Earlier this year, HDI conducted research on knowledge management. One of the big questions we asked was whether organizations that have a knowledge management program feel that it is meeting their expectations.
For anyone who has been reading about and learning about knowledge management (KM) for any length of time, the primary reason organizations say they aren’t fully satisfied won’t be a surprise: We can’t get users to adopt it.
Let’s consider that statement more closely. It sounds like we’re blaming the users for not adopting our KM program. But there’s more to the story. Many organizations say they can’t get analysts to adopt it either, in spite of case studies and research papers that show—time after time—that organizations that use KM well can reduce time to proficiency for new analysts, increase consistency of service, reduce contact volume, and derive other benefits as well.
To make matters more confusing, the largest percentage of respondent organizations (33%) said that the reason they set up user-facing knowledge in the first place was to respond to demand from users to be able to resolve their own issues.
The reason they set up user-facing knowledge in the first place was to respond to demand from users to be able to resolve their own issues.
A few of the keys to this conundrum were made evident in the responses of those who gave a text response for the reason why they weren’t satisfied with their KM program, as 25% of the respondents did, producing 38 pages of text comments. As we reviewed these comments, a pattern emerged. With only one or two exceptions, all the comments fell into one of four categories.
In light of these responses, now when we go back and look at the difficulty in getting users and analysts to adopt a KM program, we can see that:
- Their reluctance is cultural
- The technology isn’t helpful
- KM is not a priority
- Doing KM is a lot of work
In contrast, we found that among organizations that had adopted a particular KM methodology—and Knowledge Centered Service (KCS®) is the most widely used—a far higher percentage of organizations are satisfied that their KM program is meeting expectations.
Properly using a methodology implies that:
- You already have leadership buy-in
- You’ve made the decision and the commitment to use and share knowledge
- You’ve learned how to minimize duplication and make the work of KM more efficient
- People understand what their roles are and have the skills to carry them out
This doesn’t solve the “clunky” technology issue, of course, but—depending on the methodology you choose—it may help you narrow the choices and find one that better suits your organization’s needs. With a methodology in place, you know what you need and can choose a tool to deliver it.
Will user-facing knowledge be a resounding success in every organization? No. Hospitals, for example, have professional staff who simply do not have the time to look up solutions. (Things may change with large advancements in emerging technology that might supercharge their ability to get accurate solutions very quickly without searching, but that’s for another article.) But in most cases, users are more than ready to give up waiting in a queue to be taken care of and are asking for better ways to serve themselves. If you are not delivering those better ways, you are missing an opportunity to serve your colleagues or customers.
Like any other serious initiative, getting a good knowledge management program running and maintaining its momentum requires commitment, investment, learning, and sustained effort. If your organization is ready, go for it. We’re here to help.
KCS® is a registered trademark of the Consortium for Service Innovation.
Roy Atkinson is one of the top influencers in the service and support industry. His blogs, presentations, research reports, white papers, keynotes, and webinars have gained him an international reputation. In his role as senior writer/analyst, he acts as HDI's in-house subject matter expert, bringing his years of experience to the community. He holds a master’s certificate in advanced management strategy from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business, and he is a certified HDI Support Center Manager. Follow him on Twitter @RoyAtkinson.