Apollo Education Group Case Study


by Leslie Cook

Apollo Education Group was one of the three finalists for the HDI Knowledge-Centered Support Award in 2015. The finalists were honored, and the winner announced, at FUSION 15 in New Orleans.

Apollo Education GroupApollo Education Group is a leader in higher education for the working learner. Its best-known subsidiary is also its largest university: the University of Phoenix (UoPX). Established in 1976, UoPX is today one of the largest private, accredited universities in North America. Enterprise Knowledge Management (EKM) is a shared-service in UoPX, which serves as a Knowledge Center of Excellence for UoPX and all APOL subsidiaries. This team of knowledge champions are charged with developing, propagating, and maintaining a standardized knowledge management methodology, Knowledge-Centered Support (KCS), and supporting technologies across the University footprints.

What was the situation before the launch of the knowledge management initiative?

The University of Phoenix’s KCS initiative started in the Technical Assistance Center (TAC), which handles more than 900,000 student and faculty cases per year, including incidents, service requests, and urgent “how-to” training opportunities. In 2010, the TAC was looking for an effective way to guide the knowledge management process for a fast-paced IT support center and ultimately improve the student and faculty experience.

To help the TAC manage knowledge in this constantly changing and evolving environment, the decision was made to implement the Knowledge-Centered Support (KCS) methodology. KCS was chosen as it allows for real-time knowledge management and provides a continuous feedback loop, features that are essential for successfully maintaining the information used in an IT environment.

What was the knowledge management strategy?

Our challenge was to implement KCS enterprise wide, regardless of department or tools. In order to gain momentum and prove the concept we began in the TAC, an IT service desk. Within the TAC, ineffective knowledge processes resulted in over 3,000 knowledge articles containing outdated content and created an average seven-day latency in adding needed information to the existing knowledge base. This led to missing and outdated information in the knowledge base, and no active participation from staff in using the tool.

By early 2012, the process was ingrained in the TAC culture. Almost all of the TAC’s 170+ agents were licensed in a KCS role: Candidate, Contributor, Publisher, Coach, or Knowledge Domain Expert. Managers attributed the 15-percent decrease in training time to the availability of real-time knowledge, while directors celebrated statistics that showed knowledge articles had been viewed by students more than 1,000,000 times through self-service. KCS was then, and is now, considered to be a massive success.

What were some of the lessons learned?

The road to KCS Nirvana is not easy, and there are many lessons learned to be learned from the UoPX journey.

  1. Leadership buy-in: KCS requires time, commitment, and a change in the way people work to be fully successful. Unexpected surprises, such as the sudden departure of a single sponsor, can derail any project, and KCS is no exception. Buy-in from the executive level down is required to keep any program on track.
  2. Make reporting a priority: Executive buy-in is usually based on meeting or exceeding certain expectations, such as a reduced time to resolution, increased customer satisfaction, or decreased cost of an area as a percentage of overall revenue. To demonstrate success with KCS, it’s essential to baseline these key performance indicators (KPIs) and report against them. It’s important to note that progress can be easily measured against established baselines, as long as the right KPIs are chosen.
  3. Get the training team involved: KCS changes the way an organization works, and it requires an organization to have change agents at every level—particularly among the trainers themselves. Make them part of the process from the beginning; don’t just hand them a manual and give them minutes to prepare, because your success hinges on how well trained your knowledge workers are, whether they’re frontline agents, managers, directors, or even executives.
  4. Choose the right coaches: KCS Coaches, or those frontline staff certified in coaching, are critical to identifying and reinforcing the appropriate knowledge behaviors. To ensure success, fill these roles with individuals that have strong people skills.
  5. Rewards and recognition: Many organizations fail when it comes to rewarding the appropriate behaviors in any area. Rewards and recognition are not necessarily about money; rather, they’re about praising employees, both publicly and privately, for making a program a success. KCS is no different.
  6. Eliminate the idea of “KCS in a box”: Working with each area to understand their needs and challenges is crucial to receiving buy-in. Pushing a structure of certain number of KCS I, II, III, coach ratios or KDEs may not work for everyone. Work with the client! Although the roles facilitate implementation of KCS, not all areas are equipped to start with certain number of roles. You are implementing a set of practices, not the roles, so be flexible.

Has your organization implemented KCS? Get recognized for your work! Apply for the HDI Knowledge-Centered Support Award.

Tag(s): case study, KCS