The KCS Academy Distinguish yourself as an adopter of best practices for knowledge management through certification and development programs at the KCS Academy. Fri, 09 Jul 2021 19:46:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The KCS Academy 32 32 153893540 Akamai’s Guiding Principles for a Successful KCS Adoption Fri, 09 Jul 2021 19:46:36 +0000 Continue reading Akamai’s Guiding Principles for a Successful KCS Adoption]]> Realizing all the benefits of KCS requires being intentional about adoption and ongoing focus.  On a recent KCS in Action webinar, Monique Cadena, Amit Singh, and KK Rao from Akamai talked about their guiding principles for a successful KCS adoption, including insights and perspectives from key stakeholders.  They identified four key facets to their success:


You need to have executive buy-in and ensure that all stakeholders understand the “why”.  Leveraging a program charter, strategic framework, and KCS leadership training are great tools to help with this alignment.


This is largely about Organizational Change Management and bringing everyone along on a journey.  To do this well, you need to involve the teams in the design and communication, creating champions to spread the message.  Ensure you are looking holistically at people, processes, and technology.  Make sure you address case management upfront to streamline knowledge creation.


Enable the teams at all levels (knowledge workers, managers, and leaders) to execute the new practices and processes.   Shift the team’s thinking to the new indicators, instead of the old measures, along with simple references to keep people aligned.   Ensure you are investing in training, certification, and coaching for your staff.    

Maintain and Run

“Recognition is fuel.” Recognizing the right behaviors is key to maintaining momentum and engagement over the long haul–communicate, communicate, communicate!  Equally important is to analyze outcomes and activity trends to identify opportunities to continuously improve the system.

Akamai delivered a very informative webinar that serves as a blueprint for a successful KCS adoption. You can view the whole presentation below.

We look forward to future KCS in Action calls which continue to focus on how companies are implementing KCS Practices and techniques, and hope to see you there. As always, there will be time for questions and discussion.   

If you have a KCS in Action story you’d like to share, let us know!

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Social KDEs at Quest Fri, 21 May 2021 21:57:16 +0000 Continue reading Social KDEs at Quest]]> An effective Knowledge Domain Analysis (KDA) program is key to maximizing the success of your KCS implementation.  On a recent KCS in Action call, Jorge Carrasco, Social and Community Manager and Head of the KCS program at Quest, shared Quest’s KDA program.

Quest has expanded the role of the Knowledge Domain Expert (KDE) to include activities in their Communities and Social channels. They dubbed this role the Social KDE.  Duties include typical KDE tasks such as:

  • Content Gap Analysis
  • Shifting known problems from the Agent-Assist Channel to the Self-Service Channel
  • Communicating top customer issues from their Support channels (Agent-Assist, Self-Service, Communities and Social) to Development for potential product enhancements

Additional duties for a Social KDE include:

  • Harvesting knowledge from their Community and Social interactions
  • Promoting valuable knowledge articles in the Community channel
  • Answering Community and Social questions that the external Community has not answered

Quest is able to accomplish the above tasks with part-time Social KDEs by providing them with a robust set of reports that support this work. Properly enabling KDEs with standardized reports they can quickly and easily run is key to a successful KDE program. Jorge shared some of these reports in his presentation, along with the structure and cadence (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly) of those tasks.

In addition to best practices and tips for running an efficient KDA program, Jorge also shared some of the metrics he uses to demonstrate the value of these Social KDE activities to senior leadership.

Jorge delivered a very engaging and informative session and we encourage you to view it:

We are looking forward to future KCS in Action calls which continue to focus on how people are implementing KCS Practices and techniques, and hope to see you there. As always, there will be time for questions and discussion. If you have a KCS in Action story you’d like to share, let us know!

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Move Known Issues Out of the Assisted Channel Thu, 22 Apr 2021 05:09:04 +0000 Continue reading Move Known Issues Out of the Assisted Channel]]> Moving known issues out of the Agent-Assist channel and into the Self-Service channel is a key benefit of deploying KCS, yet many companies struggle to do this effectively. A common challenge companies face is identifying those articles that are Self-Service candidates. 

While conducting recent Knowledge Domain Analysis Workshops, we discovered one of the main reasons why identifying Self-Service candidate articles is so hard: often, agents are linking reference articles to cases, as opposed to resolution articles. While in our last blog we stated that it is valuable to link both resolution and reference articles, it is the frequency of article reuse – links to the resolution articles – that give us actionable information about what issues our customers are encountering.  

