Take a Reactive Approach to Knowledge Management
By Hannah Price, Service Management Consultant at TOPdesk UK
Reactivity and proactivity are something of a niche topic when it comes to knowledge management. Service desks are being told left, right, and centre to be proactive in their approach to service delivery, but it’s time to take a step back and ask the question: Is being proactive right for knowledge management?
Proactive: a workplace trend
For many companies, the temptation when starting out with knowledge management is to try and anticipate what the knowledge needs will be. They make articles in advance, attempting to be ready to appease that demand of the future.
It’s hardly surprising that organisations take this approach when proactivity in the workplace is generally encouraged, especially in service management industries. Stopping a reactive, firefighting approach is top of every service desk’s list, and they’re taking that drive and applying it to knowledge management too.
While being proactive is a good motivation to have, it doesn’t work for everything. Knowledge management and proactivity, for example, don’t always go hand in hand.
The ever-changing technology climate
Take a look at the technology industry: it’s rapidly changing all the time and these changes are getting exponentially faster. On a regular basis, we’re seeing new applications, systems, updates, and upgrades. It’s incredibly hard to predict what the industry will look like in six-months.
With this in mind, how can service desks predict what’s going to be a useful, valuable or insightful knowledge article for months or years to come? The answer is, they can’t. Taking a proactive approach to knowledge management could, therefore, be a big waste of time.
Favouring reactivity for knowledge management
A more effective and valuable tactic is having an element of reactivity in knowledge management. In practice, this means making a knowledge article at the moment of use rather than in anticipation of use.
For example, a question, incident, or request comes into the service desk. The operator answers: “Thanks for logging your ticket with us. If you follow steps one, two, and three in these screenshots and then reboot, your issue should be resolved.” The instant the ticket has been answered is the ideal time to turn the solution into a knowledge article.
The theory behind this approach is that the scenario has occurred which provides justification for the existence of a knowledge article. By being reactive, responding in the moment, you’re being driven by the demand of the user, and demand is key for knowledge management. There’s no benefit in an unused knowledge item for the service desk or the user.
Making valuable use of the operator’s time
Alongside providing a reason for the work of the service desk, reactivity is key to achieving valuable use of the team’s time, therefore, improving efficiency. The operator has already spent time and effort answering a user’s request and that user has benefitted from the knowledge provided. So, why not make that information visible to the wider team and customer base?
By transforming an interaction into a knowledge article, you’re enabling a quick and easy solution for another member of the service desk team, or even a customer who can independently solve their issue. It took the original operator just seconds to convert their solution to a knowledge article, and they saved the time of several operators.
It’s efficient – best practice agrees!
KCS (Knowledge-Centred Service) is best practice framework for knowledge management. KCS represents a methodology of creating, reusing, and improving knowledge, based on being driven by demand and usage. Every incident we capture has the value as a potential knowledge article, as well as the potential to improve the validity and relevance of existing knowledge.
Taking the KCS approach means being reactive throughout knowledge management. It starts with the creation of articles following the resolution of incidents and persists by continuously adapting these same articles following usage.
So, create what you use and improve what you use. It’s an extremely efficient use of time and leads to a highly effective knowledge base. You’re constantly improving and evolving the most valuable parts, not wasting time updating those items with less demand.
Is there any place for proactivity in knowledge management?
Saying “choose a reactive approach over proactive in knowledge management” may sound all doom and gloom. But this doesn’t mean that there’s no place for being proactive when creating knowledge. There is a space for proactivity, it’s just that the majority of knowledge is most valuable if it comes reactively.
Once the knowledge base is healthy and flourishing, Knowledge Managers can benefit from ascertaining patterns in knowledge use and areas that are of high value. After analysing the knowledge, noticing gaps and trends, then you can start looking to be proactive.
For example, there may be 20 unique articles explaining different methods of single sign-on that customers can use. A Knowledge Manager might consolidate these into one master knowledge article to act as a contents page, with hyperlinks to each solution. This type of proactivity and nurturing of the knowledge base is something that is encouraged and can be really useful.
Focus on being reactive, with proactive elements
Proactivity is a very noble cause and should be applauded when used in most processes within service delivery. However, when it comes to knowledge management, stick to reactivity for efficiency and effectiveness.
Empower your team to create and improve knowledge in the moment. The moment being when they’re on the front-line, answering questions and issues for your customers.
Implementing this approach will provide you with a healthy and rich knowledge base which hasn’t taken a huge amount of time or resource to collate. It will, however, be full of high-value knowledge articles driven by the demand and need of your customer.
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