We have been describing two major efforts: learning to capture and structure in the workflow and practicing the Structured Problem Solving process (as described in the Workflow section). For most Support Analysts, they represent significant changes in behavior and activities. If we use a driving metaphor, adopting KCS is like learning to drive a car. When we first started, we got a learner's permit, and we had to have a licensed driver along as a coach. Initially, we had a great deal to think about and driving took all of our attention. We had to watch the road, other cars, our speed, and the rear view mirror. Most of us learned rapidly how to deal with all these dynamics and went on to pass a test to get our licenses.
Earning a driver's license gave us new rights and privileges and enabled us to drive on our own. For most of us, this represented a significant increase in our independence with a corresponding increase in our parents' anxiety. Our parents worried about the risk and whether we would make the right decisions. Along with this increase in our autonomy came an increase in our responsibility and the need for auto insurance. Eventually, with enough experience, driving became second nature to us, to the point where we now (unwisely) attempt to do other things while we are driving, like talking on our mobile phones and doing email on our Blackberries.
Adopting KCS is like learning to drive. People learn how to do the KCS processes as they are resolving customer issues. Like learning to drive, we can be told the concepts in a classroom setting, but only with practice can we internalize the behaviors and competency so they become second nature.
The KCS knowledge and competency model defines system rights and privileges for each role: KCS Candidate, KCS Contributor, and KCS Publisher. As with driving, some people will choose to progress farther, study more, and gain more advanced skills, as is the case with the KCS Coach or Knowledge Domain Expert. Performance assessment must include guidance on how, when, and whether to advance. As with driving, each license is earned based on demonstrated consistent behaviors that align with the KCS role. For example, a provisional license is issued after the Analyst attends a class and demonstrates a basic understanding of the KCS practices and techniques. The KCS Contributor and KCS Publisher competency levels are achieved after consistently demonstrating the respective incremental competencies defined in those roles. Many organizations also require a test to move from one level to the next. As with a license to drive a car, an Analyst who frequently breaks the rules or demonstrates poor judgment should lose their license.
Note that the levels of KCS competency are not linked or related to the levels or tiers of support. Each level of support (tier 1, tier 2, tier 3) should have a mix of Support Analysts with a range of KCS competencies.
Perhaps the most difficult hurdle in adopting the KCS methodology requires changing the culture of the organization to a truly collaborative, knowledge-sharing environment. KCS identifies some critical roles to support the organization in this transition. The roles help redefine the way knowledge is created, valued, and shared. Additional details can be found in the KCS Adoption Guide.
The critical roles for KCS are:
LEADERS—managers must become leaders. They must define the vision of what success looks like at their level of the organization, and then support the knowledge developers in deciding how the work should be done (workflow) and defining the standards for findable and usable KCS articles (content standard).
KNOWLEDGE DEVELOPERS—Support Analyst are the knowledge developers.
KCS Candidate - basic user of the knowledge base, familiar with capturing and searching techniques and the basic concepts of KCS.
KCS Contributor - creates, modifies, and reviews KCS articles for publishing to a defined audience. Usually internal users only.
KCS Publisher - empowered to publish to an external audience.
KCS COACHES—change agent and KCS practice expert who supports the development of the KCS competencies and the proficiency development of KCS staff from KCS Candidate to KCS Publisher. Generally, an Analyst working part time as a Coach—a "player coach."
KNOWLEDGE DOMAIN EXPERTS—responsible for identifying Evolve Loop content based on KCS articles created in the Solve Loop workflow, looks after the health of the knowledge base, usually focused on a collection or domain of content, has both technical expertise in the domain and profound understanding of KCS processes.
Over time, there will be a need to tune the KCS processes based on organizational experience. This review and enhancement works best through a KCS Council that meets on a bi-weekly basis to discuss issues and improvements. The KCS Council is a cross functional group with global representation. The council includes the KCS Coaches, the Knowledge Domain Experts, and representatives from management. The KCS Council provides the forum for continuous improvement to the content standard, the workflow, tool functionality and integration, and the feedback and reporting systems. This critical continuous improvement sustains and optimizes KCS benefits.
