Knowledge base spring cleaning – Part 2: The 2 most common pitfalls in choosing your clean-up team

Last week, I outlined the essential components you need to identify before transforming your knowledge management program. This second post in the series focuses on resources.

Most knowledge managers, when kicking off a knowledge cleanup, look at existing internal resources to help them clean up the content. The two main groups include Subject Matter Experts and front-line agents.

Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)

SMEs typically have some responsibility in maintaining the knowledge base’s content and its accuracy. You may feel that they’re an obvious choice to clean up their content. After all, they had a hand in creating it and know the subject matter well. However, SMEs may not be the best resource for a knowledge maintenance project for a number of reasons:

They don’t have time

Your SME team likely has a full workload managing organizational change and keeping product and service releases running smoothly. A content cleanup is important, but new products, services, and other offerings will always take priority.

They don’t know what they “own” or how to find out

Over time, project ownership becomes fuzzy. SMEs transition from one project to another, and older content may not have a specific owner. Naturally, it’s this older content that often needs the most cleanup.

Front-line agents

You may think, “Can’t we just pull some agents off the phone for a few hours a week and have them work through what’s out there?” Yes and no.

Overcoming objections

Although the Subject Matter Experts weren’t keen on taking on a new task, they may not be happy having other people touch their content.  Agents are very knowledgable about the products they support, but since they aren’t typically content creators, there are risks involved in asking them to audit content.

You could put a review process in place so that the SMEs simply review the frontline agents’ output before it gets published back to the knowledge base, but that leads down another bunny trail. Your SME team may realize that the content truly needs to be reviewed by product owners, which brings you back to the roadblocks above. Although the SMEs now see the value in updating the information, they’re still trying to keep their heads above water with their regular responsibilities.

For you chess players, we’ve just achieved stalemate.

Back to the drawing board

What have we learned? There are indeed a few problems:

  • The knowledge base contains outdated or incorrect information.
  • Those who have the key to unlock the door don’t have time or have higher-priority items on their plate.

At this point, it’s easy to recognize that something needs to change within your content strategy, and needs to change quickly. Many knowledge managers, when faced with these issues, conclude that a new knowledge base could be the solution they need. A fresh start with new software can mean improved processes and content, and it could be the right catalyst for change.

In order to keep from creating a new knowledgebase with more of the same issues, there are several things you must consider. I’ll talk about this further next time, as I wrap up this series with a discussion on what a new knowledge base really means to your organization.