The Continual Service of Knowledge

ITIL and KCS white paperIt’s not often that anyone would bother to review a white paper. After all, a white paper is usually free (perhaps in exchange for your email address) and not that much of an investment in time to read. A white paper has come along that I really must point out to you, though. If you’re interested in improving your IT services, this particular one is valuable, and you don’t even have to pay with your contact info.

I’ve long believed that the parents of ITIL® and Knowledge Centred Support (KCS), (AXELOS and the Consortium for Service Innovation, respectively), should join forces in some meaningful way. This white paper looks like being a kind of first step. Though, I don’t know what might come after. AXELOS and HDI have come together to release Synergies between ITIL® and Knowledge-Centered Support (KCS℠). Written by Roy Atkinson, John Custy, and Rick Joslin, the paper explains that “together, ITIL and KCS can improve service management”.

ITIL® refers to the benefits of knowledge management (KM) at each stage of the service lifecycle and describes KM at length in the Service Transition phase. I’ve never understood why the authors of ITIL® placed the most emphasis on KM in Service Transition and not in Continual Service Improvement. This white paper goes through the history of both best practices and their shared challenges, but the meat of it is in the explanation of how KCS complements ITIL® throughout many of its processes, uncovering many opportunities for your own organisation to tap into the value of adopting the behaviours and processes.

Download from the ThinkHDI website.

It takes a village

If you only knew what you already know is the tagline for recently launched Klever, short for Knowledge Lever. When I first heard noises about Klever, I didn’t know what to expect. I thought it might be some sort of tool-agnostic middleware for the enterprise. When they opened for early adopters I still wasn’t sure, so I paid the joining fee out of sheer curiosity. I’ve since poked around and had several conversations with the founders and have an understanding of their mission and plans. Allow me to explain for you, because being in a beta phase, the site and messaging is still being iterated on.

Klever’s goal is to offer Knowledge Centred Support and general KM resources and practices to all organisations large or small; public, private, or non-profit. Not everyone can afford an expensive consultant, but everyone deserves the capability of accessing their own organisational learnings. It’s a launch pad for knowledge managers, whether aspirant or under sufferance, and for consultants who’d like to share their experiences and learn from others.

But, what IS it?, I can hear you say. And that’s the quandary. Klever has been bootstrapped by a group of KCS consultants and trainers, and they’ve pitched at a local startup event or two in the US. I know from second-hand experience that pitching a B2B product is hard enough, but pitching an idea when knowledge is the product? That’s some esoteric meta stuff that’s extremely difficult to distil and communicate in a compelling way.

It takes a village to raise an idea when knowledge is the product, because no single person knows everything. And that’s the benefit of this particular community. Essentially, Klever is an online community of practice for knowledge managers and KCS practitioners. The community portal offers a repository of resources, access to live webinar and discussion events, and a place to ask questions of the experienced and the experimenters. The portal is built on Bloomfire, described as a knowledge sharing platform. I can already see it has some powerful functionality, but being used to traditional forum formats, the architecture is doing my head in a bit. But again, this is something that Klever are tweaking in response to comments from early adopters.

Founder, Phil Verghis, explained the real value is in the free assessment. Without signing over your inbox or your money, you can answer 14 required questions (and four optional ones) on behalf of your organisation, and immediately receive a knowledge management journey plan mapped out according to your responses. It’s the culmination of many years of collective experience with implementing successful knowledge management programs, which would normally cost thousands if you had a consultant in to do it. Journey plan in hand, you can then turn to the community to help you navigate it.

The assessment and journey plan will always be free, without registration, but Klever are working on a pricing model for access to the community and named advisors. There’s a week left in the early adopter’s $100 pricing, so if better knowledge management is on your to-do list, I’d get on it, because, so far, it seems like a bargain.

When documentation is against the religion

Last week’s KM Australia congress in Sydney had a different vibe to last year. (Here’s the storify.) There were quite a few different faces from 2012, a few of the same ones, the weather was better. The room configuration was different, and maybe that’s all it was, but a small part of me thinks it was because one of the presenters was a chief technology officer. At last! A knowledge management case study from an IT executive.

James King started by explaining the nature of his organisation and the DevOps environment that his team works within. Of course, the Agile Manifesto says developers value “working software over comprehensive documentation”, and that’s where James got the first objection to his plan for better documentation to avoid rework. His response was that the Agile Manifesto is a piece of documentation in itself, so clearly, some documentation has value.

And so, the story continued with the introduction of Agile tools, like storyboarding, to the product support and knowledge management process. Instead of documentation being engineered along with releases, it was produced on demand through the normal support transactions. Without mentioning the words Knowledge Centred Support, James was in fact describing a simplified implementation of KCS, which I confirmed with him afterwards.