There are two dimensions to consider when thinking about the number and type of roles for an organization:
In a start-up environment, the majority of Analysts have Candidate or Contributor licenses, there is a Coach to Analyst ratio of 1:5 to 1:8, and there probably is not enough content to warrant a Knowledge Domain Expert.
In a mature environment, the Coach to Analyst ratio usually evolves to something like 1:50, and knowledge domains evolve to the point where a Knowledge Domain Expert has sufficient content volume to look at patterns and trends.
Analysts at the KCS levels reside in each level of the support center (tier 1, tier 2, and tier 3). It is important to distinguish between KCS competency and technical depth—there is not a 1:1 correlation. For example, each support tier should have members at the KCS Contributor and KCS Publisher levels of competency that can create and validate KCS articles for the problems solved at their level. As the KCS processes mature in the organization, all but new Analysts in training should be at least at a KCS Contributor level. The ultimate goal for high complexity environments is to get the majority of the Analyst population to a KCS Publisher level. For low complexity environments the goal is to have enough KCS Publishers in the organization such that at any point in time we have zero articles in the queue waiting to get published. Or stated another way, if we have articles that are identified as customer usable waiting to get published than we don't have enough Publishers.
The licensing model is one important part of the quality assurance model for KCS. The organization must monitor the quality of the work being done and be willing to revoke the KCS license if the quality of work slips below an acceptable level (see the KCS Article Quality Index section in Performance Assessment for more on this).
The KCS user development diagram below shows the typical evolution path from role to role. Not everyone is appropriate for or interested in taking the step to the next role. Anyone an organization would trust to come up with a new answer for a customer should, in time, become a KCS Contributor. The only people who should stay a KCS Candidate forever are call takers, dispatchers, or people you want to use knowledge, but not ever think up a new answer on their own. Use the descriptions and characteristics detailed in the next section to help identify the right people to move along the KCS path.
The following section provides guidance on the type of knowledge, the skills, and, in some cases, the personality traits that are necessary for success with KCS. The Consortium and its partners offer training specifically geared to acquiring the skills for these different roles.
The adoption team is responsible for defining the roles and responsibilities as a part of building the foundation before the pilot. This includes updating job or role descriptions as well as defining the expected competencies for each KCS role within the KCS Competency Model (i.e. KCS Candidate, KCS Contributor, etc.) They may also modify these as a result of analyzing the pilot or during early adoption. Once KCS has been implemented and the KCS Council takes on the responsibility for evolving the maturity of the KCS practices, they may identify the need to update the competency model and the competencies for specific roles. Normally they would propose the changes for management approval.
The Support Analyst understands the basics of KCS and knows how to interact with the knowledge base in a way that captures their experience and capitalizes on the collective experience of the organization. A KCS Candidate must be able to recognize relevant information in the knowledge base and exercise judgment in their interaction with it. They should not use or deliver a KCS article that they do not understand. Since articles in the knowledge base are created with a specific audience in mind, dictating vocabulary and level of technical content, a Candidate adapts knowledge to suit the profile of the target audience.
Upon completion of training (often web-based training or an element of new hire training), the KCS Candidate should:
The nature of the work being performed, including things like complexity, volume, and rate of redundancy in incoming incidents.
The maturity of the existing KCS processes in the organization.
Understand the Structured Problem Solving process (outlined in the section on Workflow)
Accurately and consistently capture the customer's context in the workflow
Search for and find existing KCS articles
Review and either link or flag articles in the case workflow
Modify their own KCS articles
Frame new KCS articles (work-in-progress or draft) that will be reviewed or finished by a KCS Contributor or KCS Coach
The KCS Contributor reviews (as they reuse) or finishes KCS articles that are framed by themselves or others, making sure the articles adhere to the Content Standard. The KCS Contributor has the capability and authority to create or validate articles in their product area without review by a Coach. They may also author and approve articles for broad audience visibility. They may directly improve articles that are not yet in a Published state, and should flag Published articles that need to be updated or improved.
