Lessons from PricewaterhouseCoopers

By Helfer, Doris Small | Searcher, January 1999 | Go to article overview

Lessons from PricewaterhouseCoopers


Helfer, Doris Small, Searcher


PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (a.k.a. PwC) announces itself as the world's largest professional services organization. It helps clients build value, manage risk, and improve performance by providing business services that include audit and accounting, human resource consulting, financial advisory, and management consulting services. PricewaterhouseCoopers employs over 140,000 people in 152 countries. PwC was formed earlier this year by the merger of two of the Big Six accounting firms -- Price Waterhouse (of The Oscars, "The Envelope Please" fame) and Coopers and Lybrand. When organizations merge, changes are inevitable and the PricewaterhouseCoopers Knowledge Services organization has used the merger as an opportunity to reexamine all the information resources delivered to employees' desktops.

Although in this particular case a merger may have triggered PricewaterhouseCoopers' Knowledge Services to look at harmonizing information services delivered to in-house client desktops, sooner or later all corporate organizations face these same issues. Even prior to the merger, way back in 1993, Coopers and Lybrand's libraries started looking at key questions for all their sites: where information was bought, what information was bought, and what value the staff added. They also considered what information resources would help their organization. Outside factors such as the rise of the Internet and the vast increases in information available directly to end-user desktops necessitated some of these changes. When looking at its clientele, Coopers and Lybrand realized how highly mobile they had become. People were rarely in their offices. A traditional, walk-in library could not serve client needs. Libraries which did not really add value for their users were eliminated.

The organization transitioned to a centralized help desk function that focused on desktop delivery to customers through an 800 number. Librarians did regular and specialized research, training, step by step online help, Internet site identification, and also worked on the intranet team.

The wealth of content that could be delivered to desktops greatly increased. They worked closely with vendors to make sure the vendors knew what they needed in their new online products. Frequently they helped vendors shape their products by serving as beta test sites for many new desktop offerings. And they became very proactive in telling vendors how pricing structures must change, if the vendors expected to continue serving Coopers and Lybrand.

Trish Foy, director of the Knowledge Services Organization for PricewaterhouseCoopers, is based in Stamford, Connecticut. Originally with Coopers and Lybrand, Foy was instrumental in leading many of the ongoing changes in Coopers and Lybrand prior to the merger. With the announcement of the merger, she immediately began consulting and communicating with her counterparts at Price Waterhouse. Synergies basically drew on the knowledge management activities both organizations had in process, though in very different organizational models. Still being hammered out is how the new unified structure will work, but PwC has focused not on turf issues, but learning instead about peoples' comfort and skill levels and how to move ahead to meet the strategies and objectives of the new firm.

The Knowledge Services Organization reports to the Chief Knowledge Officer. Prior to the merger although the companies had operations all over the world, they did not truly organize in a global fashion. The Organization is now going to a truly global organizational model. Libraries are no longer called libraries but Research Centres. Librarians have become Content or Research Specialists. The Organization currently has about 35 people with another five or six involved in ongoing implementation of bringing vendor products to the desktop.

Management from both organizations worked together to identify what groups and task forces they would need and who would serve on each group or task force. …

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