We need to ensure that we have a way to identify which of the attached articles is the resolution article. Fortunately, more and more of the KCS v6 Verified and Aligned tools are able to distinguish between these two types of article links. 

Once we are linking resolution articles accurately to cases, an effective method to identify and remove the most common known issues in the Agent-Assist channel (by making them accessible in Self-Service) is to perform the steps outlined below.

Step 1

Run a report with the following fields:

  • article id
  • number of cases article has been linked to
  • article audience (internal or external)
  • number of article external views
  • number of article internal views

Sort the report so that the articles with the most case links are on top. These are the articles that will have the most impact in the Self-Service channel. Start at the top, and work your way down.

Step 2

If the article audience is internal-only, investigate ways to make it visible to your customers also. Many tools allow you to put internal-only information in a separate field in the article template, with this field being only visible to agents. Companies that perform this practice well report that their percentage of internal-only content is in the low single digits. Companies that don’t do this practice well, especially the ones just starting their KCS journey, report that the majority of their articles are internal-only.

Step 3

If the article is viewable externally, compare the external views to the internal views. If the internal views are higher than the external views, check to see if the article is solution-centric rather than issue-centric. It might be a great article on how to change a battery, but if the customer is searching for “my car won’t start,” we have an opportunity to improve the way we capture customer context.

Step 4

If external views are higher than internal views, but the article is still being linked to many cases, then most likely the article is not consumable by the customer. Better structuring of the article and the solution often resolve this issue.

While improving the findability and usability of top-linked articles will improve customer success with Self-Service, don’t stop there! Review the top articles linked and the top self-service articles viewed periodically to see how things shift, and use this data with Development/Engineering to see if these issues can be eliminated from the product or service.

We hope these tips help you deliver more answers to customers through Self-Service. We would love to hear in the comments section below additional best practices that your company uses to identify and move known issues out of your Agent-Assist channel.

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Thinking About Linking: Resolution vs Reference Articles Tue, 23 Mar 2021 04:09:34 +0000 Continue reading Thinking About Linking: Resolution vs Reference Articles]]> We’ve been talking a lot lately about Knowledge Domain Analysis and how the knowledge worker behavior of “reuse” – of linking or attaching a knowledge article to an incident – is what gives us insight into what our customers or requestors are experiencing.

The KCS v6 Practices Guide says this about Linking:

“The ability to associate a system of record (email, case, incident, community thread, tweet) with the KCS article that resolves the issue is a critical element of the KCS methodology. The data generated by the association is necessary for many of the Evolve Loop analysis activities. For example, calculating the link [accuracy] for individuals and teams, or calculating reuse and enabling the new vs. known analysis are all based on the ability to associate events in the system of record with articles.”

A community member asked recently if a knowledge worker should link his case to every relevant article he used, or only the very last one. This brought up some interesting thoughts about which parts of our problem-solving experience we are able to reuse.

While what we are often referring to when we talk about a linked article is the resolution to the question that was asked, it is also helpful to know which articles were used as reference in helping us get to that resolution.

A reference article is used to diagnose the issue and/or qualify the correct resolution.

A resolution article contains the resolution for the issue.

From the KCS v6 Knowledge Domain Analysis Guide:

“Allowing knowledge workers to indicate, at the time of linking, how the article was used enables us to create accurate patterns of reuse for resolutions and to assess the value the knowledge base is creating by enabling knowledge workers to solve new issues based on how others have solved similar issues. When thinking about the value the knowledge base creates, it is important to consider both the efficiency gained through the reuse of articles that contain the resolution to a issue as well as the efficiency gained by having access to the collective experience of the organization as this helps us solve similar but new issues faster. Both the frequency of reuse and the frequency of reference are of interest and create value.”

Determining resolution versus reference articles will ultimately depend on the capability of the tools being used. If you have the ability to distinguish resolution from reference articles, make sure knowledge workers understand the significance of these, so you can leverage the reuse patterns of each.

If this is something you’re doing in your environment, let us know how it’s going in the comments!

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Article Quality Index (AQI) is now Content Standard Checklist Mon, 22 Feb 2021 20:28:48 +0000 Continue reading Article Quality Index (AQI) is now Content Standard Checklist]]> A KCS v6 update! The methodology continues to be refined through use by the members of the Consortium for Service Innovation.

As we think about how we assess value creation in a knowledge-intensive environment, Consortium members report that renaming the Article Quality Index to “Content Standard Checklist” helps reframe it as a tool for learning and growth, as opposed to a number on which to focus.

