Posted tagged ‘knowledge management’

What I Heard at TSW: KM Culture, Social Knowledge, Gamification, KaaS

October 28, 2014

Last week was our Technology Services World Conference in Las Vegas. It was our biggest conference ever, with over 1,300 attendees. I spent most of Tuesday doing more than a dozen 1:1 meetings with members, answering technology questions, helping them create a short list of possible vendors for a planned technology purchase, or giving them a map of exhibiting partners to visit in the EXPO depending on the problem they were trying to solve. Since my Power Hour session on Monday was about the results of my August knowledge management survey, many of my member meetings were related to KM: what wasn’t working, what they would do differently next time, new technologies to invest in, etc. Based on questions asked during the KM session, and conversations with members and partners afterwards, here are some popular conversation threads I wanted to share with a larger audience.

Culture and KM

In my Power Hour presentation, I opened and closed with a focus on corporate culture and KM, and shared some results from my survey on how respondents rated their corporate culture, from a high of “Leaders set the example and reward knowledge sharing” to a low of “Share any knowledge and others will take credit”. We have very smart members, and Jodi McBride, Director, Knowledge & Content Management, Pitney Bowes Global Client Services, asked if there was any data correlation in the survey results between culture and KM success. Well, I hadn’t even thought about that. This morning I spent a bit of time slicing and dicing, and found a very interesting data story:

KM Culture and Success

As you can see in these charts, I sorted all the KM survey responses into three groups by KM culture scores: poorest KM culture (bottom third), average KM culture (middle third), and strongest KM culture (top third). Then I looked at the average scores for each group for the question “How do you rate your existing KM system?” and it appears that culture plays a big role in how well a company’s KM program is going. For both customer-facing and employee-facing knowledgebases, the stronger the culture, the higher the KBs are rated. This played out in many member conversations, and at this point, I see culture as a primary indicator of KM project success.

Social Knowledge

I’ve had a few eye rolls in the past when discussing crowd sourcing knowledge, but that tide seems to have turned. There was a lot of interest in how to incorporate customers into knowledge creation and sharing, with more companies saying they were using wikis or ‘tribal knowledgebases’ to build and curate a knowledgebase by and for customers (Jive Software, who exhibited at TSW, got a lot of booth traffic around this topic). The most telling story came from Scott Bideau, Regional Sales Manager USA West, Coveo, who also attended my Power Hour session. He said that when companies push back on letting customers create knowledge, he asks them: “How many of you truly know more about your customer than they know about you?” After a bit of soul searching, most companies admit that customers DO know more about them than they know about the customer. So why, if the customer does know so much about you (your products, your employees, your website tools, even your culture), why wouldn’t you want to tap into that expertise? Face it, customers who interact with your products in order to do their jobs have a different and likely deeper understanding of your technology than you ever will. Not taking advantage of that would be very sad indeed.


I also received multiple questions about gamification, mostly companies looking for some good examples of how to gamify KM to encourage participation in submitting new articles and maintaining older content. I have to admit I have not always been the biggest fan of this topic, and even once wrote that, regarding gamification, “if the emperor is not naked, he is at least scantily clad.” My issue is that many examples I’ve been given of gamification dashboards and contests have been around for 20 years, and are just being re-labeled. One audience member, Chris Hall, Chief Marketing Officer, Transversal, chided me for my ‘grumpy old man’ attitude on the topic, and said there are some very exciting developments in this area. Send me your best examples, and I will blog about them! The bottom line here is that if gamification can be leveraged to encourage employees to participate in what even I admit can be a tedious process, then I’m all for it. But some good examples would be nice. 😉

Knowledge as a Service

This topic was discussed during my Power Hour, and also in several 1:1 meetings afterwards. I wrote about Knowledge as a Service, or KaaS, earlier this year as a hot KM trend, and I think the topic is getting some real traction. After sharing my survey data on “Rip and Replace,” showing that nearly half of companies were on their 3rd, 4th, 5th or more employee-facing knowledge platform, clearly a lot of service organizations have yet to find KM success, with the technology being a scapegoat for what is almost always a process problem. If companies can outsource calls, maintenance renewals, product testing, etc., to a strategic partner who can do it better, why not  work with experts in knowledge management who can make your KM program a success? One of our KaaS partners, Klever,  exhibited in the EXPO, so hopefully they had some good traffic on this topic.

In addition to these themes, I had multiple conversations about KM staffing, how to kickstart a KM program, and who/how/how often to provide KM training for employees. I also explained the difference between federated search and unified search, and the difference between full text search and natural language search, so many times I finally have a fairly short answer to the question. (Short for me, anyway.)

If you would like more information on the results of my KM survey, I will be doing a free webinar this Friday at 8am PT going over all the content I covered in my Power Hour. Here’s a link to register for the event: 

TSIA members can access a copy of the research report detailing the survey findings here: 

If you aren’t a TSIA member, we are making a copy of the report available to all members of the Klever community for a limited time next month, so register now and you will be eligible to download the report: 

Thanks everyone who attended my session, scheduled 1:1 meetings, or sent emails about my KM survey results. And as always, thanks for reading.


