Knowledge base spring cleaning – Part 3: Good choices make for a solid Knowledge Roadmap

3-way_arrowIn the beginning of this series, we defined the knowledge management strategies and identified the right knowledge management resources. This time, we’ll talk about what happens when a content cleanup turns into a content migration.

At the early stage of a knowledge transformation project, many organizations discover a few big issues that require more time and resources than initially expected. Your company may decide it’s better to explore a new knowledge base system, thinking that it’s just plain easier to start fresh instead of spending time and resources on updating content where it exists.

And the process begins… 

First, you start with requirement gathering, which usually sounds like this:

What do we need this new system to do?
Wait, can’t our current system support that?
What do we need?
What do we want?

Then, you move on to the Requests for Proposals, where you’re swarmed with 100 word essays from a half-dozen vendors and service providers.

Can this system support what we need out of the box?
What can this vendor do better?
Does this support all of our requirements?
How much will these customizations cost?

And you pick a vendor, and you build a project plan, and you build a project team, and you’re finally ready to move along with your brand new knowledge base, except..

What about the content?

You’ve spent time and budget on picking a new and exciting technology that will help you achieve your knowledge goals. But if you’re truly going to transform your knowledge program, it’ll take more time and budget to fix and/or migrate the content.

The ‘good enough’ way: “Just put it in a new system, we’ll clean it later …”

A lot of organizations go down this path. Yes, you can see some positive change just by switching to a new technology. But if your content is the same, you’re bound to run into some familiar problems.

The better idea: “Let’s clean it up as we go.”

Updating your content allows you to make all of the changes you’ve had in the back of your mind for years. What’s on your wish list? Better searchability? Increased resolution rate? Simpler content? Here are a few strong starting points for setting up your new knowledgebase for success:

  • Get a site taxonomy built before you move it in the new location
  • Define and create content templates to fit the various content types
  • Conduct a scrub for style, presentation, consistency of terms for better searchability
  • Establish clear content ownership
  • Build out the content workflow
  • Enter metadata for tagging

We’re done! What’s next?

Whether you took the easier route of moving your content as-is, or took on the challenging task of cleaning up your content first, eventually, you’ll complete all of your migration-related tasks and call your knowledge transformation complete. But after a little while, those familiar gremlins pop back up again.

We just put a new system in place, why can’t people find anything?
Man, I could really use some help cleaning up this mess of content.

Any knowledge base is only as powerful as the knowledge program that supports it, and that truth is especially loud and clear after a migration.

The bottom line… build a Knowledge Roadmap

An effective knowledge roadmap helps you define the guiding principles of your knowledge program. It outlines the workflows, the processes, the stakeholders, and, of course, your overall goals. Even with the best intentions, plan, and people in place, there are a lot of competing priorities, deliverables, and timelines, but a knowledge roadmap anticipates the demands on your team’s time and streamlines processes so your content, and your entire Customer Service organization, can live up to its full potential.

Stephen R Covey wrote about Habit 2 in the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, “Begin with the End in Mind means to begin each day, task, or project with a clear vision of your desired direction and destination, and then continue by flexing your proactive muscles to make things happen.” The same applies to your knowledge program, “…if your ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step you take gets you to the wrong place faster.”