Skip to main content
Consortium for Service Innovation

The Four Phases

In the KCS v6 Adoption & Transformation Guide, we identify four phases or building blocks that support the successful management of a KCS adoption program. For each phase, we describe the relevant benefits, indicators and measures and how our measures must change as we evolve. We specifically note exit criteria for the Plan and Design phase, and indicators of transformation for the other three phases. These indicators help leaders know the organization's adoption is making progress and when they should make the appropriate and necessary changes in their measurement models. The phases are cumulative. Other than the Plan and Design phase, we don't exit a phase but rather master the activities that are the focus of a given phase. 

It is important to note that mastering a phase does not mean we can forget about it. With the exception of the Plan and Design phase, the expansion of our focus from phase to phase is an expansion of our capability that is dependent on the capabilities of the other phases. These building blocks are interdependent and cumulative.  As we expand our focus from Adopt in Waves to Build Proficiency, our measurement model expands to include the Proficiency Indicators in addition to the Adoption Indicators. And as we expand our focus to Optimize and Innovate, our measurement model includes the Adoption and Proficiency Indicators. 

Quite often the Adoption or Optimize phases will expose issues that are part of the Proficiency phase and some corrective actions may be needed with activities of the Proficiency phase.  

Understanding of the phases is critical because the benefits and corresponding measures evolve through the phases. Sensitivity to these phases optimizes and sustains the benefits of KCS, appropriately expanding the scope of our measures at each phase.

A challenge for KCS leaders is managing the expectations of the organization's executives with respect to the KCS benefits. The near-term benefit realized in increased capacity and productivity at the end of Adopt in Waves phase is usually more than enough to justify the cost of the adoption program. The longer-term benefits realized in the Build Proficiency and the Optimize and Innovate phases create huge value for both the customer and the organization. However, these long-term benefits take time and are realized as a result of the KCS practices becoming part of the organization's DNA. Ironically, a rushed adoption will actually take longer to realize the benefits!

To lay the groundwork for these dynamics, the Plan and Design phase describes baseline measurements against which we can assess early progress. The Adopt in Waves phase is about the knowledge workers learning the KCS Practices and techniques and creating a mature knowledge base. The Adopt in Waves phase measures are the traditional transaction-based measures. In the Build Proficiency phase, we expand the use of the knowledge base to additional audiences, including customers. This phase requires some new, value-based measures which are much broader and more complicated than the traditional transaction-based measures. Similarly, we need new measures in the Optimize and Innovate phase as we drive improvements in our products, services, and processes based on the patterns and trends that we see in the use of the knowledge base.  

Using a phase-based framework for the focus, measures, and benefits allows KCS leaders to describe the evolving competencies, efficiencies, and contributions in a way that is relevant to the organization and its maturity with KCS. And, most importantly, it describes the dynamics and additional measures that are necessary to assess the health and value of a knowledge-centered organization.

A note on our approach: We occasionally offer specific numbers for the key measures. These are meant to be examples, not goals or industry best practices. These examples should provoke discussion and help make the dynamics at play more obvious and understood. Please recognize that the results will vary based on the nature of the knowledge work involved and the nature of the customers being supported.

We describe KCS adoption as a journey, and a valuable part of that journey is a continuous process of learning and improvement. As KCS is adopted, an organization will realize an evolution of its people and their skills, its processes and the supporting technology, as well as its relationship with its customers and other internal organizations. The maturing knowledge base enables improvements in self-service success, the identification of a broad range of organization improvements, and is the foundation to leverage emerging automation and predictive capabilities (text analytics, cognitive computing, machine learning, bots, and artificial intelligence).

The four phases help us focus on new capabilities and provide indicators of progress.



Measures and Indicators

Plan and Design

  • Executive understanding of the benefits and the journey
  • Gather baseline measurements (both existing, and new, to the extent possible)
  • Set realistic internal and external expectations
  • Definition of the foundation elements that are good enough to start wave I 

Adopt in Waves

  • Learn KCS behaviors
  • Create articles in the knowledge base
  • Create internal understanding and excitement through the realization of initial benefits
  • Establish internal referenceability
  • Ratio of known to new incidents
  • Process Adherence Review (PAR)
  • Content Standard Checklist
  • Knowledge worker competency profile (licensing model)
  • Improvement in cost per incident, capacity, and first contact resolution
  • Improved time to proficiency for new employees and new products/services 