From the updated KCS v6 Practices Guide section 5.10: Content Health Indicators:

“In previous iterations of the KCS methodology, we have referred to the Content Standard Checklist as the Article Quality Index. The idea was that especially for large and distributed teams, organizations must have consistent quality metrics for rating the article quality and performance of those contributing. In practice, this meant that organizations put all of their focus on the number generated as an indication of the quality of their knowledge base.

In reality, the Content Standard Checklist is meant to be a coaching tool to help knowledge workers understand and remember how we are aligning our articles with the content standard, and perhaps to help the organization have a broad picture of how well knowledge workers are understanding and applying that content standard.  Because we are addressing technical accuracy with the practice of “reuse is review,” this is not meant to serve as a technical review or to look at other aspects of article value or quality.”

These updates are reflected in the content in the Consortium Library as well as in the relevant KCS certification exams (alongside the reminder that it used to be called AQI).

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Leveling Up to KCS v6 Standards at NetApp Thu, 18 Feb 2021 22:34:37 +0000 Continue reading Leveling Up to KCS v6 Standards at NetApp]]> A KCS in Action Call

Ryan Mathews, Director of Digital Support at NetApp, recently presented on how the NetApp Support Team rebooted their KCS program by lowering effort, nudging for change, and building momentum.

They changed their trajectory with Knowledge-Centered Service by using the KCS v6 Adoption Guide as a measuring stick for program maturity, as well as a way to “level up” on a course for sustained benefit and continual improvement.

Ryan and his team have graciously allowed us to publish this call here.



“If you’re rolling out KCS for the first time, the KCS v6 Adoption Guide makes a lot of sense: it’s projects, it’s phases. But the problem is you need to make sure your team knows this is not an “event.” It cannot be an event because the goal here is to get to Phase 4 – Maximizing and stay there.

We’ve done KCS here at NetApp for many years. So, did it make sense intuitively, if I came in and said, “All right, we need to do an adoption?” Absolutely not. I needed to frame that up. And the way that I framed it up is I said, “The goal here is to put KCS in our DNA.” I think it’s best to think about the Adoption Guide as a lifestyle, not a project.

It’s not a project; the KCS Adoption Guide is a lifestyle.

Ryan Mathews, NetApp

This is not an event; we’re not going anywhere. And so the goal here is to think about the phases more as levels. We want to earn our way to level four and stay there. If we can sustain it, we will stay there, but if we can’t sustain it – if that change that we work so hard to put in place and the systems that we work so hard to make work the way we want them to – if they start to fail us, we will come back down the ladder. That’s what’s essentially happened here. So rather than point fingers, or worry about, “Are you doing real KCS? Are you not doing KCS?” we just said: let’s look at the Adoption Guide as a maturity assessment vehicle and say, where do we fit if we use the exit criteria of these phases? What are we able to say that we do today? And what we found is that after that self-assessment, we were a level two organization. And it allowed some time and space for for self reflection.

Okay, if we want to be a level four organization, we have to get together and not put a plan together that’s time-bound, but put it together based on objective criteria that’s listed in Phase 2 and Phase 3, and figure out how we climb this ladder. And it was an amazing moment, because I think that the team really embraced this idea of, “We’ve done KCS for many years and this is an opportunity to do it different. We’re going to really align to v6 Principles, and we’re going to climb the ladder. And we’ll use this as a way for us not only to climb the ladder the right way, but in a way that we can sustain operations at level four in perpetuity. And that’s our ultimate goal…we aim to be a level four organization.”


If you have a story you’d like to share on an upcoming KCS in Action call, get in touch!

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The Benefits of KCS Coaching: A Conversation Wed, 10 Feb 2021 15:59:29 +0000 Continue reading The Benefits of KCS Coaching: A Conversation]]> An edited and condensed excerpt from a February 8, 2021 Consortium Member phone call.

What does a coaching program look like in a mature KCS environment?

Monique Cadena, Principal Program Manager at Akamai

Our current KCS implementation at Akamai has been around three and a half years. This reboot started in July of 2017.  It took about seven months for the entire organization to get trained. We have about 450 engineers across all levels. We have 105 coaches and 20 head (lead) coaches. Separate from them, we also have 10 KDE coaches who coach the KDEs on the KDA analysis and activities that they do. All Coaches are split up into our three geos: Americas, EMEA, and APJ, and we have coaching calls either twice a month or monthly, depending on the location, to make sure everybody stays calibrated across the entire globe. 

