The Experts Weigh In: Getting Your Knowledge Transformation off the Ground, Part 2

In our recent webinar, Build a Knowledge Management Transformation Plan that Wins Executive Support, our expert panel shared quite a few stories of how to get a successful KM program off the ground.

In this series of posts, Jennifer MacIntosh, VP of Customer Success at Coveo, is joined by Irrevo’s Knowledge Strategists, Melissa Burch and Laurel Poertner to address the incredibly insightful questions shared by our audience.

Q:  What is more important the technology or the process? Where do I start with the technology or the process?

Jennifer MacIntosh: I think it really depends on where you are on the journey, what your business outcomes are and what you’re really trying to drive at. So, it’s not a straightforward answer to say it’s one or the other. For me it’s always a combination of both. I’ve never done a knowledge management transformational project that didn’t require both technology and process. I don’t think it’s a matter of what’s first, it’s a matter of how do we ensure that we have both of these things working together and that we understand what changes need to be made on both sides of that equation.
Laurel Poertner: In my experience what I’ve done is look at the processes and gathered the requirements from that to try and understand if the current processes that are in place are meeting expectations, are they allowing us to get the business outcomes and objectives that we want moving forward, then look at the technology. I think a lot of times at the executive level they start and say “We’re going to change the technology” and so stepping back and taking a look at what does this technology really give us, and what are we doing today and what do we need to do to move forward. A lot of times you’ll find this technology can handle a lot of this and we need a change of technology but it can be quite expensive. So try not to jump to conclusions  or decisions that might impact something that big and take a look at what you’re doing with processes too.

Q: What kind of content do you suggest creating?

Melissa Burch: There are three ways you can start with that. The first one is to look at the content you already have available to your customers.
Identify what your end users or target audience are using today as a clue to indicate what you should do more of and also to identify what you should do less of. The second recommendation is to analyze your customer search behavior to understand what it is that they are searching for and then to extrapolate back what is valuable to your customers. The third would be analyzing your inbound customer inquiries or cases, what are customers asking for help on and let that also drive you to provide your customers exactly what they need related to those particular questions.

Jennifer MacIntosh: A couple things I’d like to add to that. If we start to look at cases, we have to remember that the cases coming into your support center represent a small fraction of the interactions that our customers are having, most customers are engaging with our content so I would tend to lean more toward what Melissa said and focusing in on what interactions are happening with the content you have available today. if you’re not publishing any content, we recommend that you start publishing some content to your customers whatever way you can. There are great tools available, I’ll throw a plug in here for Coveo, this is one of the areas that we do a really great job at, we can analyze and capture all the interactions of your website and help you understand what content is the most popular, which is the most valuable in your organization,  it can help you understand what search content people are using that will really help you design the type of knowledge your customers are looking for. Finally, if you don’t have any of those things available to you, there’s an easy way, ask them. Ask your customers what they’re looking for. It’s probably the most basic way you can do this. I think sometimes we shy  away from actually engaging with them, even if you have your support analysts, ask them at the end of a phone call, send a survey, post a survey on your website, there’s lots of different ways to get feedback and input from your customers and I’ve always found that they’re very willing to help us with those types of questions and give us lots of feedback that will set us in the right direction.

Laurel Poertner: To add to what Melissa said, what I have done in the past is to categorize your cases.  If you’ve got a ticketing system that has some reason codes use that information and if you don’t, analyze a sampling to understand what types of inquiries you’re getting. If it’s a lot of “how to”, if it’s a lot of installation problems, Knowing the kind of things your customers are asking can really help get you going in a particular direction and then you can expand on that.

Q: How do I start a KM program from scratch without an executive sponsor?

Jennifer MacIntosh: What’s the biggest pain point in your organization? Why all of a sudden do we need to have a knowledge manager? So is it that our support analysts are overwhelmed? That we have too much turnover, what’s the driving factor, the biggest pain in your organization that is causing you now to think that we ought to do this. So I would focus in on that and start to see how new tools and process around Knowledge Management could really help alleviate some of that pain and help to move that pain. Identify what’s you’re biggest pain point and do the research on how new Knowledge Management tools and processes help alleviate that pain.

Melissa Burch: I will echo that. Star with your pain points. Where you see opportunity to improve your Customer Experience . Many times the need around that Customer Experience  improvement almost always integrate with Knowledge Management. It might not be the only initiative that you embark on but it’s certainly one of the most common ones that we’ve seen. Mapping that problem to the solution. Out in the world there’s a  ton of information about Knowledge Management, impacts that it’s had, how people have implemented it. There are many case studies, there’s lots of organizations that are talking about this and have published information. Many times software vendors who are in the Knowledge Management space are putting out information that is of course highlighting how their particular technology solutions had an impact on Customer Experience , but it is Ok to look at those case studies and extrapolate that. If you were to make a change that is similar to one described the the case study, even if you don’t necessarily utilize the technology solutions that that particular vendor is offering. It’s still a scenario that you’ll have a positive customer impact. There’s a lot of evidence in the world. Identify what improvements you want to make and then take the information and see how a Knowledge Management program can make a positive impact there.

Laurel Poertner: I’ll also make a plug for Irrevo, we can also help you get that started with engaging with a Knowledge Management expert, talk through some of those things that Jennifer and Melissa just talked about. I think it’s great way to start that conversation. The other thing I was thinking of was the people part of that question. Who would I have in my organization to take something like this on, and I would ask for volunteers because this is something that I think you’ll find that there are people in your organization that have a passion for this whether they realize it or not you’ll get some of those people coming out of the woodwork, especially if you have an expert that comes in and starts those conversations you’ll start to see that this person or that person was really involved with these conversations and that will give you some of those answers.

Q: How do Customer Communities fit into the overall KM strategy? Are they integrated or distinct? I’m thinking of how knowledge gets data mined from a community and “promoted” into the KB (and whether or not this is even appropriate).

Laurel Poertner:  My personal experience is that there is huge value in the knowledge that comes from a community and it should always be leveraged in a self-service environment.  It is also extremely cost effective to companies because it takes very few resources to maintain once it is up and running.

I have seen examples of certain sites where customers can click a button to request that a particular thread be considered for inclusion in the knowledge base.  This would then need to be reviewed and converted into an authored document.  A more common approach is to offer a search filter on a community page.  This allows users to choose whether or not to search the community data along with other knowledge sources.  There are different schools of thought on whether to mine data from communities but I have seen it be very successful.

Learn MoreKnowledge Program Guidebook

If you missed the live broadcast, you can watch a recording of this webinar. Stay tuned to the Irrevo blog for more Q&A from this session, and follow us on Twitter to be the first to know when we share new answers.

Ready to implement a new Knowledge Strategy? Check out our latest white paper to learn more about getting executive buy-in for your knowledge transformation.

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.