The State of Knowledge Management: 2014

October 20, 2014

Today at Technology Services World I am releasing the results of my August knowledge management survey both online, and in my Power Hour session at 4:15. The data shows that companies continue to find enormous potential in knowledge management, but are often thwarted by corporate culture, and tend to blame technology for process problems. Also, there is growing interest in emerging technologies that are changing the approach and priority of knowledge capture and sharing.

To me, the single most compelling piece of data related to the untapped potential of KM. The survey asked, “If your organization was sharing knowledge as well as they possibly could, how much would it improve the productivity of your team?” Here are the results:

KM Potential

40% of respondents said that doing KM well could increase employee productivity by 20-30%, and a third of respondents said that KM had the potential of a 30-50%+ improvement. Every year KM technology tops the list of solutions companies plan to invest in, and this is the reason: they understand there is enormous potential for ROI by doing KM well, and they are allocating budget to make it happen.

However, as I have said for years, and wrote a chapter about in my book Lessons Unlearned, the reason most KM programs fail is not about the technology, but process. Usually a new knowledge management platform is launched, everyone gets knowledge centered support (KCS) training, and support organizations see immediate results in lower resolution time and higher first contact resolution rates. But then sometime in year 2, things typically start falling apart. Key resources are pulled off projects, project champions move on to other priorities, and the number of dedicated knowledge workers declines. Content becomes stale, there are a lot of outdated and duplicate articles, and both employees and customers stop using the knowledgebase.

According to the survey, only 35% of companies regularly update content on a daily or weekly basis, and 27% admit “We have not updated our content for a very long time.” Only 36% have a proactive process to identify content gaps, and 35% say they have zero tools or processes to find content gaps.

Although clearly there are holes in processes contributing to the downfall of many a KM program, as soon as problems arise, the first thing everyone says is, “We need to find a new KM tool!” According to the survey, 48% of Employee-Facing knowledge implementations and 39% of Customer-Facing knowledge implementations are on their 3rd, 4th, 5th or more solution in recent memory. “Rip and replace” continues to be the most common approach to fix what is almost always a process problem. And guess what? 2 years later, if the processes don’t improve, they are in the same position and shopping for a new KM platform once again.

A major shift to knowledge strategies in the last 5 years has been the number of content sources. It is a bit unrealistic to expect a large enterprise to have a single knowledgebase, but even if they do, they also have many other valuable content sources, including online communities, online documentation, release notes, etc. For this reason, search technology has emerged as a cornerstone of a successful knowledge strategy.

I am a big advocate of unified search technology, which indexes all of your content sources–in any format in any location–and returns search matches based on concept (not key word) matching, as well as providing filtering options to drill down into exactly what you need. Federated search is less helpful; these search tools just leverage whatever search capabilities are inherent within each content repository and present a consolidated list of returns. The problem is federated search is usually a full text search, not a concept search, so if you search for ‘voice of the customer’ it won’t find ‘customer satisfaction’ or ‘customer experience,’ which are related concepts but different terminology.

KM Search

Only a quarter of companies have implemented unified search for employees and customers. More than half say that the search engine they offer for their knowledgebase ONLY searches the knowledgebase, meaning if there is relevant content in the community or online manuals, the user will never know about it. This comes up in the majority of my KM-related inquiry calls, so I’m hoping to see some movement in these numbers in the 2015 KM survey.

For TSIA members, you can download a copy of the report detailing the survey findings later today on For those of you attending TSW, you can pick up a copy of the report in the TSIA EXPO booth.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the survey. And, as always, thanks for reading!

Technology Services World: Knowledge Management Content and Exhibitors

October 7, 2014

Capturing, sharing and maintaining knowledge is always a popular topic at TSIA Conferences, and at our upcoming Technology Services World in Las Vegas, October 20-22, there will be a lot of great content on this hot topic. Our 2nd annual knowledge management survey was completed in August, and I’ll be revealing the findings and publishing the results at the event. I’ve had mulitple inquiries over the last week asking what KM content will be featured at the show, and what exhibitors in the Expo offer knowledge management tools and services, so here’s a peak at KM-releated sessions and exhibitors so you can start planning your time now.

First up are the breakout sessions focusing on knowledge management. For detailed sessions descriptions, see the TSW agenda online.

