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Knowing me, knowing you - five steps to better knowledge management

(Image credit: Image Credit: NakoPhotography / Shutterstock)

Whether you initially think of ABBA or Alan Partridge, Knowing Me Knowing You is all about how well you know another person. When you are on the brink of a break-up – or dealing with a particularly serious customer service issue – being able to call on “Memories … good days … bad days” will be essential. This means looking at knowledge management.

In IT Service Management, Knowledge Management (KM) refers to the processes and technologies involved in capturing information from across the business and storing it for later use. This knowledge is potentially useful for multiple teams across an organisation, but it is all too easy for that data to slip through the cracks. This can happen through not capturing data easily at the outset, not managing it well once it is captured, or not ensuring that teams can easily transfer knowledge between each other. Whatever pitfalls are in place, the risk is that useful information that can help internal staff and customers goes to waste.

So how can you improve your approach to knowledge, and what value can this investment drive across the organisation?

Preparing for KM

The first step here is to establish your KM programme objectives. Whether you have an existing approach to KM in place already, or a less formalised approach to capturing all this data, this initial stage should provide an opportunity to benchmark what you currently do and then how you will improve. This involves evaluating both your short-term goals and any long term vision that you have for KM, and how these can be balanced over time.

To achieve this, it’s important to look at the business problem that you have to solve. Is this about communicating more effectively with customers, or about increasing efficiency in serving those needs? Is there a company brand perspective here, where the company has a premium brand to support in its interactions with customers? Thinking through these issues can help you establish what your goals should be over time and who will be involved in meeting these objectives.

Following this, the next stage involves communicating this change clearly to all those involved in KM, or that will be affected by the change. This should provide them with an overview of the goals, their role in delivering them, and the gains that they will be contributing to. This can involve a huge amount of cultural change, so it’s important to build support within any stakeholder groups involved. Ideally, this project should have backing from the senior leadership team – however, this can be difficult to achieve without being tied to a larger business goal.

For organisations looking at large automation or artificial intelligence projects, it can be easier to get this kind of support based on the monetary gains that can be achieved. For smaller projects, getting more efficiency in staff performance or better customer experience can help build support. For those projects that involve making large changes to existing KM implementations – either by installing new platforms and ways of working, or that require more support from team members – going into the reasons why changes are needed, and the pain that comes from sticking with previous processes, should help build support too.

This should begin by putting together the team that will be responsible for the KM project and all the activities involved. This team will map all the current sources of data that exist within the organisation, how well they are currently maintained and followed, and where these can be improved. This team will also take choices on what processes will be used or extended, from managing content through to sourcing and sharing expertise.

Alongside building support for the change, it’s also important to establish what key performance indicators (KPIs) are going to be tracked. These KPIs will be how you will measure success over time, so picking the right ones will be crucial. These goals should link into the overall business problems that you are looking to solve, while also providing useful management data for the teams that will be using your knowledge tools and data every day.

Rolling out your new KM and KPI initiatives

Once you have built up your support and defined your goals, it is time to actually make the changes to processes. This may also involve implementing new KM tools or technologies, so the upheaval can be significant. During this process, it’s important to remind people of the goals and the results that are expected. As part of any move, looking for quick wins that can help people see the benefits should help. This can then be communicated out to the wider team and help others see the results that they will experience over time.

For the support team, looking at the number of new articles that are created is useful, but not enough. Instead, it’s important to track the number of times that knowledge base articles are used to solve problems, and how often they were instrumental in fixing a customer issue. These metrics should all be shared publicly, as this will help recognise the work that agents are doing; it can also be gamified to increase participation within the KM process.

It’s also worth tracking how automated steps like recommending articles to agents or via chatbot services solved problems. These automated steps can power self-service initiatives that make staff more efficient and help customers faster, but they rely on articles being created in the first place. Without a close look at new trends that are developing, it’s possible for your KM statistics to drop over time.

Alongside the specific statistics on KM and article creation, it’s important to roll these efforts up into data points that can be used and shared with the management team. For example, showing how KM initiatives have improved agent throughput can be useful for the customer service team; however sharing data on improvements in customer satisfaction, driven by KM projects, will be useful to teams like sales, operations and management. By concentrating on a few specific KPIs that can measure your improvements in customer experience and use of KM, you can demonstrate more success over time.

So, your KM project has been completed and your KPI data shows that the process changes are sticking. Is this the end? Well, no. KM is an ongoing process that has to serve those who rely in customer data and company knowledge every day, as well as those that tap into the results indirectly. The upshot of this is that KM requires a service lifecycle approach in order to succeed over time.

What does this mean in practice? Ideally, KM should be treated as an integral part of all activities that take place across the company or organisation. Encouraging this process is important to help changes stick, and prevent individuals from either not contributing fully or sliding back into prior behaviour. Either way, making it as simple as possible to contribute to increasing knowledge, to sharing information and to acknowledge the results of these actions should help make the process easier to follow.

KM is essential to help companies make the most of their existing people, processes and technology. Without this insight, it’s harder to be efficient in serving customer needs. By looking at KM in more detail, you can support better implementation of new technologies like agent automation, self-service and chatbots over time. Now, this should be a real “A-Ha” moment for knowledge management.

Simon Johnson, General Manager UK and Ireland, Freshworks
Image Credit: NakoPhotography / Shutterstock