The KCS program is really broken down into three separate sub programs: the coaching program, the training program, and the KDE program. In the coaching program, we have head coaches that will coach coaches, and then the coaches coach the TSEs (Technical Support Engineers).  Initially we didn’t have head coaches, and it was too hard to maintain; it was me going to all these different geos every month, trying to coach all the coaches.  It wasn’t feasible. So that’s how the head coach role came about and how we’re set up now. 

In terms of our licensing model, when you’re a new hire, you go through the initial KCS onboarding, which is a four hour live session. Probably about 75% of it focuses on organizational change management.  We talk a lot about the why: why we’re doing this, the benefits, and the outcomes. The other 25% is how to actually do it in the tool itself. Once you have gone through that live training session, you take a certification test through our university. And then after that, you continue to work with the coaches.  

Coaches cover everything in the performance assessment…but they only really focus on “let’s improve one thing at a time.”

Monique Cadena, Principal Program Manager at Akamai

The intent is that KCS Candidates and Contributors start with weekly coaching sessions, but now we’ve matured to the point where we say, “Well it doesn’t have to be every week, but if you’re having three to four a month, that meets the criteria for being in that initial phase.”  Coaches cover everything in the performance assessment, so they look at searching and creating at the right time, modifying, AQI, linking accuracy, attaches, all that great stuff, but they only really focus on “let’s improve one thing at a time.”  

Once a coach sees that a Candidate is reaching some suggested indicators, they might be ready to move to the Contributor state.  These aren’t hard numbers, but for example, the coach will say, okay, over the past 60 days, I’ve reviewed at least five articles through AQI, their AQI average is around 85, their attach rate is 60 to 70%, they have a high attach accuracy, etc. And if the coach and the manager both feel that, yes, this person has displayed these proficiencies, they will nominate them. That nomination and reasoning goes into an actual form, which the head coach reviews.  They go back and look at their articles, the quality, all the same stuff, and then they get another head coach to agree: this person’s ready. Or if not, the head coaches determine what they need to work on to get to that next level.

And then the last state is a Publisher, who has access to publish independently, externally. So it’s the same thing, there are suggested indicators around AQI: maybe out the gate, it’s closer to 95% for a minimum number of articles looked at within the last month. And then there’s an exam that we have them do: go in and pick an article that is internal, and update it to make it external. And then we can compare the versions to make sure it meets the criteria. The next thing we ask is, give us an example of an article you’ve created recently that is external-facing, so we can see that you can independently do this. Then the same process: the head coach and the coach review the Contributor’s performance indicators, history, and exam.  Yes, this person meets it, or they don’t and we give them feedback. 

We’ve gotten to the point now where if you are a Publisher, Coach, or KDE, you only need to attend coaching sessions twice a month. They don’t have to be every two weeks; they’re what we call “on demand,” because now people are having a lot of conversations around knowledge naturally and organically. So we don’t want to force it, or not count something when it really is a coaching session, like, “hey, I pinged my coach, because I have a question around this,” and it ends up being a coaching session. So that’s how we’ve kind of progressed them as they grow. 

There is a form they fill out during coaching sessions, because as part of our yearly Objectives we set our coaching compliance to average out to 75% across the year.  One of the things that the leadership team kept asking was, “What kind of objectives can we put around KCS?” which is dangerously close to the “let’s put goals on activities” conversation.  After having the discussion, we realized, well, if coaching is happening, it’s addressing all these right behaviors. So if we look at coaching and making sure that coaching is happening, and enabling people with the time, that’s how we’re going to measure both the coaches and the knowledge workers to make sure that they are doing the right things.  It doesn’t matter how fast somebody grows on certain proficiencies as long as they continue to grow. And coaching is the one thing that can make that happen.

It was interesting, because we actually had a similar conversation with another Consortium member last week.  One of our head coaches was on the call, who has been with Akamai through two previous failed KCS attempts. One thing that he noticed that contributed to it not working in the past, besides trying to do “KCS lite,” was that there was no coaching program. So training was really just a presentation around, “hey, here’s what we want you to do,” but there was nothing offered to nurture and enable that continuously. 

And part of that is because in any organization, there’s always more things that need to be done than we have time to do. So it’s very, very easy for people to say, let’s stop doing XYZ or let’s stop doing coaching. When that happens, you start losing a lot, you stop worrying about creation and capturing and publishing before you close cases. So keeping that always in front of them, is one thing that our leaders are absolutely sold on, especially after they saw all the great benefits and outcomes of the program.