  • Transforming Knowledge Management: Hot KM Trends. In this Power Hour session on Monday at 4:15, I’ll walk through the results of the KM survey, including information on KM across service divisions, and emerging technology areas such as mobility, video, unified search, expertise management, etc.
  • Three Months, 300% Productivity Improvement: Transforming Customer Success Using Rapid Knowledge Sharing. Phil Verghis, Klever; Mitchell Spence, Tyler Technologies, Inc. Tuesday, 2:00 PM.
  • Using KCS and Discovery Based Consumption Analytics to Generate Proactive Support Deliverables and Guaranteed Customer Outcomes. Rob Baker, Akamai Technologies, Inc. Tuesday, 3:30 PM.
  • OK, We’ve Done KCS. What’s Next? David Kay, DB Kay & Associates; Sean Murphy, Riverbed Technology, Inc. Tuesday, 3:30 PM.
  • From Knowledge Hoarding to Solve-Once: Aligning Support around a Knowledge Culture. Linda Hartig, Avaya; Dan Pratt, Avaya; Joey Fister, Avaya. Tuesday, 4:45 PM.
  • Knowledge: Experience Sharing of KCS Implementation. Nicolas Brunel, Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise. Wednesday, 11:30 AM.

Here’s a look at KM-related partners participating in the Expo:

  • Aptean/Knova. Knowledgebase, search
  • Coveo. Unified search, expertise management
  • DB Kay & Associates. KM and KCS assessment and training
  • GeoFluent/Lionbridge. Translation services
  • Klever. KM and KCS assessment and training, Knowledge as a Service
  • Jive. Employee and customer collaboration, crowdsourcing KM
  • LivePerson. Self-service knowledgebase, multi-channel service
  • Radialpoint. Knowledge management, search, mobile self-service
  • Stone Cobra. KM implementations, assessments, training
  • SYSTRAN. Translation services
  • Transversal. Knowledgebase, self-service, collaboration
  • Verint/Kana. Knowledgebase, self-service, multi-channel, crowdsourcing KM

If you are attending TSW and would like to discuss your KM strategy, I have open slots for 1:1 meetings on Tuesday, 10/21. When you arrive at registration, ask to schedule a 1:1!

Thanks for reading, and I look forward to seeing you in Las Vegas!

Top Knowledge Management Trends for 2014

February 27, 2014

Today I co-presented a webinar with longtime partner Coveo, “Top Knowledge Management Trends of 2014.” We had a huge response to the event, and the largest live audience I’ve seen for a webinar in quite a while. KM is always a hot topic with TSIA members, but interest continues to grow as we see knowledge strategies moving beyond customer support to include field service, professional services, managed services, and more. So what are the biggest trends in KM today? Based on TSIA data and member conversations, here are the top 3 trends I highlighted in today’s webinar:


  • Legacy search tools failing. My colleague Ken O’Reilly completed TSIA’s first “knowledge management practices” survey in December, and the results will be published in the next couple of weeks. I shared a couple of proof points in the webinar today to illustrate how existing KM implementations aren’t keeping up. The lion’s share of respondents to the survey have had both their customer-facing and employee-facing KM platforms in place for 4 or more years, which should indicate they are mature, highly adopted, and delivering value. But, when asked to rate their current KM implementations, the largest percent of respondents indicated the worst option: “Needs a lot of work.” So why are these mature implementations failing? In my experience, inadequate search is often at the root of the problem. Legacy search tools don’t do well outside a proprietary knowledgebase, and according to my annual tech survey, SharePoint is now the top installed knowledgebase tool used by service organizations. Not a specialized tool built for support knowledge, a generic content warehouse. With customers and employees now expecting to search content anywhere in the enterprise, in any format, requirements for search have evolved dramatically. Today, companies need a search tool that provides context, intelligence, dynamic taxonomies, and multiple filtering options.
  • Enterprise collaboration. I have a report in editing right now calling enterprise collaboration “the third wave of knowledge management.” Another factoid from the recent KM survey is that less than half of customer issues are resolved by content in the knowledgebase. If you don’t have the answer at your fingertips, the most direct route to the answer is to ask an expert. I’m seeing huge planned spending on enterprise collaboration tools to enable this. But the missing element–and this is a BIG missing element–is how to know who the expert is to ask. This is where expertise management comes in. I have blogged before about the importance of expertise management, and I’m hoping more companies begin to include requirements for this in their KM/enterprise search plans. The same search platform that can analyze all the content in your enterprise to create dynamic taxonomies, can also create relationships between content topics and people. So, if you are trouble shooting an install script, the system can prompt you with the developer who wrote the install script, the Q&A person who tested it, and the Tech Pubs person who documented it. Armed with this information, you know exactly who to reach out to for an answer.
  • Mobility. I tend to refer to this trend as “The Connected Customer” and “The Connected Technician.” The mass adoption of smartphones and tablets has revolutionized the way we retrieve and interact with information. While the majority of mobile devices may be originally designed for consumers, we bring our consumer experiences into the workplace with us. Today’s customers and employees expect–if not demand–that they have ubiquitous access to corporate content at any time, from any place, using any device. But to enable this, you need the right mobile infrastructure. When shopping for KM/search technology, include requirements in three areas. First, the system should support all devices, not just Droid or Apple or RIM. Ideally, this means HTML5. Secondly, the system should offer optimized displays for mobile devices–the same user interface that works fine on a desktop web browser will not work effectively on a 2″x 3″ smartphone screen. And third, the system should be able to retrieve and display a wide variety of formats. I’ve heard complaints from companies whose mobile search tools displayed some file types like ASCII characters–completely unreadable.


