Hwolosky2 Inspired Ideas is glad to welcome another guest blogger this week, Howard Wolosky.  Howard’s own blog, Instigator (http://howardwolosky.blogspot.com) is the source of this post, where it appeared on September 9, 2009.

Howard Wolosky is the former editor-in-chief of Practical Accountant and a former WebCPA.com columnist.  He is currently exploring opportunities as a director of editorial content, change agent, and consultant.

Neglected and Underdeveloped Knowledge Management

It’s no surprise that CCH recently announced the release of KnowledgeConnect, a knowledge management system for accounting firms. According to CCH, KnowledgeConnect is “a central, indexed, and easy-to-search knowledge management system that will empower staff to make faster and more informed business decisions, avoid work redundancies and reduce project cycle times.”

I first wrote about knowledge management and accounting firms in my August 16, 2005 WebCPA column “Do You Have a Chief Knowledge Officer?” at http://www.webcpa.com/news/14079-1.html.

Knowledge shouldn't just reside with individuals, but needs to be captured and institutionalized within the firm so that it can be accessed easily by all. I gave the following examples in the column: templates for audit engagements, checklists and established procedures for tax return preparation, a sophisticated client relationship management system, and a knowledge database on the firm's Intranet.

You don’t have to be a large regional accounting firm, a business with hundreds of employees, nor do you have to buy CCH KnowledgeConnect or a similar software application to take advantage of knowledge management.  It doesn’t have to cost much as long as time is spent on developing an understanding of how knowledge management can be applied and how you will train those who will utilize it.

I speak from direct experience. With only two-full-time editors and one part-time editor (including myself) working on Practical Accountant, the quality of our editorial content was directly attributable to our ability to take advantage of knowledge management. We used push technologies to keep informed of developments, blast e-mails to pre-qualify article interviewee volunteers, and an Outlook 1,200-plus contact database searchable by subject matter. Running lists of possible coverage for each department, profiled accounting firms, innovation award winners, and what appeared in recurring sections were also maintained in a database.

In today’s world where accounting firms and businesses of all sizes are focusing on reducing costs and improving efficiency, knowledge management is an invaluable tool. Sophisticated software can be helpful, but that’s not the key. What’s necessary for effective knowledge management to work is getting buy-in and participation.

Four Knowledge Management Practices That a Firm Should Consider

  1. Have different individuals responsible for certain subject and practice areas.  They can inform other firm members of developments with an e-mail alert.
  2. Develop templates for audit engagements, checklists as well as established procedures to follow in tax return preparation, and a sophisticated client relationship management database including placing pictures or hyperlinks to pictures of the key people of important clients in the firm's CRM database.
  3. Maintain a knowledge database on the firm's Intranet that might have, for example, questions to be asked to determine the scope of a consulting engagement for a manufacturing client.
  4. Document the practices and procedures used by key soon-to-be departing personnel.  Instead of just pushing them to complete some unfinished engagements, have them summarize, in writing, their practices and procedures first so their successor can benefit from the knowledge that resides in the departing staff member.

Howard Wolosky

What knowledge management practices does your firm employ?  Share your tips or thoughts on this topic by posting a comment!