Hot 2014 Trend: Knowledge as a Service

Posted by on

    

Based on discussions with hundreds of companies over a number of years regarding failing knowledge management programs, it appears that there are three common denominators linked to the majority of companies who claim not to be getting the expected value from their KM expenditures. Discover what these denominators are.

Knowledge ManagementKnowledge management (KM) initiatives are launched with the best of intentions. New technology is introduced, new processes for capturing and publishing content are rolled out, employees are given incentives to contribute knowledge articles, and customers are encouraged to access new online knowledge tools.

Within two to three months, positive business results are realized. With accurate knowledge at their fingertips, support technicians are able to resolve issues faster, reducing average handle time and increasing first-contact resolution rate. Customers find the new online content is extremely helpful, and adoption and success of self-service rises, reducing assisted support calls. 

Then something changes. Within a couple of years, the formerly popular, dynamic, and cost-effective knowledgebase has become an obstacle, filled with outdated and duplicate content, and both employee and customer satisfaction suffer as a result. Metrics such as first-contact resolution and average incident handle time that improved a year earlier begin to reverse, and as new products and versions are released to customers with little or no associated knowledge content created, operational metrics begin a slow decline. 

Here is some data to illustrate just how frustrated technology firms are with their existing knowledge management infrastructure. The annual TSIA Member Technology Survey tracks adoption, planned spending, and satisfaction with technology across 24 categories of tools and services. In the 2012 survey, KM tools had the lowest satisfaction rating of any category in the survey, averaging 3.32 on a 5-point scale (with 1 representing very unsatisfied and 5 representing very satisfied). In the 2013 survey, KM tools averaged a slightly improved 3.42 satisfaction score, still one of the lowest ratings in the survey. 

Based on discussions with hundreds of companies over a number of years regarding failing knowledge management programs, it appears that there are three common denominators linked to the majority of companies who claim not to be getting the expected value from their KM expenditures. Those three common denominators are: 

Project funding reduced after go-live. A common reason TSIA members cite for the lack of ongoing maintenance, and ultimately a failing KM program, is that project funding is eliminated or severely reduced. After the initial launch excitement wanes, and early metric increases begin leveling off, other projects become higher priorities, and staff dedicated to the KM project are pulled off and assigned to new projects. 

While it is true that knowledge management projects need additional resources up front, it is critical that when creating the budget for a project, funding for ongoing content resources is guaranteed for the life of the project. If executives will not commit to long-term dedicated resources—whether those are specific people or full-time equivalents across a group of employees—the likelihood for failure is high.

Loss of project champion. Another reason cited for declining knowledge management programs is the loss of the project champion. KM initiatives are often pet projects lead by a supervisor or manager with a passion for the topic, and likely these project owners have experience implementing knowledgebases for other companies. If the project champion leaves the company, or is assigned to another department or project, there is no one left to rally the troops. Interest in the project fades, and work to create and maintain content ends. 

Lack of insight. Another common problem that can lead to inadequate content maintenance and declining KM success is a lack of insight into the success of the initiative due to having no analytics to help understand consumption trends and missing content. Companies using older knowledge tools, or those that leverage a general purpose data warehouse instead of a platform specifically designed for technical support knowledge management, are missing the analytics included in best-of-breed products that not only help track ROI for the project but allow sophisticated reporting on content trends. 


Partnering with a knowledge as a service (KaaS) provider can overcome each of these common challenges and ensure your KM program is successful—for the long term. Elements to look for when evaluating KaaS providers include: 

  • Training. Getting employees excited about a new knowledge initiative is key to their ongoing participation, and this starts with adequate training up front on not only what support techs and managers need to do to make the project a success, but how that success will make their jobs easier in the long run. KaaS providers provide as much training as necessary for your employees, relying on existing industry standards and best practices.

  • Authoring skills. Though your support techs still need to document activities in the incident text, including submitting new problem reports, the KaaS provider has teams of knowledge workers who will create knowledge articles from problem reports, following whatever template you have agreed on, and including your product experts in the approval flow as needed to ensure accuracy of content.

  • Usage/ROI dashboards. The biggest struggling point for many companies is knowing which KM metrics to track, how to capture the data, and knowing when to act on the data to prevent problems or improve success. KaaS providers will introduce new reports and real-time dashboards to help you measure the impact of the KM program, as well as identify your best knowledge contributors and flagging support techs or supervisors who are not active in the program.

  • Ongoing mentoring. To avoid the “launch and leave” problem, KaaS providers can give ongoing training and mentoring, so new employees are brought up to speed quickly and long-time workers receive refreshers as needed. This can also include periodic meetings with service executives to understand the overall impact of the program and recognized ROI, as well as future potential for additional ROI.

  • Knowledge maintenance. Not only can KaaS providers help you launch a new KM program effectively, they also can solve one of the biggest problems with existing programs—lack of knowledge maintenance. Using best-of-breed tools, your KaaS partner will be able to identify duplicate and unused content, removing and rewriting articles as necessary to make sure the content doesn’t become watered down and less useful over time.

Below is a list of the KaaS providers currently active in the TSIA partner program. Each of these partners has expertise in complex B2B service and support, and can evaluate your current KM tools and processes and help you create a “get well” plan for the future. 

TSIA members can find the full research report on which this blog post was based here

About the Author…

John Ragsdale is vice president of technology and social research for TSIA. His area of expertise is in creating strategies for improving the service operations and overall customer experience by leveraging innovative technology. Ragsdale drives TSIA's highly regarded technology research agenda, delivering insightful, thought-leadership research and analysis on the most pressing business issues facing services leaders to enable them to better plan and execute their service strategies.

In 2012, Ragsdale released his first book, Lessons Unlearned, which chronicles his 25-year career inside the customer service industry. Filled with best and worst practices, insider gossip, and sometimes-shocking real-world stories, Lessons Unlearned helps support managers, company executives, and even customers improve service interactions.

John may be reached at john.ragsdale@tsia.com.

Like what you're reading? Subscribe to the Inside Technology Services blog so you don't miss an article! You can subscribe by email or RSS feed at the top of this page!
Save 20% on conference registration

Topics: knowledge management, customer support, knowledge-as-a-service, knowledgebase, self-service support

Comments

Subscribe to the Blog

Posts by Topic

see all

Follow TSIA