For those of you who missed today’s webinar, here’s a link to the OnDemand version: It is only 30 minutes, and worth a listen if you are interested in what’s new with KM. Thanks to everyone who tuned in today. We didn’t have time to answer audience questions, so if you asked a question during the live event, we will be following up with you afterwards.

And as always, thanks for reading!

Join us live for TechFUTURES in Santa Clara!

May 2, 2013

Last fall at our Technology Services World Conference in Las Vegas, the question I asked everyone I talked to was, “What does the support desk of the future look like?” What I heard were lots of elements that are quickly evolving, and will definitely be different in 3 or 5 or 10 years. Social media and rising customer clout were voiced by many people. Impacts of mobility–on how we service customers and how customers consume our products–is another game changer. Remote workers becoming the predominate model for support was also on the minds of many people. And other people expressed concern that many of today’s challenges, such as knowledge management, will only get worse in the years to come.

Out of these dialogs grew a new TSIA event, TechFUTURES, which will open our Spring TSW conference on Monday at 11:00am at the Santa Clara Convention Center. TechFUTURES presents a day in the live of a support technician, and the day in the life of a technology customer, in the year 2018. We will look at how things will change in respect to four specific areas:

  • Social media. How will social media shape customer conversations, especially as Generation Y becomes the primary demographic for employees and customers? After seven years of investment, TSIA members are finally starting to see ROI for social initiatives. How will customer communities, as well as current and future social media channels, allow service operations to accommodate ever-growing customer demand for support without infinite scaling of service employees?
  • Knowledge and content management. With the amount of content exploding due to rising complexity and faster release cycles, how can future service employees navigate an impossibly large knowledge infrastructure? Tomorrow’s corporate content store will be even larger and more dispersed than today, creating challenges for service organizations to find what they need quickly and efficiently. How can knowledge tools become more intelligent, anticipating our needs and proactively serving content to employees and customers?
  • Mobility. The mobile revolution has quickly moved customers from desktops and laptops to smartphones and tablets, with a myriad of smaller and smarter devices on the horizon. As customers become inseparable from technology, their expectations for service continue to rise. As more sophisticated mobile devices proliferate, and mobile applications become the predominate way customers access our technology, how do we effectively support this increasingly mobile customer?
  • Customer experience. With the customer quickly gaining clout and visibility, how will the customer experience movement impact service operations in five to ten years? With the push toward managed services, how can next-generation remote and proactive support technology radically change the customer ownership experience? Where can we make investments today to better enable the ultimate customer experience in the future?

I will open TechFUTURES and then turn things over to our panelists, each an expert on one of these areas, who will present their vision of the future. Our experts are:

  • Social Media: Joe Cothrel, Chief Community Officer, Lithium
  • Knowledge and Content Management: Diane Berry, SVP, Marketing and Communications, Coveo
  • Mobility: John Purcell, Director, Products, LogMeIn
  • Customer Experience: Anthony (T.J.) Felice, President, ISOdx Solutions

After the 4 presentations, each audience member will vote live for what they think is the most provocative view of the future, using hand held response units provided in each seat. I will announce the winner during the awards ceremony at Service Revolutions on Wednesday at the close of the conference.

If you are interested in attending TechFUTURES, attendance is included with your TSW registration. If you aren’t attending TSW, TechFUTURES is open to the public and you can register and get an entry badge at the TSW registration area in the rotunda. I’m really looking forward to this new event, and hope to see you there! Thanks as always for reading!

Are you REALLY KCS Compliant? David Kay Documents Common Departures from the Standard

February 11, 2013

I consider myself an expert on knowledge management for support. But when I have questions, I go to someone with even more expertise than I have:  David Kay of DB Kay & Associates. I recently had a conversation with David about how everyone seems to think they are KCS (Knowledge Centered Support, the recognized standard for support knowledge capture, publishing and maintenance) compliant, but they clearly have practices that are not true to the spirit of KCS. David has created a list of questions to ask yourself to see if you have strayed from your KCS training. I was going to use this in a webcast a couple of weeks ago, but the webcast content took a turn in a different direction and I wasn’t able to use it. But I thought the list was important enough to include in a blog post.

Here is the list from David, with some comments from me:

Does your customer-facing staff:

