Quality control and knowledge management

Many thanks to Robin Kirby for suggesting this topic.

1. How do you manage the quality of the information contributed by the support team?   Where is the line between too much and too little oversight?

Traditional knowledge management is review-intensive. Every bit of information is reviewed by an expert, and perhaps also an editor, before it can be viewed by users other than the author. Experience shows that mandatory reviews often create large backlogs of documents that are ready, but cannot be shared until the (busy) expert says so.

In contrast, Knowledge-Centered Support (KCS) encourages early sharing of documents and uses scattered audits and licensing rules to ensure that quality is not sacrificed. So instead of reviewing each and every document, only a small percentage is reviewed (after the fact, so there’s no slowdown in knowledge sharing). Assuming that an individual gets positive reviews he or she can share knowledge instantly, without mandatory reviews. I’m a great fan of this approach, based on my clients’ positive experience.

(I’m not a fan of a complete absence of reviews. Especially when combined with mandatory creation quotas, it can create an abundance of crappy documents, which will require drastic and costly measure to identify and trash, and meanwhile will clog search results.)

2. What are the various processes used to manage the content that is for internal use only versus the information that might be customer facing?

Even the optimistic KCS approach recognizes that information that will be shared with customers may need a little extra scrubbing (but may not — again, you are the judge of individuals’ capabilities). Most of my clients have a special, mandatory review by a handful of experts for documents that will be shared with customers, but they closely monitor backlogs in this area and have strict targets, usually no more than a couple of days, for publishing information to customers.

3. Do you require specific resources to manage your KM initiative, or can people be allocated part time to help it run?

The right answer to everything is, “it depends”, right? With a small support team, a part-time knowledge management owner can work well, but for a larger team  it makes sense to have a full-time owner for the knowledge management program, overseeing process definition, roles, permissions, tools, and the overall health of the knowledge base.

In addition, designate part-time domain owners or domain specialists who can oversee specific subsets of information and make sure that quality is high by conducting regular audits, merging documents when appropriate, and creating or encouraging the creation of missing documents.

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