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Technique 2: Create a Strategic Framework

The strategic framework is a simple yet powerful document that links the benefits of KCS to the goals of the organization. It forms the basis for the communication plan as well as being a tool for gaining executive support for necessary KCS investments and changes. In this section, we will describe the framework and provide an example. Note that, while the document is important, equally important is the exercise of creating the strategic framework. The conversation and understanding that come from the process of creating the framework are extremely valuable for the KCS adoption team.

Link KCS Outcomes to Organizational Goals

The KCS Strategic Framework can help organizations reduce frustration and improve engagement by linking higher-level business goals to departmental objectives. These departmental objectives are the desired outcomes that individuals and managers use to build their balanced scorecards (see Performance Assessment for more information on balanced scorecards). This continuity in goals—from big picture to team to individual—is a key success factor in deploying KCS, maintaining progress, and promoting understanding and confidence across the organization.


The strategic framework is the foundation for a successful KCS adoption because it aligns and provides context for the key stakeholders: the business, the employees, the customers, and, often, business partners. The framework enables us to talk with executives in business terms by correlating KCS benefits to high-level business objectives. When it comes to communication to team members and others, a strategic framework provides the central messaging document.


Here is an example of a strategic framework expressed in terms of the primary stakeholders (customer, Analyst, and the company) and the specific contributions of the KCS program:

Customer Focus


Employee Focus


Business Focus


Here is how the process works. One of the most common organizational goals is customer loyalty. A big driver for this is the support experience and time to resolve (TTR). So, we need a support level metric in the customer loyalty section.


Leaders should select the metrics that link to customer success (the desired outcome), not activities. This is the same message that we deliver for individuals, but the metrics are implemented at a group or organizational level. Some good examples of higher-level metrics that are only measured at the group level include customer usage metrics about web access and web success, as well as internal metrics like publishing to the web. If we measure the wrong things or fail to balance them well, we are likely to drive the wrong behaviors and wrong results. Measuring the wrong things at the organizational level can cause people to game the system as they would with individual metrics.


Employee Loyalty is another important factor. People management practices of employee loyalty surveys and measurements for turnover and attrition fit in here.


Operational efficiency (or cost management) is also a typical goal. We have noted the KCS factors that influence costs and contribute to profitability. However, pure cost reduction is a going out of business strategy. The business should talk about increased capacity and identify ways to increase revenue, instead of just cost reduction. (See the ROI section that follows for more detail.)


In considering organizational goals and the right outcomes to emphasize, we keep in mind our business and the support paths we provide. Can customers use their choices of assisted support, self-help, and community-based support? How will KCS enable these different paths? Which metrics can we capture? How can KCS reduce requirements for expensive channels (telephone, email) and increase use of inexpensive channels (web, forums)? It may help to think about what we measure today. What percentage of our customers uses the web first, and what percentage is successful? Now, how might these numbers look after KCS?


Keeping in mind our organization's objectives, here are KCS-oriented measures to consider:


Process and knowledge health:

  • Participation rate (%)

  • Ratio of reused content to created content (%)

  • Size of the knowledge base (number of KCS articles, internal and external)

  • Knowledge base maturity (calculated percentage)

  • Mix of new and known problems (%)

  • Average time to relief/resolution for known problems

  • Average time to relief/resolution for new problems


Since the goal of KCS is to increase and leverage the value of the knowledge, this concept has many potential metrics:

Customer Loyalty Drivers:

  • Time from case open to publish KCS articles (to customers, in minutes)

  • Percentage of customer-consumable KCS articles visible to customers

  • Percentage of customer success on the web (survey data)

Cost Management Drivers:

  • Percentage of new vs. known issues being reported to the support center (assisted model) (manager's goal—focus resources on solving new problems, not known problems, drive down costs)

  • Percentage of customers who use the web first (survey data)

  • Percentage of Customer success on the web (survey data)

  • Number of product improvements recommended to development/engineering

  • Percentage of product improvements accepted

  • Number of document improvements recommended to publications group

  • Percentage of document improvements accepted by publications group

In this document, we are focusing on the KCS-relevant metrics. They do not replace existing management metrics, but should be integrated into them.