Kendall Brenneise, Knowledge Manager at F5

To Monique’s point: we cannot truly measure the total value of coaching. It is the fire that runs our KCS program at F5. While on paper we’ve got a fair number of wins and successes in KCS, none of them would have been possible without the coaching program. 

We took a challenge from Beth Haggett [the creator of the KCS Coach Workshop] a fair while back; she said, “I’d love to see a case study or a use case where a company could measure the value of coaching.” And we just had a thing occur at F5 where it caused us to have to pause all coaching. We just had to go full stop for an entire quarter. And surprise, surprise, at the end of the quarter, all of our leaders were like: why did all of our KCS stats plummet? Searching, linking, creating, you name it, all of it plummeted because we paused coaching.  There is an exact date timestamp where coaching was paused, and then every KCS stat started to fall off. 

However, at the end of the quarter, when we relaunched coaching, all of those stats came back, and they came back twice as fast as when we first started. So it’s fascinating to dig into that a little bit and just kind of say, again, you cannot overvalue a coaching program.

Coaching is the fire that runs our KCS program at F5.

Kendall Brenneise, Knowledge Manager at F5

Our overall model is quite similar at F5. As Monique was talking, I was thinking through where we have some nuanced differences and where we don’t. Our org is about 650 engineers (knowledge workers, analysts, whatever you want to call them), and we are currently sitting just shy of 50 Coaches, but we’re anticipating closer to 100 by the time we’re fully mature with our coaching program. 

One of our pain points is that not all of our org interprets the formula for coaching the same way. Even though we are the authority on what is coaching and what is not coaching within F5, at least under the KCS umbrella, we found that some parts of the organization will say, “Well, I know your formula says they should be meeting once a week, every week, but we’re gonna do it every other week in our region.“ One of the things that we found is it’s usually a lack of understanding about why it’s every week or why it’s every other week. It’s oftentimes also a lack of awareness of how that will come back to bite them in the butt later.  They don’t realize that because the MBOs are attached to our formula, it means that you’re going to shoot yourself in the foot in being able to achieve your MBO.  So that’s something that we’re starting to recognize is for those individuals who may not be fully knowledgeable about why the number is what it is, it’s important to clarify that with them and also go to their leadership if they aren’t aware, either. 

In terms of getting buy-in on that weekly coaching cadence, it was an issue of proficiency and speed.  What we found is if you were meeting once a month, your KCS behaviors didn’t really go anywhere – because it’s an afterthought. It’s, “Oh, I’ll get to that when that week rolls around.” And then all of a sudden, you realize that meeting’s today at 10am, I guess I should probably do something. And then we looked at it from an every other week standpoint, and we realized you could see some growth there, but not at the speed that we want to see. If you think about back to Beth’s foundational coaching class, it’s about building habits. And habits don’t happen once a month or every other week, they have to happen almost daily. So we landed on: let’s fight for once a week, and we got once a week from our executive level leadership!  

So we protect and fight like hell for the formal coaching session time. And we track that as an actual coaching session in our tool. But then we also separately track the ad hoc, on-demand types of coaching questions. That way we can follow a person’s proficiency whether or not their leadership is actually protecting that coaching time.

Do you really keep coaching at that same frequency after people reach KCS proficiency?

Kendall Brenneise

At least from my perspective, I think it depends on your level of maturity as an organization. We are in a culture at F5 where we are rapidly pushing into new stuff: products, services, ways of working, everything.  Thankfully, our leadership has started to realize the only way you can do change management at that level of speed is to have something to nurture it – like Monique was saying. 

Our coaching program is now more than just KCS. KCS is the foundation for why we meet with our learners and our coaches, but it’s not just limited to it. So for example, as we start to dip our toe in the water for Intelligent Swarming: even more reason to do coaching.  As we start to dip our toe into the water of new products and services: even more reason to do coaching.  The list goes on and on and on. So for that reason, if the particular area of your org was mature or you’re not trying to drill into a new way of working, sure, you could scale back, a little bit because that proficiency is plateaued to where it’s expected to meet. However, if you’re trying to actually ramp up, then I would say, yeah, keep going at as high a frequency as you possibly can.

Monique Cadena 

Yeah, we’ve used our coaching program as a model to implement coaching for case management and quality as well. So through cases and escalations and transitions, it’s very, very similar. There’s even a checklist like a Content Standard Checklist, but it’s a case management checklist for different things. 