Build Proficiency

  • Mature the knowledge base
  • Increase process efficiency
  • Promote self-service
  • Conduct Knowledge Domain Analysis
  • Improve collaboration and knowledge worker satisfaction
  • Time to publish
  • % of articles in a visibility state of "external" (available through self-service mechanisms)
  • Self-service use and success (cost savings: issues resolved without an incident logged)

Optimize and Innovate

  • Optimize the support network
  • Increase customer success and productivity
  • Improve employee job satisfaction
  • Implement organizational improvements: products, services, processes, and policies
  • Ratio of support cost to revenue
  • Customer effort
  • Customer loyalty (renewal rate, new product/upgrade adoption rate)
  • Customer satisfaction (speed to resolution, first contact resolution)
  • Employee effort
  • Employee loyalty 
  • Employee turnover rate
  • Ratio of known to new incidents being handled by the support organization
  • Organizational improvements: policy, process, feature, functionality (number of Requests for Enhancements (RFEs) accepted by organization owners)
  • Cultural health: trust and willingness to collaborate, share, and improve


Adoption Timeline.png

Measurements Matter

We use phase-appropriate measurements to assess when we are ready to expand our focus to the next phase. The right measurements for each phase will provide honest feedback and promote the correct behaviors. Getting measurements wrong could mean a premature expansion to the next phase, the result of which will compromise the benefits or even mean failure for the KCS adoption. Another cause of failure we have seen all too often is when organizations use time-based goals for moving from one phase to the next instead of measurement-based criteria.

Having the right criteria to know when to shift our focus from Adoption to Proficiency is particularly important. While KCS techniques improve the efficiency and quality of assisted support, enabling a shift from the assisted model to a self-service model has even bigger benefits. By capturing knowledge and making it available to all the responders, KCS helps responders shorten resolution times and improve capacity in the Adoption phase. As we mentioned, the measures in this phase are familiar: average work time to resolve, cost per incident, and productivity (the number of incidents handled per knowledge worker per month). Positive trends in these measures accurately reflect improvement. The picture changes dramatically as we move to the Build Proficiency phase. As customers use self-service, they have access to information earlier in their resolution process. Self-service enables customers to get answers to their issues quickly, with less effort, on-demand, without support center assistance. And, when customers can find resolutions to their issues faster than opening an incident, they will use it a lot!

Before we enter the Build Proficiency phase and start promoting self-service, we have to be sure the knowledge base has critical mass. This ensures the requestors will have a good probability of finding resolutions to known issues and create a positive experience for them. If we expand to Build Proficiency before the knowledge base has critical mass, the customer experience is compromised and that will inhibit their use of self-service in the future.

When assisted support is necessary, ideally, it is because the issue is not known or the requestor does not have the authority (rights and privileges) to implement the resolution. The resolution of these new and complex issues are often the ones that require significant time and multiple resources to resolve. A successful self-service model changes the nature of the work in the assisted model:

  • The easy and known issues are now being resolved through self-service.
  • The new and complex issues are the ones entering the assisted support process.

As we Build Proficiency on the KCS journey, the transaction-based metrics (average work time to resolve, cost per incident, and productivity) start to look like they are moving in the wrong direction. What has gone wrong? ...........Nothing!

The customer experience is vastly improved, incident volumes (when normalized to the install base or number of customers being supported) decline and total support cost as a percent of revenue declines. In the Proficiency phase we need new measures that reflect the value of the knowledge base: self-service success, organizational improvements based on the patterns of reuse of knowledge articles, and the impact on customer and employee loyalty. This expansion of the measurement model is key to a successful implementation of KCS.

Positive Trends, Not Absolutes

Because we adopt KCS in waves, at any point in time different groups (or waves) within an organization may be focused on different phases. This variation is normal, but challenging for leaders who need to capture and communicate each group’s progress and contribution. Meaningful, phase-specific measures support an informed assessment and provide a way to communicate progress.

As we look at using measures, we must keep in mind that absolute numbers are not critical: positive changes in the trends are. As with the timeline for each phase, the actual results and benchmarks vary by industry and the complexity of the issues being raised. We must establish measurements relevant to each organization and then use them to confirm that trends are moving in the right direction. Depending on the organization, even a modest change in a particular measurement can represent significant progress.

  • Was this article helpful?