Knowledge Management at KPMG

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Ceri Hughes is Head of Knowledge, Research and Collaboration at KPMG in the UK. She has been with the professional services firm for 16 years, working in a variety of knowledge management roles. Her team – mainly based in Canary Wharf, London and in Gurgaon and Bangalore, India – supports the 12,000 partners and staff of KPMG in the UK. Her job is to encourage and help facilitate the flow of knowledge and competitive intelligence and help colleagues work together to deliver the best possible service to clients.

One of the enabling technologies that Ceri’s team uses to help knowledge sharing and collaboration is the Hub – powered by tibbr – ‘the social network for work’. Ceri is responsible for the UK deployment of the platform that around the world that has connected over 100,000 staff in more than 100 KPMG member firms for the past three years. Adoption and use varies from country to country but Ceri reckons that, in the UK, around 9,000 staff regularly interact with or consume information there.

“One of the main drivers is to make it easier to find and connect with others across KPMG to ensure the best people contribute to client proposals or the delivery of work for clients. It helps us provide the right skills and experience to work with our clients. So the social interaction of the platform helps us find and connect with each other and work as virtual communities, benefitting from internal crowd sourcing, which helps us innovate. However, whilst as much open, firm-wide collaboration as possible is important, we also wanted to ensure we have a secure environment to allow for private collaboration across engagement teams which ensures we can support collaborative working whilst protecting the privacy of client information.”

4 main use cases

When the Hub was planned and implemented, four main use cases were determined, which still exist today:

Subjects of interest. There are hundreds of different subject groups across the world ranging from discussions about new developments in KPMG to non-work subject groups like the Cycling or Movie Fan groups, through to specific work-related areas such discussions about Management Consulting. Everyone in KPMG is welcome to take part in these types of discussions and are encouraged to play an active role.

“We have strong governance around forming groups: anyone can request one but our team of moderators will look to see if there is already something similar on the network. Lots of groups are then aggregated under a parent subject.”

Subjects of practice. This is where KPMG subject matter experts can share knowledge specific to a particular practice of the firm, whether that is taxation, big data, mergers or valuations to mention just a few.

“These groups are open to anyone subject to approval,” explains Ceri. “You can see what is out there and then you have to request access or be invited in – say to the development of a particular proposition. They are intended as areas of focused discussion amongst those with a specific interest or experience.”

Secure client discussions. When it comes to client work there are areas that are entirely secure and private – staff will never see that a particular client area of discussion even exists, unless they have specifically been given access. They do not even appear in search results and there are rigorous risk checks to ensure that no client is ever compromised from sensitive data leaking out.

Leadership engagement. According to Ceri this is a big area of success where the platform has helped the KPMG leadership connect with people and increase engagement.

“Leadership adoption and engagement on the platform is really important. We want our senior leaders to feel comfortable using the Hub so they regularly use it to share updates with our people, and can be authentic in their posts.

When they are visiting other offices or during particular KPMG events, some will often post an update of what they are doing or have learnt. They have even been known to post group selfies! This has been a great motivator for adoption of the Hub as it is a demonstration of leadership role-modelling and increases awareness of the senior leaders in the different practices and geographies. And it increases leadership accessibility – for staff may not feel comfortable going up and talking directly to a senior leader in the UK firm, the Hub gives them a chance to interact in a different way.”

Communicating firm-wide

Recently the Hub has been used as one of a range of UK firm-wide communications channels. So-called “Hub chats” or #askmeanything sessions are hosted by various KPMG leaders on particular. This could be a session on KPMG strategy, or to answer questions ahead of an office move or to share news about a firm-wide event, such as the One Firm Event held in September 2014.

The Event was held at the O2 in London for all UK staff and hosted by Lenny Henry. It focused on KPMG’s value and purpose. KPMG leaders spoke during the day, alongside influencers such as Bob Geldof and 7/7 survivor and Paralympian, Martine Wright.

“We used the Hub in the build-up to the event and to raise awareness of the day. This was the place for staff to ask questions about the event. The platform was also used before and after for photos and feedback. During this period there were lots of trending hashtags relating to the even and it marked the peak of adoption in the UK. Even though the event itself only lasted for a day, it was a real incentive to bring people on board in using the Hub – particularly on mobile devices.”

The technology mix

For mobile the Hub in the UK is available on iOS devices only and is used on Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) for iPad. KPMG use MobileIron MDM security system to ensure that all company data that is held on private devices is secure.

“The Hub is not a platform for long term storage of content,” explains Ceri. “Content that has had not been viewed, liked or commented on is auto-deleted after 90 days. Part of the job of the Knowledge team is to ensure that any content that needs to be stored and shared for the longer term in our knowledge-sharing platform – the KPMG Portal, which is SharePoint-based – is harvested from the Hub and made available in the Portal.”

Success stories

Ceri and her team follow quantitative metrics each week that show who is using the Hub and how much time they spend on it. They monitor closely the number of interactions and evaluate them all the time, looking for trends and peaks in usage.

“But we are also interested in qualitative measures. The moderator group looks out for success stories and surfaces them using the hashtag #hubsuccessstories. Lots of people from the ground up are celebrating examples of speedy responses to posted problems and interesting examples of internal crowdsourcing and collaboration.”

Business results

So how has it changed the way staff and consultants work at KPMG? At KPMG they do not link usage of the Hub to any appraisal systems; however, collaboration is one of their core values and is embedded in everything they do, across the network. There is some light-touch gamification around posting and liking but it is not taken too seriously, although it does enhance the fun of using a social collaboration platform.

“In professional services we need to respond quickly and what the Hub can do is find and connect people together much faster and more efficiently. The Hub allows us to tap into that network and collaborate more effectively and speedily.

“In the past connections were often found by phoning someone who would phone someone and get you to the right connection. That works for people who have worked at KPMG for a long time and have great network, but that is less effective for senior hires who are new to the organisation without a strong internal network. You could argue that they could send out an all-KPMG broadcast email. But that is not the same as real-time collaboration where you can harness the power of international network at your fingertips.

“Altruism is an important aspect of the Hub. The old concept of knowledge as power is undermined by social collaboration, now it is all about sharing information whether that is to help put together a proposal or find an expert – or even if you are just visiting an office for the first time and need help getting oriented.”

Ceri refers to a seminal paper from the Harvard Business Review from 1999 , which talks about the distinction between codification and personalisation, and shaped her thinking on the power of collaboration. Nearly twenty years later, this philosophy which underlines the less tangible side of Knowledge Management – a side that is fundamental to making the Hub a success – is still highly relevant. It is less about codifying where information can be found like some modern day Dewey library filing system. Now it is all about making people-to-people connections across the organisation and changing behaviours. The new power is in how much a colleague shares knowledge rather than hoarding it.