Coaching is very powerful. A long time ago, before I did my first coaching program, I was at an organization where we had 1500 engineers, and all of them were publishers. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that for any other organization – it worked then because the tenure of people there: 15 plus years, they’d been doing this forever, they knew how to write external facing customer articles. And everyone was following the KCS Solve Loop. But we didn’t have a coaching program. As soon as we implemented the coaching program, just in the pilot alone (which was a month long), we saw the time to mitigation reduced by 25% – from 8 to 6 hours on average. People have no idea how strong coaching programs are, that’s why I’m a huge, huge advocate. You have to have a coaching program. And anywhere else that you can put coaching, you’re gonna benefit from.

Adam Hansen, Sr Knowledge Domain Engineer at F5  

There’s also the constant leveling-up. I wouldn’t ever consider KCS as a program where there’s a finish line, where we cross it, we high five, and we’re done. People can think that, but they’re not gonna last. The people that we want are the people who are hungry to learn and grow and do more. So someone hits Publisher, and a coach can help them think through what they want to work towards next.  I think this is something you tie back to management as well, to be driving people to have those growth mindsets – how can I be better than I was last quarter, than I was yesterday? The coaches can be those facilitators to help them find how they want to express that.

Kelly Murray, Chief Engagement Officer at Consortium for Service Innovation 

Even more key to me are the cultural implications of “I have somebody in the form of a coach who makes me feel tied into what’s happening in the organization. Like I’m not alone. Like I can ask questions about what’s supposed to be happening. Someone who is invested in my success.” I think that those are the intangible, sometimes unmeasurable benefits of a coaching program, which are so hard to put an ROI on.

Adam Hansen

Kendall and I both have examples of having very interesting coaching sessions that, on paper, are just a checked box. But in actuality, the level of openness and engagement and conversation that happened undid a log jam that allowed the coachee to be more successful on a lot of levels.  It’s something you can’t quantify, in a sense, but, it’s realization. It’s coachee realization.

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Announcing a New KCS Case Study Tue, 15 Dec 2020 04:53:17 +0000 Continue reading Announcing a New KCS Case Study]]>

We are excited to announce the availability of a new KCS case study!

ServiceNow: Implementing KCS Delivered 52% Faster Time to Relief details ServiceNow’s Customer Support journey with KCS. In this case study, ServiceNow details their adoption, lessons learned, and the tremendous benefits they realized.

We now have 16 KCS case studies located on the KCS Resources page. These case studies are great for learning about KCS experiences from the broader KCS community. They can help you validate your KCS journey and possibly give you new ideas. These case studies are very helpful to avoid potential ditches and maximize your success. It is also nice to see data points on the KCS benefits companies are realizing.

Do you have a KCS case study you would like to share? We would love to post it and/or feature your journey on a KCS in Action call.

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Trust issues: a letter to my knowledge-sharing colleagues Fri, 13 Nov 2020 02:02:28 +0000 Continue reading Trust issues: a letter to my knowledge-sharing colleagues]]> A guest post by Andy Koopmans, Senior Technical Writer at F5

When we started KCS at F5, I was skeptical and concerned. As a technical writer on the AskF5 team for several years, my colleagues and I have worked hard every day to make F5 documentation the best, easiest-to-read, and most helpful possible. The idea of turning a bunch of non-writers loose on the precious knowledge base was intimidating, scary, and demoralizing. As I said to a colleague at the time, it’s like we’ve spent all this time cleaning the carpet and now we’re going to let the kids with the muddy feet run all over it. You see, I’ve never been in a situation like this before, and my first reaction to uncertainty is often fear.

Gollum and his precious

I’ve spent more than twenty years working in documentation shops at major and minor companies, and documentation in those companies was exclusively the job of writers and editors. On the other side of the wall were the technical folks who made the products happen, and the two groups did not often intermingle, except for interviews and other kinds of knowledge-extraction and -transfer activities.

Working at AskF5 was a different story for me from the start. We already had engineers practiced in creating documentation do the initial drafts. Then we had the writers who worked to, as we in the tech writing trade often say with a wry smile, “translate engineer into English.” But still, our small team of writers held the only keys to publishing, so we could make sure that everything that got in front of the customers was as clear and understandable as we could make it. This arrangement has always made sense to me because technical writers are documentation and language specialists, and we applied our specialty on top of the engineers’ various technical specialties.

Then came KCS to change it all. Of course, change is always scary, particularly when it sometimes sounds suspiciously like its purpose is to eliminate my profession and put the customers at the mercy of people who often don’t have professionally trained communication skills. Another problem is that arguing the value of the work we writers do is often difficult because when you read good documentation, editing is almost invisible. Good writing is easy to read—you don’t pay attention to the words but to the meaning, and a good editor’s job is to make sure that you don’t see the effort behind the words. It’s typically only when you have trouble understanding writing that you pay attention to the mechanics of it.

