I have the pleasure of leading an internal service desk that supports associates across the globe. We’re lean, well-aligned with the business we support, a bit scrappy, and very creative. Associates love interacting with us but do wish there were more of us as they tend to dislike waiting. We appreciate feedback and sure get a lot of it…so we never have an issue of not enough work. We leave everyday with many successes and demonstration of value, but often start the day in a dead sprint. People depend on us and we deliver, but we always think we could be more proactive. We have goals, an environment of trust and empowerment, and a corporate culture that enjoys seeing individuals succeed.
A bit of reflection there…but does that sound at all familiar to any of you? Any of you leaders out there feel the same? I have never enjoyed my job more, had better leaders, or a stronger team…and I like not being satisfied. I always crave more.
Over the past several years, we have done a lot to serve our associates with information so they can help themselves. It’s been OK. But like many large processes, we often saw a big blitz of excitement and consumption, but it was not sustainable. I could never afford the “full-on” knowledge manager role or some of the expense to add a knowledge base solution to our offerings. So, I asked my team to think differently about it. And they did! Flipping to the last page in the book, here is what I asked of my team:
- We need information that is easily consumable
- We need an owner
- We need to be able to measure what is being consumed
- We need to market it
There were plenty more details in the discussion, based on what we used in the past, but I’ll spare you the gory details. I also asked the team to stay within the following boundaries:
- Think of the tools we already own
- Need to be able to measure
- Need to be able to manage content
- As few clicks as possible
- Answer the question of “Why” whenever possible (see my article, The Value of WHY in Your Knowledge Base)
As someone who is reasonably familiar with KCS principles (Abundance, Create Value, Demand Driven, and Trust), I felt this would give us some framework, without destroying the creativity of the team. In the end, our associates and I are very pleased with what came of this. To share this story with you, I figured I would let our “knowledge manager” (in quotes as she wears this and 30 other hats on our service desk) tell you for herself!
The information below was gathered in an interview with Helen Tracy. Helen is a four-year veteran on the Garmin Service Desk, and she has a passion for communication. I wanted to find out from Helen what she thought about sharing knowledge and how she architected something that has “taken off” at Garmin.
Kevin: Why does Garmin need a knowledge base?
People need a single place to find everything. Information is all over and the service desk needed a place to put tribal knowledge somewhere for people to find it.
The service desk needed a place to put tribal knowledge for people to find it.
Kevin: How is Garmin’s knowledge base constructed\architected?
Helen: There were a few things that were taken into consideration as we designed this tool:
Needed to determine who our audience was
Different environment for IT only, and open to associates
Took the approach of, "When I first started, what would have been helpful?"
Heard people constantly asking, "Where can I find this?"
Used to have a place in SharePoint, and something in old ticketing system…wanted somewhere people could go (one place) and hit search
Kevin: Tell me about how search should work?
Helen: Our vision for search is we have one chance to win! If they don’t find it, they will lose trust in it. Search must be relevant. If the search results pull up something totally opposite of what the associate asked, we failed. To do this, we will need to segment out articles, so they don't get a response back from other pages. Finally, people need to hit search and the article they need appears, no secondary filtering.
Kevin: How have you architected the way articles were written?
Helen: I could have designed something myself, but I looked at some other knowledge bases…Microsoft, colleges\universities. From here I wanted the format to be like a discussion with the consumer. Our Garmin Product Support Team (external support team focused on Garmin product support) has a sophisticated tool that we also observed to find some ideas that would work internally. And after all of this, we filled in the remaining gaps ourselves.
Kevin: How did you design it to be accessible?
Helen: Tried to put access to this tool in tools people use every day. If people must find the tool, they will be less likely to turn to it the next time. So, we figured one place to start was where people go to send us a request\report a problem. Since the associate is focused on reporting the issue, we wanted to make the process of searching for knowledge the same as reporting an issue\request.
Kevin: How did you come to know so much?
Helen: I took the HDI KCS class , which was helpful. I also spent time researching what the industry is doing. Most important was the feedback I receive from other IT associates and from Garmin associates. I am a great note taker and listener.
Kevin: What processes did you have to put in place?
Helen: In order to release a knowledge base, I needed to have an abundance of information already available. I put together a content drive with the team, asking them to commit to creating several entries that we could have ready on day one.
Kevin: How did you land on the tool we use today?