While the KCS Candidate creates articles that are "Work-in-Progress" or in a "Draft" state, the KCS Contributor can create content that is in a validated or Approved state. An Approved article implies a high degree of confidence in both the technical accuracy and compliance with the Content Standard. A KCS Contributor can put articles that are in a Work-in-Progress or Draft state into an Approved state if in his or her judgment the article is "sufficient to solve".
The KCS Contributor competencies are incremental to those of KCS Candidate and involve a detailed understanding of the importance of the context of the audience, the Content Standard, the KCS article quality index, and the KCS processes. They should be able to work independently by creating well-structured KCS articles and be adept at enhancing others' articles to make them visible to a wider audience. Finally, they should be able to pass the license exam to demonstrate that they have the knowledge necessary to be a KCS Contributor. The license should be good for a period of time, typically two years, and at the end of that period the license should be renewed.
The KCS Publisher is authorized to publish content to an external audience, typically on the web, as well as to modify externally-facing content. In KCS environments, "publish" means making the KCS article visible to partners or customers. Compared to a KCS Contributor, the KCS Publisher takes a more global, outward view of the audience and the content. The KCS Publisher knows the technical implications of the knowledge being published, has an understanding of what material is priority information, and has an understanding of copyright and trademark policies enforced by his organization. The KCS Publisher is also responsible for understanding the external audience and publishing requirements outlined in the content standard. Because Published KCS articles may be linked from other websites and may be visible to a large audience, the KCS Publisher must exercise good judgment about modifying Published articles.
In determining readiness to move to the KCS Publisher level, consider that the KCS Publisher should receive consistently high scores on the KCS article quality index and have consistently positive feedback on and high reuse of article content. They should reliably focus on the success of the team and the customer over individual success.
The KCS Publisher may flag Published content for archival or deletion, but because removing externally-facing content from the Web is an activity with difficult-to-assess implications, typically the KCS Publisher can't personally archive or delete.
As KCS matures in the organization, a high percentage of the Support Analysts should be at the KCS Publisher level. This percentage allows the just-in-time publishing of content that drives a high level of customer success with web-based self-help. This is especially important in order not to create a backlog of flagged Published content, because KCS Contributors may not directly edit Published articles. The KCS Publisher should also be able to demonstrate proficiency by passing an exam. The license should also be good for a period of time and be renewed at the end of the period.
The KCS Academy (www.thekcsacademy.net) offers a certification process and exam for the KCS Publisher role.
The KCS Contributor and KCS Publisher roles need to have a well-defined path to achieve those levels. The Analyst should have to demonstrate proficiency at each level and pass an exam, much like drivers need to take a written exam and also pass a behind the wheel test. And like the driver's license metaphor, the KCS licenses should be renewed on a regular schedule.
A KCS license isn't the end of the licensing process just like getting a license to drive isn't the end of that process. Drivers must obey the rules of the road and demonstrate good judgment, and so do KCS license holders. If a KCS Contributor consistently shows poor judgment or a lack of compliance with the content standard they should lose their license.
While both the coaching model and the KCS licensing model are common components of successful KCS adoptions we should note that there is considerable variation in how companies have implemented the KCS licensing model. Some have rigorous criteria and tests that Support Analysts must pass others rely solely on the Coaches recommendation. Some organizations require and annual renewal and some the license is for life.
Organizations also use a variety of combinations of levels of license. Some combine the responsibilities and competencies of the licensing levels we have outlined here. Following are a few of the variations we have seen. They all work and the variations reflect the level of trust the leadership has in the Support Analysts.
