THERE are some 17,000 Price Waterhouse accountants and consultants using Notes, the new work-group technology system from Lotus Development, says a report in CIO magazine, but most applications of the software have been mundane. Why?
"Fostering the shared work-group vision that lies behind Notes has proved elusive," the writer of the piece, Thomas Kiely, concludes.
Devising the right sticks and carrots is the issue, said Sheldon Laube, national director of information and technology for the $3.8bn ( pounds 2.5bn) consultancy firm. The following question must be answered in the affirmative by a cast of thousands: "Is it worth their time to enter information, for someone else's benefit, on the gamble that, somewhere down the road, information will appear in Notes that is useful to them?"
Mr Laube has sidestepped this issue so far and settled for practical uses of the system. Case in point, from CIO: "A banking consultant in Washington picks up regulatory gossip and, sensing an opportunity, broadcasts a message to the 200 or more Price Waterhouse banking consultants throughout the United States, who immediately broach the subject with their clients."
That boils down to an "e-mail" use of Notes, according to Professor Wanda Orlikowski of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who has studied Price Waterhouse. "It isn't the same thing as collaboratively working together on a joint project," she said.
Brook Manville, co-director of information and technology at McKinsey & Co, the consultants, understands the distinction that Ms Orlikowski is making. He is also overseeing a major implementation of Notes - but McKinsey's avowed emphasis is fundamental transformation of the company's professional practice.
McKinsey has typically thrown very bright, energetic people at a client project. Mr Manville calls it "the `we're smarter than everyone else and that's enough to maintain our advantage' strategy".
But competitors are catching up. McKinsey's next step, according to Mr Manville, is to leverage its collective experience by systematically developing and sharing institutional knowledge.
Knowledge development at McKinsey revolves around 30 or more "practice centres" - voluntary, virtual communities of consultant specialists who offer their expertise to colleagues. Getting these centres to view knowledge …