  • Consistently search for knowledge while resolving cases? If techs don’t search for content every time, they rely on how they solved the same problem in the past. The problem here is that the knowledge article may changed, due to a product revision or new release, or maybe someone found an easier approach to solve the problem. Encourage even senior techs to search every time and be on the lookout for article updates, especially after a major product release.
  • Link cases to relevant content, new or reused? Linking support incidents to knowledge articles gives you accurate data on exactly how many times each known problem occurs, which not only allows you to put an ownership cost on each problem, but helps product management and development prioritize bug and enhancement requests by targeting issues impacting the most customers.
  • Universally contribute to the knowledgebase, if they have knowledge to share? I get so many questions on how to encourage everyone to contribute to the knowledgebase, and my answer is you have to leverage both the carrot (incentives, rewards) and the stick (performance reviews), making knowledge everyone’s responsibility, and reward those who participate and penalize those who don’t.
  • Capture knowledge in the workflow, while working cases, rather than later? It should not take a degree in creative writing to submit knowledge. With templates and process flows, techs should be able to easily submit new articles using incident notes while working on the problem. The key here is to capture and share the knowledge as quickly as possible. Especially after a new release, many customers may report a bug at the same time, and you don’t want multiple techs investigating the same problem. By submitting an article about the problem as soon as possible–even if the fix is pending–anyone else who encounters the problem won’t waste time reinventing the wheel on a solution.
  • Improve knowledge as they use it? How many times have you read a knowledgebase article and noticed a spelling error, a leap in logic, or a missing step? Support techs should be encouraged to submit suggestions to improve content, always with an eye toward making the article as easy to consume as possible by novice techs and customers attempting self-service.
  • Self-approve their content, if they have the right KCS license? The key is getting new content available as soon as possible, to avoid the reinventing the wheel problem mentioned earlier. Senior techs should be able to publish articles visible to all front line workers, even if an additional layer of review is required before publishing the content to other departments or customers.
  • Understand that knowledge is a big part of their job? Every single employee runs across new information in their jobs. The knowledgebase should be the braintrust of the entire support organization, not just senior techs or designated knowledge experts. As I said earlier with the carrot and the stick, use whatever means necessary to get EVERYONE to participate. This means coaching some reluctant contributors that if they will share their hard-earned secrets, it means they can spend less time solving the same problems over and over, and begin tackling some new and more interesting problems.

For more information, you can find the original list at, and David has a video discussing the list on YouTube:

Thanks so much to David Kay for the great content, and thanks to all of you for reading!

What’s Hot at TSW: Top Attended Sessions

May 9, 2012

Today is the closing day of Technology Services World in Santa Clara, and I always find it enlightening to look at the top attended sessions of the event to see what topics are most interesting to members. No surprise, services technology, metrics, social media, and knowledge management proved to be popular topics. This is a list of the 10 sessions from Day 1 and Day 2 with the highest attendance:

  • Social Support: Battle-Hardened Lessons from Top Practitioners: A Panel Discussion with Leading Social Media Strategists in Tech Services. The was the top attended session at TSW, exploring the inner-workings of social media–best practices and lessons learned–and uncovering which strategies, tools, and processes are being used most successfully by leading services organizations. The session leader was TSIA’s own Shawn Santos, with a very impressive panel of experts: Lois Marie Townsend from Hewlett-Packard, Radha Penekelapati from, and Toby Richards from Microsoft.
  • Driving Recurring Service Revenue: How SAP, EMC, and BMC are Transforming Their Service Business into a Growth Engine. This Services Technology Advantage Case Study session was the 2nd highest attended session at the event. The audience heard from SAP, EMC and BMC service leaders on how they have taken their service business to the next level. Panelists discussed how increased focus, visibility, and control has helped them transform their service business into a revenue growth engine. The session host was Keith Leimbach from ServiceSource, with panelists Christophe Bodin from BMC Software, Sara Hepner from EMC, and Roger McConville from SAP.
  • Positioning the Support Organization as the Leader in Innovation. The third most attended session from Day 1 and Day 2 was also a Services Technology Advantage Case Study session. Presenters Tarik Mahmoud from Cisco and Diego Ventura from noHold explained that intelligence collected during a support interaction provides valuable insight for marketing, product development, engineering, and more. The challenge is that information is siloed and not transformed into measurable ROI. noHold’s customer, the leader in networking devices, has found a way to break the mold and create a paradigm shift by syndicating opportunities across all business units.
  • The Artful Manager: How to Leverage Business Metrics to Greatest Effect. Number 4 on the top attended list was this panel discussion, led by TSIA’s Stephen Smith, with panelists Syd Garrett from Cisco Systems, and Frank Coleman from EMC, presented an interactive discussion about how to optimize your metrics and business intelligence program.
  • Demystifying Service Revenue Growth. This session, presented by Julia Stegman, TSIA’s VP of research for service revenue generation, revealed the results from the Service Revenue Generation benchmark, which is the first and only industry benchmark for recurring services. Participants learned what actual performance is, which is an aggregate of impressive industry leaders from our Service Revenue Generation Founding Members.
  • Blending Knowledge Management and Social Media for Service and Support. Number 6 on our list was presented by Lynn Llewellyn and Kevin Mitts from VMware, who shared social media and knowledge-management strategies from VMware® Global Support Services. The company has developed an innovative, award-winning program that provides invaluable assistance to its customers and helps deflect support cases–the Social Media Guidebook for Service and Support Responds to Customers Faster and Increases Satisfaction.
  • Our Journey through Knowledge Management: Business Challenges, Best Practices, and Lessons Learned. Number 7 on the top attended list was also a Services Technology Advantage Case Study,  presented by Joni Ortbring from Audatex, a Solera Company, and Tom Kolano from Consona. The session focused on how Knowledge-Centered Support (KCS) principles, along with a feature-rich KM system, allowed Audatex  to focus on knowledge as a community asset providing accurate information to their clientele and associates in near real-time.
  • Channel Optimization and Why This Matters to Your Business. This session was originally going to be presented by my research pal, Sally Foster, but due to an injury, our fearless leader, JB Wood, stepped in and drove the session. Customers are becoming more and more interested in engaging with service providers via multiple channels of communication. It used to be that calling a support center or sending an e-mail was what you did. The cost of these channels is almost becoming prohibitive depending on the volume of incidents a provider handles. Customers want solution providers to engage with them in the way that they want to be served. This session looked at evolving channel strategies and how successful companies are approaching customer channel preferences.
  • Transform Your Services Business To Create A Strategic And Sustainable Footprint With Your Customer.Number 9 on our list is another customer case study, part of the Services Technology Advantage track. Presented by Ruth Fornell from NCR, the session described how NCR Corporation continues its evolution into a services led, software driven, hardware enabled solutions company. Attendees learned how NCR uses Compuware Changepoint Professonal Services Automation (PSA) to differentiate themselves while creating a broader, more strategic and sustainable footprint with their customers. This case study presentation was targeting services executives looking to transform their services business through global knowledge sharing, centers of excellence and organizational transformation.
  • Award-Winning Best Practices in Complex Applications Support. Rounding out our Top 10 session was a panel discussion with Charlotte Baker of Digital Hands, Michael Montoya from EMC, and Buffy Ransom from Oracle. Providing sophisticated technical support for complex applications in mixed or otherwise complex environments requires a unique set of service delivery capabilities. Attendees came to learn what works from a panel of 2009-2011 STAR Award winners in the Complex Applications Support category, who shared their successful strategies and tactics in an interactive panel discussion

