KCS prescribes a specific structure or format, which provides context for the content, improves the readability of the KCS article, and promotes consistency.
Any situation or issue can be broken down into the following categories:
Issue (sometimes called symptom, question or problem)—the situation in the customer's words—what are they trying to do or what is not working?
Environment—what products does the user have (platform, products, releases)? How is it configured? Has anything in the environment changed recently?
Resolution (sometime called the fix or answer)—the answer to the question or the steps required to resolve the issue.
Cause—the underlying source of the issue. (optional, typically only valuable for problems or defects)
Metadata—attributes or information about the article such as the article state, the date created, number of times the article has been used, modification history and the date last modified.
By capturing the information in this structure at the start of an incident, we are creating as we go. This is also the information we should be using to search the knowledge base for known articles. We reduce problem-solving time and ensure that new KCS articles build on and integrate with existing knowledge.
Ideally, as we work on the issue, we are capturing information in the correct area of the KCS article. This should replace the way we take notes today (on paper or electronically). Most of us capture key points while we are talking to the customer, especially if we have a sense that this is a new issue. We want to take notes in a Work-in-Progress article for a few reasons. First, if an article about this issue doesn't exist we are creating it in the workflow. Second, we are capturing our notes in a readable, standard structure. And third, if someone else is working on the same or similar issue they are likely to find the WIP (Work in Progress) article; we can avoid redundant work and collaborate on solving the issue.
Once the issue is understood and the resolution is known, we review the content captured and refine the environment statements to be sure they are relevant. Relevant environment statements are critical as this is how we distinguish this article from another with similar symptoms but a different resolution and cause. If appropriate we update the cause field.
The most important benefit of this simple structure is it improves readability and usability. Also, some search technologies can take advantage of structured content to improve the relevance of their search results.
For customer self-service (usually on the web), the value of the KCS article may be improved by including links to documentation on basic product concepts and functionality. Links to supporting information can help us write articles to the expertise level of the general audience. Those who are novices can follow the links for more information while those who are knowledgeable in the area will be able to use the article without wading through documentation on things they already know.
We discuss KCS article structure and KCS article quality in more detail in the Content Health section.
For this technique, the key point is that consistent, simple structures help with the whole process of creating new articles or modifying existing articles.