I worried that the significant value we writers provide along the way to the customer would be overlooked by those who thought we just dot i’s and cross t’s when we in fact work on each sentence and paragraph and article to make the language and concepts as easy to understand as possible for as wide an audience as possible. I worried that, without our intervention, our precious knowledge base would become a sea of semi-understandable technical jargon like so many sites I’ve experienced.

So, in the first weeks and months that we started planning the KCS  program, I began thinking I was going to be looking for a new job, either out of lack of work or because I couldn’t bear to work the new way. Fear. Worry. Concern. They were all having a party in the pit of my stomach.

Turns out, that didn’t happen because, thankfully, I was able to begin to change how I thought and felt. I began to open myself up to the possibilities of a different kind of future here at F5. If I had to mark the point at which that change began to happen, it was during my first post-Fundamentals course, Beth Haggett’s KCS Coach Training course (which, because of timing, I took before the KCS v6 Practices Workshop). There, for the first time, I heard that, because of various long-standing institutionalized reasons, we were not giving customers all the information we could be giving them, much of it vitally important and time-sensitive. I learned that there was a vast sea of knowledge shared among engineers and other professionals all over the company that was never getting to the customers because of the old technical/communication division.

I also came to understand, more poignantly for me, that many of the people who had this hidden knowledge were not sharing it because they were afraid to. During the coaching course, I heard how scared and even angry a lot of engineers were about the way knowledge documentation was handled. Many of them had even tried to share their wealth of knowledge and been knocked back, admonished, shamed, rejected. It was hard to hear, and it hit home for me, perhaps in particular because I worked for years as a professional author who writhed in pain to see my manuscripts come back from the editors covered in red ink comments that I had to address. I knew what it was to feel as though my work wasn’t good enough. And it hit me even more so because I’d also spent a few years as a college English instructor and an English as a Second Language tutor who spent most of my time trying to alleviate fear and encourage people to share what was in their minds and hearts. To hear people frustrated, angry, or scared about writing hurt my teacher’s soul and made me reevaluate my role in creating that pernicious situation.

Through the coaching course and later the KCS v6 Practices Workshop, I began to understand how I could still contribute quality to the knowledge base while also using my teaching skills and instincts to help others add their voice and expertise. In short, the more I learned about what KCS was and how it worked, the more my fears and concerns began to shift and abate. It was a gradual process, but it was on its way. I was excited. I was reinvigorated about my work in a way I hadn’t been for years.

Now, let me be honest: unless I’m AQI-ing or helping a coachee, I still try not to look at the Support solution articles all that often because I’m one of those people who can’t help wanting to edit them. It’s involuntary. I’m the guy who silently copy-edits your PowerPoint slides in my head during presentations. Since childhood, I have been acutely aware of language and problems in it. I used to (and still do) recreationally read dictionaries, encyclopedias, and style manuals. So, when I see Support solutions, I often see things I would do differently and want to go in and fix. However, I also have come to recognize that, even if I might write things differently in a particular article, the communication is usually successful. The articles are usually, yes, Sufficient to Solve; if they aren’t, Reuse is Revision.

Aside: I want to briefly address a misconception that a lot of non-tech writers have about our profession: we aren’t trying to be perfect or create literary masterpieces. We are trained to recognize where organization, language, style, or punctuation may create misunderstanding. Things that people think are nitpicky like style and punctuation and grammar are actually important, invisible helpers (invisible particularly to native English speakers reading their own language) that make comprehension easier and at times simply possible. However, because of the way KCS works, with its well-thought-out processes and Support solution format, these concerns can be, if not eradicated, significantly alleviated. And, of course, opening the publishing gates to many more people means we make more of our knowledge public, which is all the better for our customers.

But, more importantly for this post, KCS is based on trust. Let me tell you a secret: because of who I am, I don’t trust easily. My brain has always made me feel like an outsider. My first reaction is typically skepticism and caution. These practices have held me in good stead in many aspects in my life, keeping me out of trouble, preventing me from being gullible, etc. But in many circumstances, it’s not a happy way to be, and, not to get too grandiose or melodramatic, working for AskF5 in general and with KCS in particular has helped change my ability to trust. I work around so many brilliant, decent, and trustworthy people. I not only trust my team, but my larger group, my organization, our company, the leadership, and the products we put into the world. That is probably something you’d say at an interview to get hired or get a raise, but in this case it’s just the truth.