Two level model where the KCS Candidate and Contributor rights are combined and KCS Publisher rights are distinct; Support Agents can create and modify Draft and Approved articles (internal articles) and once competent are licensed to publish externally
Two level model with a KCS Candidate and the KCS Contributor and KCS Publisher rights are combined; Support Agents have very limited rights in the system while they are learning KCS (Draft articles only) and when they are competent they are licensed at the KCS Publisher level.
One level model where everyone has all the rights and privileges of the KCS Publisher and people loose their license if they consistently demonstrate poor judgment or a lack of compliance with the content standard.
Coaches are critical change agents in the KCS adoption process, invaluable in helping people develop their KCS competencies. In the KCS environment, the Coach is successful when people are moving from KCS Candidate to KCS Contributor or KCS Publisher. Although a KCS Publisher needs very little coaching, Coaches should be doing period quality checks on their articles.
The Coach's focus should first be on evolving an individual's KCS skills, then, over time, shift to developing team capabilities.Although organizations recognize the need for training, they often overlook the need for effective coaching. An investment in training becomes largely wasted without the follow-up provided by a Coach's on-the-job reinforcement and support. This is especially true with KCS, which requires Analysts to develop and foster a set of new work habits, not just skills. An effective coaching program will shorten adoption time. In fact, the benefits the organization will achieve are directly proportional to the time they invest in coaching.
Coach responsibilities include:
Promote user skill development through effective skills coaching.
Help the KCS Candidate understand the problem solving workflow and how the KCS article management process is integrated with the thinking process.
Influence users to practice good knowledge management.
Influence users to apply standards for creating and improving knowledge within the knowledge base.
Review KCS articles framed by the KCS Candidate until they reach required levels of competency.
Perform internal validation of KCS articles to ensure accuracy for the described context and adherence to the quality standards set by the organizational unit.
Provide ongoing feedback to users and management about organizational KCS skill development.
Provide feedback to the knowledge developing organization, within the defined processes, to improve KCS article management.
Develop and monitor their own coaching skills through work with head Coaches.
Participation in the KCS Council.
The Coach must have a profound knowledge of the KCS principles and processes as well as strong communication and influence skills. We have found it most effective to have Coaches be part-time KCS Coaches and part-time Analysts (peers of those they are coaching). A few organizations have tried full-time Coaches and have found that the Coaches quickly lose touch with the reality of problem solving. As a result, the Coaches lose credibility with those they are coaching. A good rule of thumb is for Coaches to split their time equally between handling incidents and KCS coaching.
The intent of coaching is to develop individual habits of proficiency and team performance, not simply to ensure the correctness of KCS article content. The quality of content is promoted through the development of individual proficiencies.
Effective coaching relies on:
Excellent communication skills, particularly in the following areas:
Explaining and describing concepts
Influencing to generate results
Understanding of support processes, tools and current knowledge management systems
Mindfulness of feelings
Demonstrated ability to:
Manage time effectively
Proactively communicate with management and user community
Motivate people through helping them achieve recognition
Deal with objections like
Can't capture in the workflow
Don't have time to create articles
"Dumbing down" my job
Giving away my value
Demonstrated commitment to the success of team members
Over the years, we have validated several best practices for Coaches. Keep these techniques in mind during development of the KCS coaching program:
Organizations that have invested in KCS coaching have experienced faster adoption and realized a higher percentage of the KCS benefits; organizations that have compromised on coaching have had compromised levels of benefits.
Coaching is a part-time responsibility, usually 20% to 50% of their time.
Coaches are best selected by their peers and should have strong influencing skills and a passion for the KCS principles. They do not have to be technical experts.
During the adoption phase (supporting the development of the KCS Candidate to KCS Contributor), the recommended ratio of Coach to KCS Candidate is 1 to 8.
The time requirement for coaching a KCS Candidate should be 2-3 hours a week. It should not take more than 6-8 weeks for a KCS Candidate to become a KCS Contributor.
The Coach to Analyst ratio after the adoption phase (meaning the majority of the Analysts are KCS Contributor level or higher) is 1 to 50 or greater.
