Background Note | HBS Case Collection | August 2013

A Note on Knowledge Management in Professional Services Firms

by Robert G. Eccles, Ana Kreacic and Penelope Rossano

Abstract

Knowledge management is a subject of broad interest, especially in "knowledge industries" and "knowledge economies." It is also a topic filled with frustration on the part of practitioners and the level of resource commitment to this function waxes and wanes. This note focuses on a sector where knowledge is the very basis of their offering — professional service firms. One element of competitive success is the extent to which a professional service firm can harness and increase the knowledge of its professionals, making knowledge of individuals an asset of the firm. Historically the focus has been on "codification" with a focus on IT applications. More recently, with Web 2.0, there is an increasing emphasis on collaboration so that individuals are interacting with each other, not simply documents. This note, based on extensive interviews in more than 20 professional service firms, describes the knowledge management challenge in professional service firms and how to address it. The note traces the history of knowledge management in professional service firms, examines the current state of practice, and speculates about possible future directions in which it will evolve.

Keywords: knowledge management; Knowledge Management;

Citation:

Eccles, Robert G., Ana Kreacic, and Penelope Rossano. "A Note on Knowledge Management in Professional Services Firms." Harvard Business School Background Note 314-034, August 2013.