KM at Ernst & Young

In July 2002, Kim Sbarcea of Ernst & Young Australia, one of Australia’s most respected KM practitioners, provided workshop participants with some insight into the evolution of Km at Ernst & Young (EY).  EY is a global professional services firm.

Kim has recently attended a seminar at which Peter Drucker, possibly the world’s most highly regarded management guru, has spoken about new information responsibilities for today’s professionals.

Drucker believes that you cannot conscript knowledge, it needs to be shared in a give and take manner.  The most important information is external to the organisation and that it is also the most challenging to manage.  The new workforce is mobile and these new responsibilities mean that as professionals we are each responsible for our own development, our own learning, our own careers.  So KM systems need to provide self-help facilities, we need to be able to find the information we need to act on as there are no longer an office full of middle managers and secretarial staff who will find it for us.  We need to be able to do administrative activities such as filling in leave forms and changing contact details with the minimum of distraction and maximum efficiency.  We need to be able to find people who know what we need to know because our success depends on sharing knowledge. 

This sounds like the concept of the learning organisation – and there’s a close parallel between KM and the learning organisation.  Why are we sharing knowledge? So that we can learn from each other. Some writers in 2002 see e-learning and KM merging.  The mission statement for KM at Ernst & Young could also be a statement that it wants to become a learning organisation:

Our knowledge management mission is to enable and steward the acquisition, sharing and reuse of knowledge by our people worldwide. By doing this, our people will be better able to generate new revenues and strengthen client relationships.

Knowledge from internal sources at EY includes:

  • practice experience
  • proposals
  • pitch books
  • relationships
  • other sales collateral.

EY see the integration of

  • people
  • technology
  • process
  • content

as the goal of KM initiatives. Interestingly, content was only added to the list in 2001.

Kim recommended that intranet developers take heed of the messages from Don Tapscott’s book “Growing Up Digital.”  In essence, you need different training techniques for different ages.

In EY there is recognition that simply picking up someone else’s document is not enough for knowledge transfer – you need contextual wraparound as well.  The stock approach to KM exists but there is a big emphasis on using informal communities for KM activities.

Professional service firms like EY use resources in bidding for jobs – this can be very expensive and there’s no money-back guarantee.  They use Pursuit Teams, PTDs and Engagement Teams, ETDs. They also have Community Home Spaces or CHSs to encourage diversity.  These are all Communities of Practice for specific purposes. The pursuit teams do the work prior to a tender being submitted and successful tenders then have engagement teams who carry out the work.

Like many other organisations, EY have found that KM is never “done” – that you cannot dictate to a community, you have to allow it to drive itself.

EY uses Lotus Notes. They have a Centre for Business Knowledge which employs 500 people globally. These people work in one of four areas:

  • Knowledge Services
  • Knowledge Content
  • Knowledge Networks
  • Knowledge Support.
  • They have 3 levels of content:

The unfiltered content at the bottom of this pyramid is provided “as is”. There is no reviewing for value quality or relevance or even correctness. Discussion databases are an example.

The filtered content is selected for inclusion, it is reviewed for value, it may be edited prior to inclusion in, for example, a Powerpak.  The following information on the EY approach to KM has been extracted from the web site of Ernst & Young in the Kingdom of Bahrain.

Start of extract from web site 

In 1993 Ernst & Young established the Center for Business Knowledge to spearhead the drive to make Knowledge Management a reality.  The CBK works to ensure that the firm's Knowledge Management process adds value to content that our people can access and use anytime and anywhere. 

Ernst & Young has directed considerable resources toward the development of a robust, industry-leading system for capturing and re-deploying knowledge.  Internally, the firm pulls together the collective resources of thousands of professionals worldwide.  Ernst & Young also maintains relationships with dozens of outside vendors who supply specialised knowledge and information. 

This information is available to our professionals around the clock via the EY/KnowledgeWeb (Kweb), which allows our people to access, read and re-use the content from both our internal and external sources. 

The Ernst & Young Centre for Business Knowledge uses many powerful tools and processes to assist our client-serving professionals

  • EY/KnowledgeWeb
  • EY/Infolink
  • Powerpacks (created by our Knowledge Networks)
  • Community Homespaces 

All of these resources - vast and full of rich business knowledge - are simple and easy to use. 

EY/KnowledgeWeb (Kweb)

The EY/KnowledgeWeb is Ernst & Young's portal to knowledge! 

Every hour of the day - Every day of the week! Our staff visit the EY/KnowledgeWeb Search Engine almost 20,000 times per day. Which translates into over 6 million "hits" a month! 

EY/KnowledgeWeb comprises several components:

  • Thousands of individual knowledge databases (the collective electronic knowledge content of the firm)
  • The technology for acquiring, storing and retrieving the content
  • An automated catalogue for finding knowledge databases
  • An advanced search engine that provides full text search capabilities 


EY/InfoLink provides all E&Y client-serving and practice support professionals with electronic access to a suite of business information products from a number of the best business information providers.  Thousands of newspapers, magazines, news services, and other current archived knowledge - all online.  EY/InfoLink gives Ernst & Young professionals access to more than 5,500 news sources as well as hundreds of internal databases that store the firm's collective knowledge.  EY/InfoLink allows us to fulfil client needs faster than ever before!