When Greg Nemeth began working at professional services giant EY more than 18 years ago, knowledge management was very much a nascent field.
“I’ve seen knowledge management go through a hype curve to maturity where it’s not just seen as a cost efficiency play,” he said. As director of knowledge platforms at EY, Nemeth is keenly aware that effective global knowledge management can help generate valuable insights across an organization and may even uncover business differentiation.
The Challenges of Scale, Complexity and Regulations
Organizations like EY, which employs 240,000 staff in 150 countries, face major challenges in planning and executing global initiatives to help connect up staff, content and ideas. “Clearly, scale and complexity are the two big issues which you’ll see appear in pretty much every facet of a project,” Nemeth said. Another area where challenges seem to be more prevalent in recent years is regulatory compliance. “There’s the whole issue of how you take advantage of cloud software while keeping pace with emerging data privacy regulations,” he added.
A primary endeavor for Nemeth and his 30-strong global team is managing and supporting what the company calls Discover, EY’s integrated global suite of collaboration, content management, search, profiles, metadata management and intranet software.
Nemeth will be speaking at CMSWire and Digital Workplace Group’s Digital Workplace Experience taking place June 19 through 21 at the Radisson Blu Aqua hotel in Chicago. He will give a session with colleague Daniel Jimenez, culture change leader at EY, titled “Live Tour: Harnessing the Insights of 230,000 People at EY” June 20.
We spoke with Nemeth about EY’s ambitions for Discover, the current status of the initiative, and what lessons learned he’d share with other organizations.
Use Technology as a Lever to Help Drive Business Outcomes
CMSWire: What was the vision for Discover, EY’s global technology platform, and how has that strategy evolved from previous initiatives?
Nemeth: A big difference for us was having a holistic strategy for Discover. We focused very broadly rather than more narrowly, for example, around the release of a new product or support for a new capability. Our ambition with Discover was to change and support every facet of knowledge management. It was the opportunity to use technology as a lever to really help drive business outcomes.
One of the lessons learned was if you’re trying to achieve a business outcome you need to define, establish and align all the [project] process and organizational pillars and move them together as a set of things. So that includes architecture, user awareness and adoption, governance, leadership engagement, strategy and support.
CMSWire: What are the underlying technologies for Discover?
Nemeth: Strategically, we are a Microsoft shop. We leverage the full stack of Microsoft technologies. All the components in our Discover suite are a combination of on-premises Office and Office 365, SharePoint and Yammer. As much as we can, we are aligned with Microsoft.
We’ve made some adjustments to do a bit of integration with competency management and with time and expense for our profiles. The aim is that the profile really becomes a rich consolidation or hub of experiential information to make sure we can align our talent with market opportunities.
CMSWire: How would you characterize where you are now with Discover?
Nemeth: We’re almost three years into the project and in a really good phase. We launched our first content management system and personalized search in June 2016. So, we’ve had almost a full year with it and have iterated two releases in that time. This month, we’ve started our profiles and Discover intranet sites. We’re starting to see the fruits of our planning pay off.
At this point, over 85 percent of EY individuals are starting to leverage the Discover suite. We have also seen content collection grow tremendously to over 100,000 pieces of content since we deployed a year ago. It’s a huge movement now.
CMSWire: What learnings would you share with other organizations contemplating similar global projects?
We wanted to make sure that we were being intentional about engaging with mid-level EY-ers and that we were really in tune with them. They helped us in many ways, on the interface design, but even more on the strategic side.
For instance, there was something I thought initially would be somewhat trivial — what to do with the hero graphic (banner image) which takes up as much as one quarter of the Discover screen real estate. We ended up holding a contest where employees could vote to choose a set of images for each EY geography. It was a great way to help build awareness and excitement for Discover. It also generates affinity among employees when they see something associated with their geography — a familiar skyline or some culturally appropriate imagery.
CMSWire: What advice would you have for organizations trying to address some employees’ reluctance to share knowledge?
Nemeth: There’s no magic bullet here. I wish there was. You’re always going to encounter some groups of practitioners or employees who don’t see the connection between knowledge sharing and how that activity benefits the organization and themselves as individuals and their careers.
We at EY have tried to paint a very clear picture of “what’s in it for me” so that people understand the potential benefit for themselves. If it’s not made clear, knowledge sharing comes down to goodwill and that decreases the odds of the practice gaining wider traction.
CMSWire: As a Cleveland sports fan, what have been your high and low points as a supporter so far and why?
Nemeth: Before 2016, we went through 52 years of no championships. I’d not seen one in my lifetime. So, it’s been difficult and it makes you resilient. What a great year it was last year, with the [Cleveland] Cavaliers finally breaking that curse of 52 years when they beat the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals.
Because I’m such a baseball fan, last year was both a high and a low. It was almost a tremendous year with the last game in the World Series when the [Cleveland] Indians were tied with the [Chicago] Cubs late in the game. We really felt like we could pull it out. It was a bit heartbreaking in the end when we lost.