Monday 10 October 2016

Building a world class knowledge centre

Many big international organisations are creating knowledge centres. Here is how to copy them. 

By Joseolgon - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,
I blogged about knowledge centres a couple of weeks ago, in the context of the McKinsey KM model.

Many of the big consultancies, and increasingly many multinationals, are creating knowledge centres as a way of offshoring elements of knowledge management such as;
  • Maintenance of repositories of captured knowledge
  • Research and analysis
  • Knowledge searching and retrieval
  • Innovation

Now here we have a blog post from Nitin Seth, who was the Director of McKinsey's Knowledge Center, in Gurgaon, India. Nitin built McKinsey’s knowledge centre (McKC) in India to be the industry benchmark in delivery of hi-end research and analytics out of India and the largest and most valuable global knowledge hub for McKinsey. He led the transformation of McKC from a research hub into a client service innovation hub for McKinsey, which includes Centres of Competence (CoCs) for specialized consulting capabilities and client service lines.

In his 2012 blog post entitled "How to build a world class knowledge centre", Nitin gives 8 lessons for success. these are:

1. You need a different approach from typical IT/BPO processes. Knowledge processes are ill-defined, and you typically require hi-quality talent often with specialized education backgrounds who often have aspirations beyond working in a  “back office”. Don't take call-centre structures and expect them to work for a knowledge centre.

 2. Go Slow to Go Fast.  Start small and slow to prove the concept and establish a very clear and strong value proposition. Focus on solving some real pain points for the key users. For McKC, the initial value proposition was overnight delivery of analysis for consulting teams based in the USA.

 3. Ensure ownership from the parent organization. Ensure the onshore KM organization feels a high level of ownership of the offshore centre.  At McKC,  the ownership of specialized practice teams was transferred directly to the business practices, which then helped the McKC people develop as deep subject matter experts.

 4. Become a source of change for the global research organization.  McKC changed the entire architecture of research within McKinsey, and proved that consolidation of research in a knowledge centre was the right configuration for building research capabilities.

 5. Innovate and push the boundaries on new services.  The true success of McKC was it developing beyond research to be a hub of innovation for McKinsey. Well over 50% of the 600 knowledge professionals at McKC work on new services as opposed to roles that have been transitioned from other offices.

6. Strong local capabilities are necessary to drive innovation.   McKC developed a shared service called Knowledge-on-Call (KoC) to support all offices and practices on basic research requests. Stong local management could combine the vertically owned Practice Research teams with the horizontal KoC to drive innovation.

 7. Get leadership with experience of the core business.  The core success variable for a knowledge centre is not operations efficiency but the ability to integrate with the parent organization.  Leaders who have the business experience and entrepreneurial ability can lead a knowledge centre to great success.

 8. Think through career paths for your talent. While IP is important, the core asset for a knowledge centre is talent, and this talent aspires to grow as experts. McKC was able to build career paths, and even transition some talent to front office roles.

 9. Don’t lose sight of cost control. A knowledge centre is all about Value, but the cost side needs to be considered as well.  The biggest facilitator of innovation from a knowledge centre is the low cost structure that lowers the hurdle rate on investments, but if offshore knowledge centers are not careful about costs they might end up sabotaging a big driver of their innovation engine.

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