KCS Is the Gold Standard, but My Organization Has a Tin Cup


by John Coles
February 18, 2015

This is part one of a two-part series.

If your eyes have ventured to these words, it's likely you're familiar with Knowledge-Centered Support (KCS), and your organization is having challenges managing your knowledge. If you're not familiar with KCS, it is by far the best methodology for support centers. I am a huge proponent of KCS, and I encourage all organizations to head there. However, managing knowledge is an elusive target for organizations. This is the first piece of a two-part series providing an alternative path to KCS while still making progress toward it.

In the journey to drive organizations toward KCS, there are numerous challenges. Let’s begin by examining three common challenges.

Too Much Theory: That’s Not How We’ve Always Done It

The attention span of most people is short; they can only grasp three or four concepts. KCS has eight interconnected concepts, following a double-loop path. This is a lot to grasp, especially when leaders are engaged in the day-to-day combat of contact volumes, escalations, and cost reductions. If leaders aren't ready to deliberately digest KCS, learn it, and adopt it, you may hear, "Oh, that's just too much theory; we need tactical, bite-size chunks. Let's just fix the knowledge base and move on."

Overwhelmed Groups: Lack of Leadership

KCS is an exercise in change management, and it requires communication and leadership to keep everyone engaged, committed, and moving forward. Without regular communication and a clear forward path, groups left to their own devices may become overwhelmed and cast aside the pursuit of KCS, returning to their old familiar ways.

Tribal Factions: The Group Structure Doesn't Enable It

Some organizations are solidified in their organizational structure. Teams considered to be permanent fixtures in the organizational landscape can dig in their heels and resist change. Groups in other locations may not be at the same mind set, maturity level, and willingness to adopt.

Though KCS provides a wonderful phased approach, there are a lot of new concepts and interconnections that can derail and diffuse the plan. In an effort to deal with some of those challenges, many organizations cannot get beyond short-term thinking, and instead must take deliberate bite-size chunks. They treat knowledge management as a project and handle it in a linear fashion, similar to any other project management methodology. Additionally, each organization is its own unique entity, possessing its own “organizational personality.” For instance, Organization ABC may have solid knowledge base content, but weak knowledge management reporting, while Organization XYZ may have the infrastructure in place with solid knowledge management reporting, but a knowledge base that's in shambles. Each organization will have a different set of priorities and require a different approach.

Knowledge-Flow (K-Flow) Management Parameters

Given the numerous challenges, we developed an approach based on "If you can’t beat ‘em,  join ‘em." We asked a simple question: Why don’t people use the knowledge base?

This was a lengthy brainstorming session, which we revisited over several weeks. The more we asked this simple question, the further down the rabbit hole we went. We dissected the flow of information and knowledge, and we eventually arrived at the term "knowledge-flow" (K-Flow).

We settled on twelve K-Flow parameters that could be compartmentalized and approached in a methodical project management style. Four of the K-Flow parameters include content, training, reporting, and organizational structure.

Each K-Flow parameter can be evaluated on a four-point maturity scale. For each K-Flow parameter, we asked four questions:

  1. How would you describe this K-Flow parameter at level 1?
  2. How would you describe this K-Flow parameter at level 2?
  3. How would you describe this K-Flow parameter at level 3?
  4. How would you describe this K-Flow parameter at level 4?

Below is the descriptive scale for the content parameter. 

Answering these questions for each K-Flow parameter provides you with a K-Flow snapshot and establishes a baseline. Additionally, the K-Flow maturity snapshot takes into consideration the uniqueness of each organization (as well as teams within the organization) and also identifies short-term K-Flow parameters to target and prioritize into bite-size projects. Not only does this baseline an organization’s knowledge management program, but it provides a vision for the future and a road map for moving forward. In other words, if Organization ABC scored a 1.5 on the content K-Flow parameter, they would work toward reaching level 2 and then begin working toward higher levels.

Since there are twelve K-Flow parameters, most organizations target three or four K-Flow parameters and focus on those for three months. Once they're satisfied with how they tackle these bite-size projects, they revisit their K-Flow maturity snapshot and identify the next three K-Flow parameters to target. We recommend that organizations conduct a K-Flow Maturity assessment two or three times per year in order to track overall progress against the baseline.

Organizations that have matured their K-Flow parameters experience significant benefits. Now that you've been introduced to Knowledge-Flow Maturity, in the next installment, I will provide more detail on the twelve K-Flow parameters. In addition, I will provide examples of how an organization can be measured over time to promote and drive continuous improvement.


As part of the Industry Solutions team at eGain, John Coles helps organizations make sense of their contact channel strategies. Previously, John worked his way through the ranks at Dell, managing L1 and L3 support in the contact center, leading the product management for global contact channels, spending time in managed services and the ITO, and eventually becoming a senior manager focused on knowledge management practices.


Tag(s): KCS, best practice, technology, supportworld

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