Maintaining Balance

In many organizations, there is tension between the goals of customer loyalty and operational efficiency. Improvements in one can starve the other. Typically, executives set goals for profitability and customer loyalty, but leave teams to determine implementation goals. Unlike traditional approaches to efficiency that can jeopardize customer satisfaction and loyalty, KCS demands a good strategic framework that reflects a healthy balance of these two goals. In fact, by implementing KCS to improve knowledge sharing, improvements such as self-service, proactive notification, and "treating known as known" can help organizations achieve both goals simultaneously.

Operational Benefits and Return on Investment Considerations

Since most organizations need to invest money to adopt KCS, and support organizations live in a cost-sensitive climate, a normal organizational metric is return on investment (ROI). In assessing the operational benefits from KCS, we use the same stakeholders we defined above: the customer, the employees, and the business. Each will benefit differently from the adoption of KCS. The stakeholder benefits will be realized at three levels as the KCS practices become mature:

  • Direct—operational improvements that are near term (3-9 months)

  • Applied—new ways of delivering service and support enabled by KCS—for example, using knowledge that is created to power web-based self-help (6-18 months)

  • Leveraged—the knowledge and the capacity created by KCS enables new kinds of value-added support services to be offered (12-30 months)


We will focus on the investment and benefits of the Direct and Applied levels of KCS as these represent the most credible near term benefits. Experience has shown that while KCS is valuable across a wide range of environments, the investment required and the benefits achieved from KCS vary based on the characteristics of the environment. The key factor in determining if KCS will produce value for the stakeholders is the degree to which knowledge or experience plays a role in responding to user's or customer's requests for assistance.


Additionally, as we look to measure the benefits, we have to consider both quantitative (objective) and qualitative (subjective) metrics.


Implementation of KCS requires investments in the following areas:

  • Leadership and Management—Sponsorship, program resources, and management training and development

  • Infrastructure and Support—Modification of existing tools or the acquisition and implementation of new tools and the integration of those tools with existing systems

  • Learning and Performance—Training and coaching for users, implementation and development of new roles in the organization  

  • KCS article Management—The processes and resources for content evolution


Investments in these areas occur over the four phases of KCS adoption. These are:

  • Design—Allocation of resources and decision support activities

  • Development—Initial implementation and training, getting the adoption going

  • Deployment—Institutionalizing the practices across the whole organization

  • Evolution—Continuous improvement


Together, these areas and phases make up the total cost of ownership. Calculating the total investment can be difficult because many of the resources used are not incremental to the organization. Other elements, the incremental costs, are easier to identify. Each organization will have to calculate the non-incremental costs they wish to include. Once we have the total cost, we can divide it by the number of Analysts to figure the KCS investment per Analyst. 


One of the most challenging cost elements to estimate is coaching. During the startup of each deployment wave, coaching represents a serious investment in Analyst capacity. In most organizations, no real cost is incurred because the organization simply lives with the reduced capacity. Other organizations that are under intense pressure may not be able to suffer through even a few months of decreased capacity and must back-fill Analysts during the intensive coaching phase. Leaders must make a clear statement of their plans for preserving time to coach and their willingness to pay for coaching, whether that payment comes in the form of short-term hires or (more frequently) a willingness to temporarily sacrifice SLAs or increase backlog.

Return on Investment

As we mentioned earlier, the benefits from KCS will be different for each of the stakeholders. Following is a summary of the benefits by audience:

ROI - Benefits by Audience

Sample KCS ROIs

Following are examples of the KCS ROI in three different environments. As we mentioned earlier, we must consider many factors in assessing the ROI. The complexity of the work most closely relates to the level of benefit. The following three examples are based on real organizations, and the actual results have been validated against this model. This ROI is solely based on the Direct benefits: the improvement in the operational efficiency of the group. It does not include the Applied benefits, such as web-based self-help.

