did not exploit it." As such, it is important to realize that while each major consulting firm does have a repository for knowledge and information, their systems and processes are all very different. I was able to find the following information about each major consulting company discussed here.

BAIN

There are not many details available on the software or platform Bain uses to manage its knowledge; however, there is information on its Bain Capability Centre, which is the name for the group that assists Bain & Company's global consulting teams. Included in this group is the Knowledge Management Team, whose responsibilities are to collaborate "with Bain's global industry and capability practice areas to help front-line teams benefit from "best of Bain" content and expertise." Bain apparently uses proprietary knowledge management software, as job postings refer to Bain's "global intranet platform."

BCG

Similarly, BCG does not reveal the details of its knowledge management software or platform. Hiring announcements make mention of SharePoint and other collaborative software, as well as the need to publish final output on "knowledge-related portals." Like Bain, BCG has a dedicated knowledge team that is comprised of "experts in shaping and sharing BCG's institutionalized knowledge with case teams and clients."

DELOITTE

Deloitte's job postings mention experience with SharePoint as a skill necessary for its Head of Knowledge Management, which indicates this software is a main component of their knowledge management system. In addition, a case study shows how Deloitte Digital used PBWorks Online Team Collaboration software that has "become a dynamic knowledge base for our organization, even though the original project we bought it for is now over." According to Gregory Culpin, Deloitte also uses Elium, a "collaboration platform for knowledge-centric organisations" to manage and share information throughout the global company. Finally, research conducted by Daniel E. O'Leary indicated Deloitte uses Yammer as its collaboration tool.

ERNST & YOUNG

Ernst & Young uses an internal knowledge management platform known as "Discover." There is little information about this system, but in 2017, the company was named "one of the world's Most Admired Knowledge Enterprises by the KNOW Network," for the platform, which "provides instant access to information enabling EY people to share intelligence and insights quickly with clients and the market — fostering a seamless, secure knowledge exchange." They have been using this system since 2016 and the "portal has averaged 1.4 million views of content every month and has nearly 200,000 active users."

KPMG

KPMG is one of the two consulting companies researched here for which a case study on its enterprise-wide knowledge management system exists. The case study for KPMG was completed in the fall of 2016 and "some of the issues associated with KPMG’s knowledge management system and their recent adoption of social media for collaboration and knowledge management." It explains that with the hiring of Robert Armacost as U.S. and Global Head of Knowledge Management in 2007, the objective of the company's knowledge management became "to harness the knowledge of our people to help them deliver and create value for our clients." Armacost created a three-pillared approach toward knowledge management which were "content, connectivity, and culture."

At first, the primary tool for KPMG's knowledge management was SharePoint, and by 2011, the company had "over 8,000 SharePoint team sites that had been created for a range of activities, including
delivering services and sharing documents." Internal portals were also utilized as the "primary unifying access point for people, content, resources, and tools." In 2012, however, KPMG's knowledge management strategies shifted to social media and included all the traditional channels such as blogs, microblogs, and wikis. It also used Twitter extensively to connect with external clients. Internally, KPMG elected to use Yammer in some locations because they were already using the free version of it and chose to pilot tibbr in other locations because of its ability to be integrated with SharePoint. Eventually, though, KPMG chose tibbr as their enterprise-wide social media platform because they realized that "people will use free versions of social media unless there is an official version available in-house." They named the platform the "Hub," and among other functions, "users can ask questions of colleagues, follow colleagues, and remark on different publications."

MCKINSEY

As with other major consulting firms, McKinsey also has their own knowledge management system known as the McKinsey Knowledge Network. This company is unique in that it actually uses its vast knowledge database as a selling point for new clients. It touts its "global network of over 2,000 knowledge professionals" that work "alongside our consultants to effect lasting, positive change in client organizations, craft proposals for new engagements, develop new knowledge, and build proprietary assets." They not only have a dedicated website for their Knowledge Network, they also have separate knowledge websites for different lines of business. For example, McKinsey Panorama is a knowledge website for financial insights, McKinsey Finalta is a knowledge website for financial institution benchmarking and best practices, and McKinsey's Global Banking Pools is the "authoritative source for market sizes and trends." I was unable to find any specific information on the software used by McKinsey for knowledge management, but their job role descriptions for Knowledge Consultants and Researchers mentions a "growing knowledge portal of more than 50,000 documents that form the backbone of our firm’s knowledge management."