Thanks to everyone for attending our event, and a special thanks to all these presenters for creating such dynamic topics and content!

Breakthrough Knowledge Management: A Conversation with David Kay

March 22, 2011

While as a services technology analyst I cover lots of different types of tools, there is no denying my real passion is knowledge management. Early in my career as a support manager, a KM implementation revolutionized the way we did business, and I’ve been hooked ever since. I’ve worked for knowledgebase vendors, I’ve been a product manager for KM products, and I’ve implemented KM in the field for dozens of companies. As an analyst, I’ve been answering KM questions and making product recommendations for IT and service professionals since 2001. And one thing is very clear: while this may be maturing technology, with oceans of best practices and now recognized industry standards for KM in ITIL and Knowledge Centered Support, very few companies have it all figured out.

One person who does have it all figured out is David Kay, principal at DB Kay & Associates, and a longtime friend and partner of the TSIA. David is my go-to guy when I don’t have the answer, and he always has great insight and examples from the real world. David will be leading a professional development course, “Breakthrough Knowledge Management: An Introduction to KCS,” at our upcoming Technology Services World Conference in Santa Clara, CA on May 2nd. I had a chance last week to chat with David about current KM trends and his course on KCS. Here are some highlights.

John Ragsdale: For the uninitiated, could you give a brief overview of Knowledge Centered Support (KCS)?

David Kay: Sure! KCS is the industry best practice for capturing, structuring, reusing, and improving knowledge while delivering service and support. KCS has been around for nearly two decades, and many TSIA members including IBM, Cisco, Intuit, Yahoo!, and Symantec have contributed to making it as mature as it is today.

The big difference with KCS is that knowledge management is integrated into the job, so the knowledgebase is created and maintained as a byproduct of doing the things that people are already doing. Over time, without extra effort, the knowledgebase becomes a valuable repository of the organization’s collective experience.

Ragsdale: Over the last couple of years I know you have done KCS workshops with many TSIA members. Do you have a feel for the adoption of KCS in the high tech industry? It seems to have become a recognized standard.

Kay: Oh, it really has. When I started this eight-plus years ago, things were so different. The key premise of KCS, the fact that the people actually solving customer issues are the best people to capture their resolutions in a knowledgebase, was actually very controversial. People assumed you needed knowledge specialists or English majors or something. And the dirty secret was that some organizations didn’t really trust their own people to solve problems correctly. (In which case, we might ask, why were they putting them on the phones?)

It’s very different now. I remember at a recent TSW workshop, I asked people “how many of you are doing KCS?” and almost the whole room raised their hands. I was shocked! It’s silly, but I was somehow under the impression that I should have known at least some of them if they were all doing KCS. But it is really so much bigger than any one person or organization can keep track of now. It really has become the standard.

So perhaps the question to ask today isn’t whether you’re doing KCS or not, but how effectively are you doing KCS?

Ragsdale: I’m seeing more CRM/multi-channel/knowledgebase solutions being designated as KCS compliant. If you buy a KCS compliant product, what can you expect? What are some of the requirements for support platforms to be KCS compliant?

Kay: The Consortium for Service Innovation has a KCS v4 Verified program for technologies (and consultants like us). Details are here, but you’re right about the high-level goals.