Examples of KCS ROI







Average Minutes To Resolve Known Problem




Average Minutes To Resolve New Problem




Average Incidents Closed Per Day




Estimated % of Problems which are New





Monthly Analyst Cost (Fully Loaded)




Investment in KCS Per Analyst





Number of Analysts In the Group




Cost Per Resolution (Base)





Average % Analyst Participation Rate




Months to KCS Article Set Maturity




Average Analyst Daily Capacity at Maturity




Average Group Daily Capacity at Maturity




Analyst Daily Capacity Improvement




Cost Per Resolution at Maturity




% Improvement in Cost/Resolution







ROI—First 12 Months




ROI—First 24 Months




The increased capacity is a function of the simple fact that it is much faster to find a KCS article in the knowledge base than create a new one. By consistently capturing the experience of solving problems in the knowledge base, a greater percentage of the work moves to the known category (shorter time to resolve). We find that once KCS is implemented, most organizations are surprised at the level of redundancy in their work. The 80/20 rule (80% of the inbound questions and problems have already been answered somewhere in the organization) represents a good average.


The model forecasts the time it will take for "KCS article set maturity." Maturity is when most of what the organization knows is captured in the knowledge base. Maturity is measured in months. In the examples given above, it varies from 8.6 months for an environment with complex issues to 2.1 months for an environment with low complexity.


The assumptions used for this model are:


Work Days Per Year Average



Work Days Per Month Average



Work Hrs Per Day



Total Work Hrs Per Month



Available Work Hrs/Mo, Utilization rate 60%



Available Work Min/Day, Utilization rate 60%


Fully loaded annual cost/Analyst High



Fully loaded annual cost/Analyst Med

 $  84,000


Fully loaded annual cost/Analyst Low

 $  66,000

A Few Words of Caution

KCS is a powerful best practice that initially improves the capacity of a support organization and over time creates new capabilities and benefits. At the outset, we need to consider how the increased capacity will be used and set Analyst and executive expectations realistically. These are the Leveraged benefits described earlier.


While the model shows a dramatic return on investment through the reduction in the average cost per problem, the savings may not be in a form the organization can or wants to directly realize. For most support organizations, the primary cost component is labor. While the adoption of KCS can reduce the labor costs on a per-unit-of-work basis, the savings can only be realized by reducing staff. This might be either difficult or undesirable due to shift coverage requirements or diversity of the technologies being supported. Reducing staff also diminishes the longer-term opportunity to create new capabilities and value added services.


Capitalizing on increased capacity is a tricky thing. Organizations that do not have a plan for how they will use the capacity are at risk of losing it. Incremental capacity can be absorbed by an organization without even thinking about it. In the absence of a plan, the existing work will naturally expand to fill the time. 


Text Box: Capitalizing on increased capacity is a tricky thing.Having a plan for how the increased capacity will be used is also an important element of setting executive and participant expectations. Executives like to see numbers that they can track, but some of these numbers (like incremental costs) are estimates. Be selective about the numbers touted. Placing the benefits of KCS in the bigger context of organizational goals including customer loyalty is very important here, to communicate the complete value of KCS (see the section on the strategic framework).


Of no less importance, Analysts want to know that their work to adopt KCS will not be "rewarded" with a layoff notice. Show them a plan and document the executive support for implementing the future changes and, specifically, how the incremental capacity will be used.


Following are some options to consider for how the organization can leverage newly available capacity:

  • Improvement in service level to users/customers without incremental cost.

  • Creation of "pro-active or value-added" services.

  • Increased interaction with product development teams to improve the products based on user or customer experiences.

  • Higher levels of participation in product testing during alpha and beta phases of development (this participation also helps seed the knowledge base with experience about the new products).

  • In an environment with increasing workload, the need for additional headcount can be reduced or postponed.

  • In an environment with flat or decreasing workload, a reduction in staff may be the right thing. KCS will enable a lower cost of support while sustaining service levels. But we must be sure the reduction in staff is feasible.

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Near the very end of this article the challenge of possibly having to reduce staff due to increased capacity is discussed. In order to give this a positive outlook, perhaps the following approach could be introduced. Instead of having to issue some employee's notices of termination, an elegant approach could be to just not back-fill a position once an employee moves into a different role, or voluntarily terminates their employment.
Posted 10:41, 30 Nov 2015
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14:41, 28 Oct 2013


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