A newly-published article on knowledge management began with the following example to illustrate why organizations should even bother with a KM program:
Siemens, the global telecommunications giant, recently won a $460,000 contract in Switzerland to build a telecommunications network for two hospitals in spite of the fact that its bid was 30% higher than the competition. The secret to Siemens success was its knowledge-management system. This system allowed Siemens people in the Netherlands to draw on their experience and provide the Swiss sales reps with technical data that proved that the Siemens’ network would be substantially more reliable than the competition’s.
I can’t remember seeing a public report of an instance where a law firm was able to document a success like this attributable to KM.** Can you? Is this because law firms are hyper vigilant about confidentiality and, therefore, don’t tend to talk about how they work? Or is it because law firms don’t have comparable success stories? Or worse still, what if law firms do have similar successes, but they don’t know it or don’t know how to document it?
While envy is rarely a good thing, I suspect most law firm knowledge managers would be envious of their counterparts at Siemens. I can’t say I blame them.
** To be fair, several law firms have impressive KM technology. What I haven’t seen is published evidence of the ROI resulting from those tools.