To support KCS well, technologies must
– integrate knowledge capture into the case-answering process, avoiding duplicate effort
– make it easy to improve content in the workflow
– search effectively
– track how knowledge is reused when resolving cases
– support solution approval and publication without formal review queues
– report on knowledge activities and quality, as well as business outcomes

Beyond that, we’ve found that tools really need to keep things simple for the users. I expect you have the same reaction I do when watching some tool demonstrations with complex feature after feature…who has time for all that? So, as the KCS Practices Guide says, “tools must function at the speed of conversation.”

Ragsdale: In your course description, you talk about having the right culture for KM success. I’ve had 2 inquiries just this week from members who are having a hard time getting new support techs to fully document incident notes or create new knowledge articles. Could you talk about making a cultural shift to value—and participate in—a KM program?

Kay: I’m glad you asked about this, because this is tremendously important…and why starting a KM initiative without executive support is nearly impossible.

It all starts with the question, “why does our organization exist?” Sometimes when I ask that, people laugh a little bit and describe themselves as a “necessary evil,” or just shrug and say their product isn’t perfect. But mostly, especially at a senior level, they realize that the point of their organization is to help customers receive and perceive value — to make customers successful, to create loyalty, to drive repeat business, referrals, and deeper relationships. In short, they realize they exist for precisely the reasons that J.B. Wood wrote about in Complexity Avalanche, and that you and TSIA have been researching for years.

We’re all fixated on closing cases, getting to the next call, and reducing backlog. And closing cases is important. But viewed from the bigger perspective of customer success, closing cases is just one means to that end. Sharing knowledge on the web can help ten times as many customers–or more. Knowledge reuse can drive product improvements, pre-empting customer problems. And sharing knowledge internally can make every case go smoother, faster, more consistently, at first contact–all the things that delight customers. Viewed in that light, what could possibly be a more important job for support techs than capturing and sharing what they learn?

Leaders must articulate what the organization’s mission is, and why knowledge is central to that mission. Couple that with including knowledge into job descriptions, making knowledge part of the employee review process, communicating effectively, and recognizing contributions, and what we’ve seen is that the culture change is unstoppable.

Ragsdale: I’m working on a report right now about how many KM programs fail because there is no ongoing maintenance of content, project champions move on and efforts stall, and project staff get moved to something new 6 months later. Could you talk about the importance of ongoing maintenance to the success of a KM program? Does KCS include recommendations for content maintenance?

Kay: Hey, anyone can start a knowledgebase. The trick is keeping it up to date.

The traditional approach to this is to make knowledgebase maintenance someone’s job. Expire content every 365 days and, boom!, it ends up in their inbox to review for currency. But this is completely non-scalable. Who can keep up with the hundreds of articles that “expire” every day? Who has that breadth of expertise? What happens when they leave or get reassigned? Do we really want to wait a year to check to see if everything’s up to date? And who honestly wants to do this job, anyhow?

KCS recommends the only practical approach I can think of, which is to make every use of knowledge a review. If I’m working on a customer issue and I find a relevant article, if I use it as is, I’m effectively saying “This article is just fine.” If I see that it needs to be updated–it needs clarification, or it applies to a new software release, or maybe I’ve just learned a better way to solve the issue, it’s my job to do the update. Assuming I’m certified, I make the change then and there. Otherwise, I flag it with a comment for someone else to change.

The beauty of this is, the more frequently knowledge is used, the more often it’s “reviewed.” And besides, who’s in a better position to review content than someone who’s actually trying to use it to solve a real customer issue?

Ragsdale: Could you give an overview of how your professional development course is structured? How will attendees spend their day?

Kay: We’ll stay busy! We’ll set a little context by exploring what knowledge really is, and how shared knowledge is so powerful. We’ll look at the details of the KCS practices, many of which your questions touched on today. We’ll dig in to the structure, format, and style of content, which ends up being really important–we keep it really simple, because we don’t want people to think they need to become technical writers to contribute.

Perhaps the most enlightening section is our conversation about measures. Many KM initiatives fail because managers focus on numbers, rather than on behavior and outcomes. (Exhibit A: how many of us have made the mistake of setting quotas on how many articles everyone has to contribute to the knowledgebase?) We work through a scenario to show which metrics to track, but more importantly, we explore how to use those metrics.

We’ll close with the practical steps to go back to the office and actually roll out KCS. One of the things that has made me feel the best about TSW Professional Development Workshops is the fact that attendees have gone home and successfully implemented KCS, in many cases with no further help from me. That lets me know our time together was well spent.

People who want a five-minute preview can check out (which I made for our last TSW conference in Las Vegas.)

Ragsdale: Great to talk to you David!

Kay: Thanks for the opportunity! I’m looking forward to seeing you, and many TSIA members, in Santa Clara.


We’re going to have some great KM content at the TSW event, including case studies from VM Ware and IBM/Netezza, a session from Avaya (2 time STAR Award winner for best knowledge management practices), and more. I hope to see you there. And as always, thanks for reading!