With KCS, I have been able to alleviate the fear and reluctance of trusting the keys to the precious knowledge base to the hands of those outside our technical writing team. I have come to see how dedicated, hard-working, and trustworthy our knowledge workers are. They are doing their best to help the customers, and, at its root, that is what this kind of writing is about: folks helping folks. If we accomplish that, then we have a win. And we are seeing a lot of wins. Sure, mistakes happen all the time, but that’s life. I make mistakes too. But mistakes are not only human but necessary and highly instructive: as one of our knowledge workers recently said in a coaching interview: you learn best from the mistakes you make and correct yourself. From what I’m observing, we’re all learning a lot from our mistakes and making our knowledge base and our organization and interconnections all the stronger for it.

They are doing their best to help the customers, and, at its root, that is what this kind of writing is about: folks helping folks.

What I’ve seen in the way of “negatives” in the KCS processes and program have been truly negligible compared to these benefits. I’ve also been thrilled to hear and see people who have never written for public consumption before or never shared their ideas and knowledge before do so and receive the well-deserved recognition that they contributed, they helped, they achieved. I see how hard every one of the knowledge workers strives to help the customers. And I’ve come to understand how I can use my existing skills and develop new ones to interact with and support this process. My profession and I are only under threat if we become ossified and unwilling or unable to grow, change, develop, and trust. It’s scary, but it’s also thrilling, interesting, and actually fun. Because of KCS, I’ve learned more and grown more in my own profession in the past couple of years than I had in several before it. So, thanks for that. I mean it. Trust me. 😊

About the Author

Andy Koopmans, Senior Technical Writer at F5, is a writer, editor, and producer with experience in creating and improving compelling written and video content in the fields of technology, science, health, business, academia, entertainment, and publishing. Connect with Andy on LinkedIn.

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Measuring the Shift Left of Your Digital Transformation Mon, 12 Oct 2020 18:41:45 +0000 Continue reading Measuring the Shift Left of Your Digital Transformation]]> Measuring the shift left of a digital transformation journey has always been a challenge for service organizations. Part of the issue has been their reluctance to change the currency of their service organization from the case to the customer service engagement. We see this often when organizations quantify their shift left in terms of case deflection, rather than issues resolved by service channel (self-service, community forum, assisted, and others). Imagine if the banking industry quantified their ATM transactions as teller deflections. They might have been tempted 50 years ago, but now they measure their customer engagements by their various channels—direct deposit, online banking, ATMs, bank branches, etc.  

Several members of the Consortium for Service Innovation have made the transition to measuring the customer issue resolved by their various service channels, but there was no standard way to measure these engagements. Over the past year, a group of 18 Consortium member companies met regularly to develop a measurement standard. Participating companies spanned many industries, including technology, online entertainment, financial services, and consumer services, and ranged in size from small to extremely large. We were also fortunate to have many of our Verified and Aligned vendors participate in this effort. Our focus for the first phase was quantifying the Self-Service channel. Amy Dotson from Sage, Christina Roosen from Akamai, and I were privileged to present the results of this first phase at our recent Member Summit – and you can find all the details in the Understanding Success by Channel paper.

Figure 1: Service Engagement Measures Template

The team developed a spreadsheet to standardize the metrics and calculations (figure 1). We started with the typical Agent Assist case metrics to ensure alignment with current metrics and maximize senior leadership acceptance. We did not want to replace the traditional service metrics; we wanted to expand them to better align to customer demand. This allows us to easily show comparative traffic and weighted averages across all channels for key service metrics. We didn’t just provide one method for each calculating each metric, rather we provided a choice of good, better, and best methods. This enables service organizations to get started right away measuring this critical channel and enhance their metrics over time. To further ease adoption, we broke the spreadsheet into three ares of focus:

  1. Traffic & Success: quantifying demand and demand met
  2. Length & Cost: quantifying key time and cost measurements
  3. Customer Experience: quantifying customer satisfaction, effort, and loyalty metrics

Many companies start with Traffic & Success and then move onto the other areas over time.

Metrics and calculation methods are documented in the Understanding Success by Channel paper. The documentation also includes the downloadable spreadsheet in the figure above, a glossary of terms, prerequisites, assumptions, and limitations. Consortium members also have access to a set of videos demonstrating the various measurement methods (log in required). We wish you well on your Digital Transformation journey and hope you take advantage of this measurement framework to track your progress.

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