Selecting the right Coaches is a critical component to the success of KCS. The goal of the Coach is to increase the competencies of others, not to show case their own skills or expertise on a subject. The Coach is:
"A trusted role model advisor, wise person, friend, Mensch, steward, or guide - a person who works with emerging human and organizational forces to tap new energy and purpose, to shape new visions and plans, and to generate desired results. A coach is someone trained and devoted to guiding others into increased competence, commitment, and confidence."
- Frederic Hudson
Selecting the wrong Coaches can lead to the following symptoms:
Inconsistent participation among groups or geographies
KCS articles that are not findable
Bottlenecks getting articles published
Poor quality articles
A great start to a KCS deployment then a downturn in activity
Many organizations have made the mistake of picking the subject matter experts, technical leads, or documentation editors as the Coaches without considering social skills. Oracle, Novell, Microsoft, Quest, and Openwave have used Social Network Analysis (SNA) to view the social network in order to gain insight into who to select as Coaches, to identify collaborators in the organization, to validate Coach selections that have already been made and to diagnose the cause of inconsistent KCS results.
Social Network Analysis is a mathematical and visual analysis of relations, flows, and influences between people, groups, and organizations. The nodes in the network represent people and the lines represent connections through various social behaviors. SNA input data can be gathered through surveys, behaviors or analysis of electronic communications (social media, email, etc.). The members of the Consortium collected data through the use of surveys.
Sample Survey Questions to Select Coaches:
I would be more effective in my job if I could interact more with this person(s).
Whom do you go to for technical advice or problem solving?
Whom do you go to for non-technical advice; process or policy information or general issues?
Whom do you go to explore new ideas?
Whom do you trust to keep your best interests in mind?
If you don't know who to go to.... whom do you contact to find out? (who knows who knows?)
Upon the completion of the survey the nodes (or people selected in the survey) are input into the SNA tool. The output of a tool in a relationship map and several measures, including:
Number of connections a node has, more is not necessarily better, we want to connect the otherwise unconnected
Connection between groups (broker), high degrees on betweenness could indicate single points of failure
Less centralized networks have no single points of failure
These measures have proven effective not only to select Coaches but also to find who knows what faster, or to find connectors when companies are merging, built innovation teams and learning communities and to support partners and alliances.
As the organization matures in its use of KCS, a fourth important role evolves: the Knowledge Domain Expert (KDE). This critical role is responsible for assuring that the problems are resolved effectively and efficiently. The Knowledge Domain Expert must have both technical depth in their area of responsibility and a profound understanding of KCS. The Knowledge Domain Expert looks after the health of a collection or domain of knowledge, usually a subset of the knowledge base that aligns with their general technical expertise. To help achieve business objectives, the Knowledge Domain Expert drives the value of the knowledge by paying attention to both the quality of KCS articles and the effectiveness of the workflow that produces the articles.A talented motivator, the Knowledge Domain Expert assists colleagues in the collection, storage, and distribution of knowledge within and outside the organization. He or she will help determine what knowledge is important for the organizational memory and help to ensure that mechanisms exist for assessing the patterns that emerge from the content.
The Knowledge Domain Expert works closely with the Coaches and teams who have direct responsibility for maintaining the quality and flow of content as well as product management and development. This role is instrumental in the maintenance of a coordinated worldwide team effort. This effort includes working with established teams to create standards and processes that ensure timely delivery of robust and reusable content. The Knowledge Domain Expert also contributes input toward process automation to push information externally. Their success is measured by the changing time and cost to resolve an incident.
Most organizations have multiple knowledge domains, depending on the variety and granularity of the products and services being supported. Knowledge domains are virtual collections of KCS articles about a product family or relating to a technology or group of technologies. Knowledge domains are seldom about one product. They are not precise or absolute in their boundaries; knowledge domains often overlap. A knowledge domain is the collection of content that makes sense to look at for pattern and clustering analysis. Therefore, the purpose or intent of the analysis defines the collection of articles that is relevant.
