This article originally appeared in the October 2012 issue of CUSTOMER
Think about it – knowledge management is about one of your company’s most vital assets.
Too often, people think of KM only as technology that manages data, information and electronic files, sometimes referred to as data warehousing. But it’s really a managed process to harness, develop and make available a sustainable base of knowledge that’s used across the organization – and with your customers. It becomes a living, breathing asset.
If you’re just getting started with KM, it requires three key areas of commitment:
- a highly structured management process;
- an ongoing, organization-wide commitment to support and embrace the effort; and
- last but not least, the sophisticated technology to enable KM.
The Management Process, or Knowledge-Centered Support
Knowledge-centered support is a structured approach to managing knowledge developed by the Consortium for Service Innovation. This illustration identifies the key process elements in the cycle of managing knowledge
The consortium sums it up in four basic concepts:
- Integrate the creation and maintenance of knowledge into the problem solving process.
- Evolve content based on demand and usage.
- Develop a knowledge base of collective experience to date.
- Reward learning, collaboration, sharing, and improving.
These concepts, properly implemented, transform data and information into a working asset that supports your organization and your customers in ways that not only enhance sales, service and operations but provide valuable insights and actionable intelligence to enable innovation and long-term success.
Embracing KM Across the Enterprise
In many organizations, knowledge is stuck inside lines of business, departments and other narrow areas. These siloes prevent collaboration and ultimately cause dysfunctional behavior that stifles growth and innovation. That’s why it’s critical to get sponsorship and support from the highest levels of management. These executives are key to fostering an environment that develops and shares knowledge for the benefit of the organization and rewards people who demonstrate these attributes.
Establish goals and performance objectives for your knowledge management project to ensure success. Clear, goal-oriented measures should tie to desired outcomes and be measured in the current state and at regular intervals.
Knowledge Management Engine
A great process and commitment across the organization is the foundation for a successful KM program. But we need technology to provide the tools and realize the benefits. KM technology handles everything from gathering data from its source to authoring and approving new knowledge.
Here are some important capabilities:
- organization-specific taxonomy (custom vocabulary) to optimize search;
- natural language search;
- guided responses to search questions;
- content rating and updating;
- authoring, editing and publishing tools;
- integration APIs for CRM, web, e-mail and other content sources; and
- reporting and analysis tools.
Content for KM systems is acquired from its source. Links, connectors and APIs enable the system to access and update content where it resides. You can also build a repository inside the knowledge management system – possibly for newly created content. But this ability to tap knowledge where it resides is a key differentiator between data warehouse systems and KM.
A key implementation consideration is deciding whether the system will be used internally only or also for external access. We encourage clients to share the benefits of KM with customers and partners. Many implementations use KM tools on a website for external users to troubleshoot problems, for example. And often, customers can be important contributors to your knowledge base. If KM is shared by all potential users, we see greater consistency and accuracy in information and resolutions.
There are many suppliers to consider. They include: Autonomy (which acquired Verity), Consona (Knova), Oracle (News - Alert) (InQuira), Kana, RightNow, and The Brain. Some suppliers provide CRM and KM in a single product, while others are dedicated suites; so it’s important to gather detailed requirements to identify the best supplier to meet your needs.
The Benefits of KM
Finding, accessing and updating knowledge brings many benefits across an organization such as intelligence to improve product support, insights to assist manufacturing, and valuable information to manage customer interactions. In the contact center, KM can speed response times to resolve problems and optimize first contact resolution.
We see KM as the next step for companies that embrace transparency and customer-centric design. Sharing knowledge with customers creates better conversations, higher levels of engagement, and increased customer loyalty.
Mike Stokes is President of Innovate Forward Inc. (www.innovateforward.com), a management consulting firm that focuses on customer interaction, customer operations, contact centers and technology.
Edited by Brooke Neuman