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Consortium for Service Innovation

Plan and Design

The Plan and Design phase provides time to develop the roadmap and the foundation elements of our KCS program. The foundation has seven key elements: strategic framework, content standard, process map, communications plan, performance assessment model, technology plan, and the adoption road map. Preparation outlined in the KCS v6 Practices Guide and the KCS v6 Adoption & Transformation Guide can help the KCS adoption team create these critical building blocks for success. In terms of measures and benefits, the strategic framework is the primary document.

Strategic Framework

The strategic framework unifies the planning and design work. It documents the higher-level goals for the organization with respect to the key stakeholders: the customers, employees, and organization. Understanding how KCS aligns with and supports these goals assures the capture of relevant baseline measures for benchmarking and for communication outside the support organization. Generally, there is one strategic framework for the entire organization because it is based on the higher-level organizational goals.

Of customer, employee, and organizational goals, the customer goals are especially important. Alignment with customer goals, starting with more efficient support transactions and evolving to reduced customer effort and improvements in the customer experience, articulates value to the organization that is easy to explain to people outside support. Well-defined benefits to the customer help sustain commitment to the KCS program across executive-level management changes and communicate value to new organizational players, inside or outside the support organization.

Research may be required to set meaningful baselines and to expose the real customer demand for assistance (which is much greater than the incident volume--see Customer Demand) and more customer choices or channels for resolution.

The strategic framework captures a long-term view of the organization’s goals. However, since it is anchored in assumptions about the organization, the customers, and the technology environment, the framework should be reviewed and updated at least annually. The review process is constructive and a relevant strategic framework is an extremely valuable source of content for our ongoing communications.

From these higher-level objectives, we derive group and individual performance measures. Clear alignment among these tiered goals helps every team member make sense of their own contributions to the group and organization's success. Internal goal and performance management is an important step in KCS planning, but is not the emphasis of this paper. For details, refer to the KCS v6 Practices Guide sections covering Technique 7: Performance Assessment and Technique 8: Leadership and Communication.

Baseline Operational Benchmarks

The benchmarks established in the Plan and Design phase should include quantitative operational measures as well as a qualitative cultural baseline. The baseline measures document the pre-KCS state of the organization and should reflect the generic balanced scorecard quadrants: customer, employee, financial and process. Below is a list of typical baseline measures. 

Goal Type


  • Customer effort
  • Customer loyalty
  • Customer satisfaction (speed of resolution)
  • Time to adopt new/upgraded products or services
  • Employee effort
  • Employee satisfaction / loyalty
  • Employee turnover rate
  • Time to proficiency for new employees and new technologies
  • Support cost as a percentage of total revenue (or products shipped, licenses sold)
  • Cost per incident (or exception) (cost/incident)
  • Resolution capacity (knowledge worker productivity measured in incidents/month/person)
  • Average work time to resolve
  • Organizational Improvements (number of pervasive issues identified and accepted by the respective owners)
  • Incident volume
  • Percentage first contact resolution
  • Competency profile (% at each licensing level)
  • Process Adherence Review (PAR)
  • Self-service use (issues resolved without assistance or escalation)
  • Content Standard Checklist (formerly Article Quality Index)
  • The ratio of known to new incidents
  • Time to publish
  • Average work time to resolve

The list above reflects standard measurements. We select those most relevant to the organization but keep it simple by selecting just one to three measures per category. It is important to capture the “present state” baseline; that allows us to demonstrate progress against the traditional metrics of success. We also want to measure customer and employee effort and loyalty factors that people may not expect KCS to affect.

One of the greatest contributions the support team and KCS can make to the organization is in identifying opportunities to remove the cause of frequently raised issues. Consider the rich data captured in the knowledge base about the customer's experience. Armed with the knowledge base’s detailed use cases and related incident volumes, the support team can identify high impact organizational improvements. The opportunities for improvements can be in the areas of policies, processes, product, or service usability or features. When these requests are accepted and acted on by the respective policy, process, or product owners, the support team is creating value for both the organization and the customers. By comparing the number of organizational improvements identified and accepted in the Optimize and Innovate phase with those in the Plan and Design baseline, we can articulate the contribution being made by KCS.

Cultural Baseline

Another important benchmark assesses teamwork attitudes using a qualitative cultural baseline. It aids adoption investments and highlights the significant cultural shift that KCS requires for success. We often refer to the work of Patrick Lencioni and his survey in The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, which provides a quick assessment of a group’s level of trust, ability to resolve conflicts, willingness to commit, accountability, and focus on results. Employee surveys are helpful to document the current state of the culture, employee morale, and loyalty to the company.

We want to measure the organization’s impression of itself and its culture. We use these assessments to guide appropriate investments in coaching and communication while we Adopt in Waves and Build Proficiency, as well as longer-term trends.

How good are we at organizational change? Change is hard and many organizations suffer from the “program du jour” syndrome, frequently introducing quality improvement programs without following through, or attempting and failing in “knowledge engineering” initiatives. If the organization has a history of failed change initiatives, the attitude of the knowledge worker is likely to be distrustful and noncommittal toward any new change initiative. If our survey reveals this cynicism, we must invest extra effort to identify what is different about KCS, confirm individual engagement, ensure alignment, and follow-through. Organizations that take change seriously and embrace a formal change management discipline, like ADKAR or Kotter, are consistently more successful than those who don't.

The strategic framework and balanced scorecards can help with alignment and buy-in.  They help managers focus on the right things and enable knowledge workers to see how KCS supports the organizational goals. We also need to increase the frequency of communication and raise the visibility of ongoing executive support. To assess improvement in management understanding and knowledge worker trust and collaboration, the cultural survey is administered periodically.

If the program appears to be stalling, a cultural survey will often reveal a lack of understanding or attitude challenges we must address. We might find perspectives that could lead us to rethink assumptions or try a new approach. It is surprising how often organizations feel they have communicated why we are doing KCS and the WIIFM (what's in it for me) for managers and knowledge workers, but upon assessing understanding and buy-in to the program, they find that the message is not getting across.

Assessing the Investment Required

Most organizations expect costs to be associated with a KCS program. Unfortunately, many miss some critical investment areas that affect success. The Plan and Design phase provides the opportunity to request the budget and support from executives (as well as IT) we need in order to maximize the KCS benefits.


Investment Considerations

Plan and Design
  • Project and program management
  • KCS training and Design Session (development of the seven fundamental building blocks for success)
Adopt in Waves
  • Project and program management
  • KCS training for knowledge workers and their managers
  • Developing an effective coaching program
  • Enabling time to coach 
  • Implementing the communication plan (internal)
  • Update and integrate tools - for KCS and for self-service (web, forums)
  • Developing measurement dashboards for managers and knowledge workers 
Build Proficiency
  • Enabling time to Coach
  • Implementing the communication plan (external to encourage customer use of self-service)
  • Developing the Knowledge Domain Expert (KDE) program, and allocating resources to do the Evolve Loop work
  • Optimize tools and integration for self-service (web portals, forums)
  • Updating the measurement dashboards to include self-service indicators and KDE reporting and dashboards
Optimize and Innovate
  • Coaching activities 
  • Enhancing the KDE capabilities, leveraging Data Scientists for knowledge base analysis tools
  • Updating the measurement dashboards to enable optimization of the support network
  • Investments in automation for recommendation and prediction engines


Exit Criteria for the Plan and Design Phase

We will be ready to Adopt in Waves when our executive sponsor is bought-in and we have completed the foundation elements: the deliverables from the Design Session. The Indicators of Transformation table recaps the deliverables and readiness criteria. Refer to the KCS v6 Adoption & Transformation Guide for implementation details.

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