For each domain, one or more subject matter experts emerge as Knowledge Domain Experts—Analysts with enthusiasm for the technology and the KCS principles and practices. They are usually level 3 experts who continue to have product-level support responsibilities, but take on additional responsibilities for the overall health of the knowledge and success of the support team. They are often excited about being able to provide development with actionable information based on a broader view of customer experience. Knowledge Domain Experts often become experts in the knowledge base tool being used and develop an understanding of the subtleties of the search technology.
The reporting structure for this role can be designed in several ways. Consider the focus of the Knowledge Domain Expert's role—that of creating organizational value through externalization of content outside the support organization. They will work closely with product development and product management. You may want to consider filling this role through a cross-organizational position.
Ensure efficient and effective problem solving by the support team.
Apply expertise in data mining to perform trend analysis and find the significant patterns in the data.
Assist in the fundamental development and maintenance of knowledge base quality and flow, including the knowledge base quality methodology, article standards, and process guidelines.
Perform Known vs. New Analysis
Develop and analyze reports on key metrics for business value of the knowledge base, such as article reuse rates, web-enabled call avoidance, and improvements to call resolution times.
Ensure effective knowledge base operations by monitoring related information (organizational effectiveness, resource allocation, new article creation trends) and making recommendations to management to accommodate changing conditions.
Advocate for changes necessary to maintain the knowledge base as an effective tool for achieving business objectives.
Provide input for items that have a worldwide impact. For example, monitoring and defining the KCS article metadata, prioritizing enhancement requests, coordinating training efforts where feasible, and planning for upgrades and systems integration enhancements.
Influence product management and product development to make necessary changes needed to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Participation in the KCS Council.
The KCS adoption team includes several roles:
KCS Executive Sponsor
KCS Program Manager
Adoption Team Members
The first step in launching the KCS adoption is to secure an Executive Sponsor. The Executive Sponsor must have significant influence in the organization that is adopting KCS. A common theme in successful adoptions is the most senior support executive has a passion about KCS and talks about it incessantly. The Executive Sponsor also needs to have influence with other organizations such as HR, product marketing and development as the cooperation of these organizations is key to capitalizing on the long-term benefits of KCS. The Executive Sponsor needs to be in control of the budget and be able to make investment decisions about KCS in the context of the overall support budget.
The KCS Program Manager is the KCS champion; they must be the evangelist for the KCS practices. They are responsible for coordinating the adoption team and the project plan. It is most effective if the KCS program manager also has responsibility for support delivery. In larger organizations this is often not feasible. The challenge for large organization (500 or more Support Analysts) is creating a sense of ownership on the part of the managers, directors and senior directors who manage the Support Analysts. The KCS adoption is seldom successful if the line management sees the program as something the "staff" owns and line management feels no accountability for its success.
The IT Liaison is responsible for the technology requirements; this includes infrastructure capabilities and response times, tool functionality, the integration of applications, the user interface and reporting requirements.
The Web Liaison is responsible for ensuring the organization's website's standards and protocol is included in the content standard.
Finally, the adoption team members are a group of people including representative managers and Support Analysts from the product families, geographies, and partners involved in the KCS adoption. This group owns the creation of the deliverables during the design session (content standard, workflow, communications plan and performance assessment model). Participation on the adoption team is part-time.
As the organization moves from Phase 2, Adoption, to Phase 3, Proficiency, the intensity, focus and responsibility of the adoption team shifts from design and change management to continuous improvement. The KCS Council is typically staffed by: a few managers who have developed an appreciation for KCS, a subset of the KCS Coaches and a few Knowledge Domain Experts. The KCS Council also includes an IT Liaison and a Web liaison.
Council members meet every other week and keep track of a list of improvements. Often the KCS Council is the group that conducts the article quality sampling process that produces the AQI.