We have looked at the merit of structuring content rather than capturing it in informal notes, but how much structure is enough? How do we communicate across a support team so that everyone captures the appropriate information in a predictable format? This is the purpose of the content standard. This formal document describes decisions the organization has made about KCS article structure and content.
Through years of KCS deployments, the collective Consortium experience indicates that about 70-80% of the material inside the content standard is the same across large or diverse organizations, while 20-30% of the content standard is tailored to a specific team or technology.
A content standard sets expectations for Analysts by defining specific components that enable consistency and manageability. A good content standard defines the content structure and purpose of each required field, the quality criteria for a good KCS article, and the visibility of the knowledge.
Here are the specific elements to look for in a good content standard:
Quick Reference Guide—documents KCS article quality criteria in a one page sheet that can be kept on an Analyst's desk
KCS Article Structure Definitions—list of basic elements with definitions including problem, resolution, cause, and metadata
Good and Bad KCS Article Examples—measured against the above criteria
Metadata Definitions—what metadata should be set and how they should be used
Life Cycle States - as defined in Technique 2
Visibility Matrix—who gets to see what when (at what state)
Templates—list of templates available and directions for completing them
Style Guide—design direction that emphasizes usability over format
Supporting Material—format for references and links
Vocabulary—preferred terms for the potential audiences' levels of expertise, voice, standards for environment statements; platforms, product names, releases and versions; supports trademark protection
Multi-language Considerations—do KCS articles need to be captured or translated for multiple audiences? What languages? What are the guidelines for Global English that may simplify machine or manual translations?
Multimedia Considerations—are there special publishing requirements?
The content standard is most helpful when defined by a cross-functional team that will be using it to create KCS articles. The team should include real examples, keep the content and writing as simple as possible, and deliver a one page or index card size "cheat sheet," the Quick Reference Guide, for desk-side reference.
Different groups may use different content standards, but they must be careful to keep enterprise-wide considerations in mind.