Final Thoughts from TSW: Core vs. Context at the Heart of Trends
Is it too late for a final “what I heard” column from TSW last month? Now that things have calmed down a bit and I’ve had time to reflect, I found a recurring theme in many of my conversations: core vs. context. As every consultant knows, analyzing core vs. context is one of the best decision drivers for large and small dilemmas, and using core vs. context has helped many technology companies make some tough decisions in order to survive the economic disaster of 2009. This thinking is forcing companies, and definitely service organizations, to re-evaluate what their core competencies really are. Specifically:
1) In what areas are you ahead of peers and have competitive differentiation?
2) Which products, programs and services are generating the most profits?
Faced with tight budgets, prioritizing these areas for additional funding (additional staff, new technology, new processes), and de-emphasizing the rest, is driving some interesting shifts–both new trends and accelerating older trends. From what I heard, I’d say three of these are:
- Outsourcing social media is a great idea. One of our Recognized Innovators was Sykes Enterprises, a BPO, who had impressive case studies about their SYKES’ Online Support Communities (OSC) offering, which runs online communities on behalf of technology companies with fantastic results. Let’s face it, social media is not in everyone’s DNA, and with the possible ROI from a really effective community, why not turn your moderation and forum management over to the experts? I co-authored a white paper with Convergys who also has great examples of being a BPO for technology customer communities. Here’s a link to register for a free copy of that white paper: Battling Complexity: Trends in Outsourcing – Using Innovative Technologies and Support Solutions to Help Technology Companies Stay Ahead of the Complexity Curve.
- Lack of IT resources and/or cooperation is THE cloud driver. Having been an IT analyst for Forrester for years, I have long been a defender of IT for having to do an amazing job with little visibility or appreciation (just like customer support!). BUT, every time someone asked me for a product recommendation and said they preferred a cloud/SaaS/OnDemand solution, I asked them why. And every single time the answer was the same: We don’t have IT resources to help with any projects; if we wait for IT the project will be delayed 1-3 years; IT will force us to use a hugely complex product we don’t want, etc. Clearly, and I don’t say this lightly, one of the primary drivers for cloud technology is the fact that after a decade of cost cutting and outsourcing, internal information technology is no longer a core competency of many technology companies today.
- The knowledgebase is core to the success of a KM program. I have been flirting with “the knowledgebase is dead” headlines for the last couple of years, as interest shifted from proprietary knowledgebases to search technology that will locate needed content anywhere. Spending on knowledgebases has been low, especially compared to search, and satisfaction with existing knowledgebase tools is shockingly low. But what I heard loud and clear from more than a dozen people at TSW was the knowledgebase is FAR from dead. It is core to the success of any knowledge management program, it is is a key piece of Knowledge Centered Support, companies have staff dedicated to KB creation and maintenance–there will always be a place for a structured knowledgebase within technical support. Members want MORE KB options to choose from–not fewer. And, while they appreciate that most vendors in this space sell a suite of knowledge, search and channel management tools, they only want to buy one piece at a time, and want it all to work together. No one sees a single stovepipe for KM technology as realistic for large companies.
OK, enough recaps. I have invitations out to our recent STAR Award winners about doing blog interviews, so hopefully in the weeks to come I will be bringing you some behind the scenes looks at some incredible service organizations. Stay tuned! And as always, thanks for reading.
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