Just this morning, I saw a tweet that reminded me of James’ presentation.

You see, the great thing about KCS is that it accepts knowledge has an imperfect nature. It has built-in mechanisms for improving knowledge on the fly. Indeed, why spend hours over-engineering documentation for software that frequently changes and may never be read in full?

Adapting the KCS article lifecycle to Zendesk forums

Knowledge Centred Support (KCS) is gathering a bit of momentum out there in customer support land. I didn’t want to go too heavily into KCS, as I’ve only scratched the surface on it myself, but I did want to show you how to approach the KCS methodology using forum-based knowledge bases—in this case, Zendesk.

One of the KCS practices is knowledge reuse, and the mantra is to “search early, search often”. When you receive a new ticket from a customer, or you get a phone call, search your Zendesk for existing knowledge base posts or similar tickets first. The answer may already exist, which means you can respond immediately. If a solution doesn’t exist, you’ll need to start a knowledge base article where the title includes the customer’s own description of the problem.

Searching is a critical part of the KCS method. Monitoring the keywords and phrases your customers search for can also form the basis of new knowledge base articles where their searching has been unsuccessful. If you know an article on the topic does exist but it doesn’t present to your customer, then this is an opportunity to improve that article and add the search terms that customer used, so that it turns up next time. Zendesk provides excellent forum search analytics and here’s a great post explaining how to get the most from that functionality.

The other KCS technique I wanted to focus on is the article lifecycle and how we can work that into a forum structure. KCS articles start out as a Work In Progress (WIP). This is a question without an answer. When we do have a resolution, the article moves through to Draft, but is still being refined and improved. Once it’s been reviewed for accuracy and is considered good enough for reuse internally, it’s Approved. And finally, if it’s good enough for consumption by customers, it’s Published.

Each of these stages in the lifecycle can be adapted to the Zendesk forums structure. I have several categories in my Zendesk forums: News, Community Help, Knowledge Base, Internal. News is just announcements and Community Help is based around user interaction and is largely unmoderated. When I first started filling out my Zendesk knowledge base, I was disappointed there was no way to keep an article in draft. But, there are a couple of ways you can work around this. The first way is to create a forum for draft articles and make this visible to agents only. Here, I created a drafts forum under the Internal category, but you could also have draft, agent-only forums in any category.

When I’ve finished reviewing that draft article (and any others that might be in there), I can move them to the appropriate forum, whether it’s a forum for internal use (KCS Approved), or a public forum for customer self-help (KCS Published). It’s as easy as selecting the right forum from the drop-down box in the edit screen.

For articles that will only be used on an agent-only forum, you may decide to have them in the appropriate place but with *Draft* in the title.

When this draft article has been accepted as good enough, just edit the title and remove the *Draft*.

Have you adapted your forum-based knowledge base for KCS? Add your thoughts in the comments.

KM Australia Congress 2012—an interview with Chandni Kapur

An annual event since 2004, the KM Australia Congress will be on again this July 24-26, in Sydney. With a focus on social media and collaboration, change management and culture, learning and performance, and communication and leadership, this year’s congress has a terrific lineup of speakers. There’ll be representation from the Federal Transit and Aviation Administrations from the US, the Australian Department of Defence, Telstra, KPMG, Toyota (US) and lots more. One of the highlights is bound to be the debate on capturing tacit knowledge using social technologies, but the one I’m really looking forward to is seeing Signe Lønholdt from LEGO, Denmark, talk about her experience as Online Community Editor.

For those interested in knowledge management, it will be a great event packed with case studies and real life strategies. I’m pleased to be sharing a few brief interviews over the next week with LEGO’s Signe Lønholdt, Woods Bagot’s Felicity McNish and today, Rio Tinto’s Chandni Kapur.

Knowledge12—the wrap

ServiceNow’s Knowledge event is over for another year and they’re already planning the next one. The combined user conference/sales event gathered 2000 people in the recently reopened Hyatt Regency in New Orleans. A stunning venue, it was branded ServiceNow and completely overrun with IT people.

As far as events go, it was well-run with an excited, enthusiastic vibe. With a good-sized representation of prospects, I thought it was interesting though, that there wasn’t a clear session track for those guys and the Innovation of the Year award wasn’t given the kind of attention I’d expect at an event like this. Practitioners and administrators, on the other hand, were well catered to with labs and a great array of breakout sessions. It was sometimes hard to choose sessions and I know there were at least two or three that I now regret not seeing.