I believe, fervently, in electronic networking, using today's so-called groupware (such as Lotus Notes) to create value through pooled knowledge. And Lord knows I believe in customer responsiveness. Still, I was repelled by the recent piece in Com puterworld magazine headed: "KPMG turns to firstclass groupware."
One Friday at 3pm, the accounting and consulting firm KPMG Peat Marwick received a request from an insurance company to submit a bid for a "major technology overhaul", according to the magazine. Over the weekend, four partners in four different cities prepared a "thick" proposal, complete with graphics and diagrams, using the firm's new Knowledge Manager system. They delivered the document to the client at noon on the Monday, winning the business and beating out EDS, IBM and Coopers & Lybrand. Wow! But wait. I call this the "But Will You Brag About It to Your Grandkids" test.
Suppose that one of the four KPMG partners is 36. Twenty-four years from now, at age 60, will he thumb through a stack of 100 proposals and reports that he worked on, stop at the one prepared over the hectic weekend, and exclaim, "Wow! A grand slam. A brand-new approach that led the insurance industry in a whole new direction"? I doubt it.
Call me a sceptic. Call me a Luddite. Call me anything you want, and you'll not convince me that anything genuinely new and worth bragging about can be created during a groupware weekend in cyberspace.
The magazine said that a normal response time in this case would have been three to five business days. Well, a pox on both houses: I mean that I roundly condemn the insurance company that asked for a serious proposal in five days, and the consultants
who met such a request. How stupid! Writing 2,500 words about your new service or product is not that hard, and one could do it in a weekend. Writing 500 words is harder, and writing three words - for example, an ad slogan that transforms the market, like Nike's "Just Do It" - is pure, una dulterated agony that could take months.
I'm hardly surprised, and even less impressed, that KPMG could create a "thick" proposal, with graphics and diagrams (doubtless in all the colours of the rainbow), in 60 hours. I'll bet they couldn't have written a scintillating two-page proposal in fiveor even 15 business days, let alone in that harried weekend. …