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KNOWLEDGE

MANAGEMENT MAGAZINE

Consultants
\MroPractice
andPreach
AnswerThink When Allan Frank and his colleagues set Oracle, Vastera and Sun Microsystems, AnswerThink's
out on their own, they were determined to core competencies include IT strategy, system inte-
relies
onKMto make KM central to the approach in their gration, process improvement, and database and ap-
new consulting company and to out-ma- plication development.
differentiate
itself neuver industry giants in the process."The In designing the company's knowledge architecture,
traditional Big 5 consulting model was- Frank, as chief technology officer, knewwhathe didn't
fromtheBig5 long term-playing to lose," according to want. "We don't use Lotus Notes. It is absolutely the
Frank. "The opportunity was tremendous." n'rong paradigm for knowledge management," he said.
As a former managingpartner for KPMG,Frankhad "PriceWaterhouseCoopers drank the Lotus Notes Kool-
beendeeplyinvolvedin knowledgemanagementde- Aid, and so didAndersen. lVhatwe have here is 10 times
velopmentat the Big5 flrm, but he sawadvantages
to more advanced than anything else I have seen."
building a new company Based on a tiered Web architecture and knowledge
from scratch on a knowl- management technology from DataWare, MindShare
edge foundation. employs a taxonomy consisting of six parallel, multi-
'At
all the other firms, dimensional information trees.The system is used to
knowledge management harvest insights gained from every client project, then
came long after the com- organize the knowledge to disseminate best practice
pany was established.But models and information on every business and tech-
with us you cannot sepa- nology challenge the company encounters.
rate the organization from "MindShare gives us a thick and ever-growing tree that
MindShare. It's baked into is not separate from our implementations," said Frank.
everlthing we do, and has
been designed to scale as Sharing the fruit
we grow," Frank said, refer- So in practice, according to Darrell Pope, director of
ring to the firm's integral PeopleSoftsolutions for AnswerThink, implementers
knowledge base. "Here we waste lesstime on tasks similar from one client to an-
have never had a different other. "PeopleSoftdelivers the guts ofthe application,
model." but there are always signiflcant pieces that you have to
Led by Frank, Ted Fer- develop. For example, once we develop a benefits in-
nandez and Ulysses Knotts, terface for Fidelity, we can reuse B0 to 90 percent of it
about 50 KPMG consultants on another engagement.And we can store the design
split from KPMG two years and the actual code objects in MindShare," he said
ago. They created Answer- "I've been at other consulting firms where we always
Think Consulting Group in talked about working'smarter,' but never really got
a
April of 1997,with head of- around to it. MindShare was one of the reasons I de- a
fices in Miami and a corpo- cided to move to AnswerThink," Pope added. '.E
o
rate structure designed to According to Frank, the technology of knowledge-
I
F':ff,e#.,,..':rfit{.ffi8$ffi encourage cooperation. sharing must always be backed up by a culture of @

separatefrom our "We are all equity holders here. No one is in desperate knowledge-sharing. AnswerThink rewards participants
implementations."competition to become a partner," said Frank. for sharing what they learn. A piece of everyone's an-
AllanFrank By the end of the year, AnswerThink had acquired nual bonus is tied to the number of contributions
AnswerThink four other consulting firms and grown to almost 400 made to MindShare.
employees. It opened offices in Atlanta, Boston, "I'mveryfamiliarwiththe
Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Iselin (N.I.), NewYork,
ry"- ffi
noia that some consultants have croup
Philadelphia and Silicon Valley.Revenuesfor 1998were aboutknowledgemanagement W|-|ffi!Tll[lf*
estimated at $102 million. The company went public systems-that Lotus Notes will
last year. steal what's of value in their brains," Pope added. "We
really do make it clear that you are more valuable if you
The tree of knowledge can teach five other people what you know." ()
AnswerThink describes itself as "a knowledge-based
consulting company specializing in technology-en- Mark Leon is a writer,editor,philosopherand mathe-
abled solutions." Working with vendors such as Aurum, matician coueringscienceand technologynews.

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fechnoIogyEnabIedsoIuti ons Reprintedwith permissionofCurtCo FreedomGroup.
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