Helen: Today we use Atlassian for Incidents, Requests, and Changes. I looked across what is in place today (SharePoint, service management tool, Atlassian tool), and the same tool we use for all these processes should fit well with also hosting our knowledge base. Atlassian seemed to be able to scale best, easily manage permission, can scope the search results, easy to edit and publish articles, etc. We are already integrated into the tools we use today, and it is a popular tool amongst a large population of associates. This would lessen the need to promote a new tool, and it will “just appear.”
Kevin: How do you measure the use of the knowledge base?
Helen: We use Google analytics to see how people get to the knowledge base, articles used\not used, and general traffic patterns. It has opened our eyes to the traffic patterns and is the same tool used to measure other traffic, which gives the data credibility amongst those we share this with.
Kevin: What tells you you're doing the right thing?
Helen: There are many ways this data helps us. We offer a wide range of articles for our associates and IT. Viewing information about how long people stay on articles is very helpful. (e.g., less than one minute means they are not finding what they need. Also, page jumps, different articles read could mean the search did not find the right article.
Kevin: Do people send in feedback?
Helen: Yes! Typically, we receive feedback about outdated articles or those articles where more assistance is needed on the specific topic. We also see associates refer to the articles when talking with the service desk.
Kevin: Do you have a roadmap for the knowledge base?
Helen: Yes, trying to. A few things we have planned to improve on in the next few months:
Content quality goal
Want a formal workflow approval process so it is not all waiting on Helen to publish
Non-use or low-use pruning
Continuing to pull in other sources of knowledge that are out there
What have been your biggest hurdles to get this off the ground?
Helen: I can think of five things that we had to overcome (or answer to) before we could release this:
Buy-in. Everyone must be aligned to this being the central location for knowledge
Building trust for the content
Still have many sources of knowledge that people want to leave as is
Lots of articles that are similar in title, but different in content (trust withdraw)
Kevin: What features coming up are you most excited about?
Helen: I am excited about some of the branding changes that will make the site look like the other sites people use every day. Most of what I mentioned in our roadmap is what I want for the knowledge base. We want people to trust it! That is exciting.
Kevin: What do the service desk agents like about it?
Helen: There are a few things that people have told me about the knowledge base, both internal and associate-facing. It is much easier to onboard new technicians—great first step. They like that it is a standard—all doing things the same way. Finally, it creates a feedback loop where level 3 technicians can use the articles to help train frontline staff.
Kevin: How are you making decisions around a lot of the changes or future plans?
Helen: I often speak with the agents and manager to make sure we stay aligned on priorities. This helps me gain perspective—and be highly collaborative in the process.
Kevin: How is the content in knowledge base changing?
Helen: We would really like to move towards video and screen capture to improve consumption and overall experience. We realize this is more engaging and allows people to see and hear how to do something.
Kevin: How does the change from written only to screen shots and videos impact you?
Helen: Video content is much more labor intensive. Not as easy as most would think. With that said, quality is better, and I expect people to come back more if we have more video content.
Kevin: How important is video in a knowledge base?
Helen: I expect video will become the standard…what people expect today. We need to be able to create short videos (gifs) embedded into the article text to illustrate, as opposed to full-length videos.
Kevin: What would you recommend to those reading this interview?
Helen: A few things:
Start writing content now
Know what your goal is (integration, writing style, etc.)
Seek out feedback—always ask what people think
Make sure you have a good technical resource to assist with integration efforts
Look at the tools already in place and in use (people like\trust them) today
Build a wish list—build your vision
If your content is weak, focus there first
Make sure you can scale or grow into it…don't create something that has limits out of the gate
Do you know what your audience wants?
I hope you find this information helpful. Like many solutions designed for a purpose, they may not be a 100% match for you. But take some of the information and think about how it might work for you. As I reflect on the project, buy-in, vision, planning, feedback, and a willingness to try new things were the keys to our success. In order to accomplish this, we needed an owner and clear means to measure our success. Sound familiar?
For us, going big and buying something was just not an option we wanted to go down. Honestly, we didn’t feel we wanted anything too big that would require so much overhead. Our minds might change, but we have a tool that has added value to the organization, gets information on paper and out of our heads, and grows the collective knowledge for everyone.
Kevin Kwasiborski is an 18-year IT veteran with more than 15 years’ experience leading teams around IT service and asset management. He has worked in several industries from B2B to healthcare to consumer electronics. His professional passions are people, technology, and learning new things. Kevin focuses on leading by example, being humble, driving a culture of optimism, and inserting crazy wherever possible. Personally, his biggest passion is his family.