People with questions are used to turning to the Internet, and also to colleagues. UK-based Lend Lease, parent company of Bovis Lend Lease, is combining the two in ikonnect, a knowledge management service that starts on the Web and ends on the phone.


"It’s really a nontech initiative," says Bob Webb, Bovis Lend Lease executive vice president, who conceived the idea. Rather than filling a database with information and urging the company’s 10,000 employees to find it on line, ikonnect started without any database, just people with inquiries. Facilitators in New York, London and Sydney, Australia, receive e-mails from the Website and usually call the sender to ask specifically what they want. Then the facilitators contact one or several other Lend Lease employees who have answers and hook them up. "We promote conversation," says Webb. "We want people to be talking to people."


The connections, but not the data, are archived in a searchable Oracle database. ikonnect initially was restricted to Lend Lease employees but gradually is opening to clients, vendors and outsiders as well. For the moment, it is treated as "goodwill," Webb says, meaning that it’s free.

In its first two years, more than 6,000 people have used the service. Many "seeks" are about products and vendors, but others are technical.

Webb thinks the low-tech nature of the service is exactly what makes it work. "People are very comfortable sharing," he says. "People love to help."