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Case Study Review Of Accenture

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Case Study Review of Accenture's

Global Knowledge Management System

Joseph M. Mitchell

University of Maryland University College


Accenture is one of the world's largest management consultancies, employing over 75,000 people in 48 countries with net revenues in excess of 11.8 billion (Paik & Choi, 2005). The company operates in a highly competitive global business environment with firms such as McKinsey and Boston Consulting Group and, in the area of information technology (IT) outsourcing, competes with companies like IBM, CSC and EDS (Paik & Choi, 2005). As a major global player, Accenture's business environment has also been transformed by contemporary shifts in the global economy. The collapse of the 'dotcoms' and the economic slowdown associated with 9/11 have created a more challenging environment for management consultancy and as a result Accenture has attempted to evolve their business structure through the use of knowledge management (KM).

Accenture considers knowledge, especially KM, to be a core capability for achieving competitive advantage, spending more than $500 million on IT and staff's over 500 people to facilitate their KM system (Paik & Choi, 2005). Analytical knowledge, or knowledge and intelligence that is drawn from the experiences of particular client assignments, is one of the most important forms of knowledge for the company. Whereas previously this kind of knowledge may simply have been collected and added to a relatively static database or library, Accenture now concentrates on more highly skilled and operationally experienced KM professionals interpreting, assessing and classifying this kind of knowledge (Paik & Choi, 2005).

Traditionally, KM had been sponsored and managed by industry groups, service lines or geographic regions that resulted in a somewhat segregated approach (Smith, 1998). This meant that project teams might be contacted by a number of different KM groups from different business units or regions, often seeking similar or related information. After a number of years of growth, the company soon realized that it had a large but relatively unwieldy set of databases and the next phase involved a long process of editing, refining and reclassifying the knowledge onto the knowledge exchange (KX, Paik & Choi, 2005). The KX is the heart of Accenture's KM program, housing over 7,000 individual data bases that are subdivided into various groups and topics (Paik & Choi, 2005). KX's services provide a constant monitoring of internal clients' usage of, and satisfaction with KM services, customer satisfaction, the volume of repeat customers, past projects and past proposals (Paik & Choi, 2005). The objective of the KX data was to help managers reduce planning time, minimize risk, and improve the quality of the client deliverable products.

Harnessing and adding value to knowledge is one of the key areas where Accenture's KM program has attempted to develop new capabilities. According to the managers surveyed from Accenture the key to understanding the contemporary role of knowledge in businesses is to understand that it is relevant information that can be used to quickly act upon, in contrast to the more traditional methods of handling business information as a guarded secret that is stored and protected by information gatekeepers (Paik & Choi, 2005). This also implies that the key to knowledge management is the rapid accessibility and timely availability of knowledge. The current KM model relies on everybody within the company, especially key project management individuals and market unit knowledge managers, being prepared to make time to discuss their findings, experiences and insights and commit to contributing to knowledge databases (Paik & Choi, 2005). In order for this to work successfully, Accenture needed to create a 'knowledge sharing culture' within the organization.

In order to achieve a more developed utilization of knowledge, Accenture continues to spend over $250 million on research and development while employing highly skilled and experienced KM professionals who increasingly come from a consulting and industry backgrounds (Paik & Choi, 2005). Accenture has been able to use fewer staff in these roles partly because technological improvements have meant that there is less need for manual intervention (Paik & Choi, 2005). Nevertheless, it was conceded that staffing this analytical knowledge management function with experienced and relatively senior staff represented a major resource commitment by the company to KM. As a result of the scale of investment, Accenture has been perceived as a KM leader in industry.


The case study maintains that despite Accenture's significant efforts and vast resources, the company was unable to effectively harness and transfer knowledge across its global organization (Paik & Choi, 2005). The authors and I both concur that the heart of the organization's problem had little to do with the technology being used or the KM professionals involved, but rather can be traced to a few very critical elements that appeared to have been overlooked in the firm's global KM strategy (Paik & Choi, 2005). I further believe that the company's "one global firm" vision did not adequately address the cultural and motivational complexities associated with KM in a global context and failed to create the 'knowledge sharing culture' that would have insured global participation required for this venture to be completely successful. The case study contends that the major shortcomings in Accenture's global KM practices can be broken down into three areas: lack of appreciation for regional knowledge, inadequate support for challenges at the local office and insufficient allowances for local control (Paik & Choi, 2005).

In my opinion, the most critical shortcoming in Accenture's managing of intellectual capital and knowledge is that the regional offices were never successfully integrated into the KM application, thus not becoming a part of the larger whole. One of the Asian managers expressed this view when he wrote "knowledge management is a symbol of being one global firm...If Accenture is one global firm, it would be represented in how we share knowledge across offices and regions...Otherwise, we



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