PWC

Although there are no specifics available on which software PwC uses for knowledge management, it appears that the company has shifted away from storing documents on databases because "it is difficult to encourage people to put things into databases on the off chance that someone might want to find it there." Instead, it has "shifted to a strategy that includes more collaboration." The company has been rumored to use Jive to facilitate collaboration across its global offices.

TOP 10 KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE PRODUCTS

To determine the top 10 knowledge management software products for smaller consulting groups, I used Capterra, a reputable software review site. The top 10 products have all received 5 out of 5 stars from reviewers and are in no particular order. Again, I have not gone into depth on these products, as doing so would push this research project out of scope. If you would like more information on these or any other specific knowledge management software products, please submit another request and wonder will be happy to help you with your request.

This software allows companies to "create fully customized help sites, knowledge bases, manuals, software documentation, and more."
Features: Cataloging/Categorization, Collaboration, Content Management, Data Management, Discussion Boards, Document Management, FAQ, Full Text Search, Self Service Portal, Self-Learning
Pricing: Starts at $79/month

2. Shelf
This software is designed to help companies "find, organize, and share your distributed team's most valuable content."
Features: Cataloging/Categorization, Collaboration, Content Management, Data Management, Discussion Boards, Document Management, FAQ, Full Text Search, Self Service Portal, Self-learning
Pricing: Starts at $0/month for up to four users, $49/month for up to eight users.

3. XWiki
This is open-source software that allows companies to create wikis for knowledge management. It is focused on "strengthening communication and efficient collaboration."
Features: Cataloging/Categorization, Collaboration, Content Management, Data Management, Discussion Boards, Document Management, FAQ, Full Text Search
Pricing: Starts at $10/month

This software is a Learning Management System and Knowledge Management System all in one. The platform "provides a modern way to create online learning courses, content, and custom microsites and distribute to your relevant audiences with ease."
Features: Cataloging/Categorization, Collaboration, Content Management, Data Management, Discussion Boards, Document Management, FAQ, Full Text Search, Guided Problem Solving, Self Service Portal, Self-Learning
Pricing: N/A, must call for quote

This software claims to be "a single place for all your work." Users can "share files, centralize communication, manage projects, review and mark up creative assets, and streamline processes all in the cloud."
Features: Brainstorming, Content Management, Cooperative Writing, Discussion Boards, Document Management, Group Calendars, Project Management, Synchronous Editing, Task Management, Version Control.
Pricing: Starts at $25/user/month

This software "organizes content to find information quickly." It uses SmartMatchPro, a proprietary algorithm that "suggests relevant experts and content to each person in real time based on their expertise, interests and actions."
Features: Cataloging/Categorization, Collaboration, Content Management, Data Management, Discussion Boards, Document Management, FAQ, Full Text Search, Guided Problem Solving, Self Service Portal, Self-Learning
Pricing: Starts at $0.50/user/month

This is a knowledge-sharing platform that allows users to "effectively request information and receive answers from the most capable resource." Designed to be used by both customers and employees as an answer center.
Features: Cataloging/Categorization, Collaboration, Content Management, Data Management, Discussion Boards, Document Management, FAQ, Guided Problem Solving, Self Service Portal
Pricing: Starts at $19/month

8. Auros
This software is a "fundamentally new approach to managing technical know-how." It converts "traditional reference libraries into Active Knowledge," which allows users to quickly find answers to their questions.
Features: Cataloging/Categorization, Collaboration, Content Management, Data Management, Discussion Boards, Document Management, FAQ, Full Text Search, Guided Problem Solving, Self Service Portal, Self-Learning
Pricing: N/A, must call for quote

9. Acknow
Acknow is a "cloud platform that saves your knowledge capital and transforms it into a wealth-generating asset." Companies can build both or either an internal and external knowledge base and users can access a news portal and engage in cross-communication collaboration.
Features: Cataloging/Categorization, Collaboration, Content Management, Data Management, Document Management, FAQ, Full Text Search, Guided Problem Solving, Self Service Portal, Self-Learning
Pricing: Starts at $20/month

This software allows companies to "simply organize and share... knowledge across all teams, customers and contact channels."
Features: Cataloging/Categorization, Collaboration, Content Management, Data Management, Discussion Boards, Document Management, FAQ, Full Text Search, Guided Problem Solving, Self Service Portal, Self-Learning
Pricing: Starts at $12/user/month

Conclusion

To wrap it up, consultants do reuse their research findings for similar clients, but most major consulting companies develop their own proprietary knowledge management systems internally. However, there are many knowledge management software products on the market that can help smaller consulting companies effectively manage their knowledge.

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