Have You Refreshed Your KB Lately?

January 5, 2011

Like many people, I spent much of Christmas day doing tech support, setting up new toys Santa brought me. My favorite is a 3G Microcell cell phone tower from Cisco and AT&T that plugs into my DSL line and gives me–are you ready for this–FIVE BARS of cell service. A miracle for this mountain dweller, who has spent the last 5 years running out of the house and down the driveway to get more than 1/2 bar anytime someone called me on my cell. Another great toy is a Zomm, a Bluetooth ‘wireless leash’ for my phone. If you spend half your life searching for your cell phone, as I embarrassingly do, this is the gadget for you. It now hangs permanently around my neck and starts beeping anytime I’m more than 20 feet from my phone.

While setting up both of these systems was fairly easy, I did run into small problems with each and accessed self-help to solve the issues. And I ran into the same problem I have any time I attempt self-help–my problem doesn’t exist in the knowledgebase. It is beyond frustrating. You encounter a problem that many new customers are likely to run into, and there is nothing online to address it. Usually, you can find hundreds–or even thousands–of conversations in a forum about the problem, yet the knowledgebase contains not a single reference to the issue.

And that brings me to the point of this post. Having just pulled the latest and greatest self-service success numbers from the TSIA Benchmark for a white paper, and finding the average has now dipped to 39%–an all time low–I ask myself: are we doing all we can to ensure customers are successful with self-service? And the answer clearly is: no way, Jose.

It seems that most self-service systems I use are filled with content that has been prepopulated–what companies anticipate customers will ask, not what they actually ask. How often are you reviewing your most commonly ask questions, including discussion forum conversations, and making sure those issues exist in, and are easily found in, your knowledgebase? This is a critical step in knowledge maintenance, and my experience tells me it is overlooked by many companies.

So here is my challenge to you. Identify your top 10 most frequently asked questions by customers. And run a report to get this information, don’t assume you know what those 10 issues are! Then go to your self-service knowledgebase and try to find the answer to all 10, using simple user-oriented search terms. Even a truer test? Call one of your favorite customers and ask them to search your knowledgebase for all 10 issues, since they won’t know the automatic tags or search terms to use. If you can find all 10, you get my admiration and sincere thanks on behalf of customers everywhere. If you can’t find all 10, you have just identified a project to attack in 2011. And I’d encourage you to make it a priority.

Hope all of your new Christmas toys are up and running and delivering value, and if you do run into problems, you may want to start with the discussion forum–with a score of 3.5, it is kicking the knowledgebase’s ass. 😉

Happy New Year to everyone, and as always, thanks for reading!

KM Megatrends: Social, Mobile, Global, Green

June 4, 2010

I’m doing a webcast with KMWorld and eGain next week on June 8th at 11am PT (click here to register!) on knowledge management (KM) megatrends.  When we had our content planning call, we brainstormed on top trends in customer service, and every one of them had a tie-in to KM.  We’ve divided up topics to discuss on the webcast, and I’m going to cover these 4 areas:

  • Social media/social service: New channels, increased transparency, customer in control
  • Mobility: Information access anywhere, anytime, on any device
  • Globalization: Meeting needs of customers regardless of geography or culture
  • Green Support: Reducing environmental impacts of support

I’ve blogged about some of these topics before, but the globalization angle is new. I’m adding a graphic here showing how many languages different industry segments currently support for phone, email and web self-service.

In how many different languages are the following support resources offered?

No surprise, consumer companies are out in front, but enterprise software firms are also far along the path to offering multiple languages across channels. Even small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) are getting in on the act. Why is this so important?

  • Increased self-service adoption and success with local language versions. If you want to boost self-service success, offering content in the customer’s native language is a great place to start.  Note that some companies are already WAY ahead in this effort, and here are a couple of “all star” company examples:  17 languages offered by Nikon (B2C), 32 languages offered by Xerox (B2B)
  • Huge improvement in translation tools and KM capabilities to create/maintain multiple languages. I’ve given a couple of Recognized Innovator Awards to Language Weaver, who has the single best (and accurate) translation tool on the market. Also, KM vendors like eGain are now able to handle multiple languages in a single instance, with reference customers for proof.
  • Cultural differences extend beyond language and can thwart success in other geographies. I’ve told the story before about how my first startup lost a big deal in Japan because of a stupidly designed icon in our product that was mis-interpreted as insulting by the Japanese prospect. North American companies have always tried to shove our approach to UI and workflow down everyone’s throats, but increasingly, we are seeing companies enter China starting not with sales, but development centers, building new product versions that are more in tune with local expectations, norms and culture.

I hope you can tune in next week to hear more, as well as additional megatrends to be covered by Don Muchow, Senior Solutions Consultant with eGain. Don always has great insight to share–not only has he been at eGain since 2003, but he also worked at early CRM vendor Scopus as well as Siebel, so he has seen a lot! Thanks for reading, and hope to see you on Tuesday!