5 Staffing Tips for Successful Knowledge Management

Many thanks to Rajat Vajpeyi for suggesting this topic.

Whether you are starting a brand-new knowledge management initiative or want to revive a struggling one, you need to consider staffing: what roles are needed for successful knowledge management? How many headcount are required? And how can we structure the knowledge management team? Here are five suggestions to get started.

Start with a KM owner

Support teams of any size must designate a knowledge management owner who is responsible for:

  • defining and refining the knowledge management process
  • selecting tools to support the process
  • defining the structure of the knowledge base (KB)
  • assigning category experts (more on that role later)
  • setting objectives and targets for knowledge management
  • monitoring the success of the knowledge management process
  • managing the knowledge management team

The KM owner is a role, not necessarily a full-time job. The KM owner often owns the support website, and sometimes self-service in general. Note that the KM owner is concerned about processes and strategy rather than actually writing KB articles–but in smaller environments, they may be do hands-on writing or editing work.

Confirm your knowledge management model

While every support team needs a knowledge management owner,  other decisions depend on the knowledge management model you choose. Knowledge-centered service or KCS, which directs all support staff to create and update knowledge as part of their normal troubleshooting activities, is the dominant model today and I strongly suggest it if your team supports complex products. For customer service or low-complexity support, a dedicated knowledge team can work well instead. Take time to clarify your knowledge management model first, before making any staffing decision.

With KCS, the dedicated knowledge management team is small and leverages everyone else’s efforts. If you decide that KCS is not right for you, you will need a larger knowledge management team to create and update knowledge articles.

Assign domain experts

Designate so-called domain experts to oversee the quality of the KB articles and identify knowledge gaps in each major area of your products or services. These individuals are typically senior support engineers who devote part of their time to KB duties.

Create a staffing model

The staffing model includes:

  • The KM owner, who could be full-time or part-time
  • Domain experts, who are part-time and whose headcount is planned under their main role, that of a senior support engineer role, as discussed above
  • Writers and editors. Under a KCS model, writing is part of what all support engineers do (make sure you account for that duty under their model); otherwise it can be a full-time role. Most organizations, whether or not they use KCS, have a dedicated writer/editor role.

The headcount depends, a lot, on the volume of knowledge work. If you are using KCS you probably need one or two writers/editors for, say, 100 support engineers, with the writers responsible for reviewing articles for customer consumption and ensuring a consistent style and look-and-feel .

Make room in the Support Ops team

The knowledge team belongs in the Support organization since the knowledge management process is tightly  intertwined with support. The writer/editor roles may look like they belong in the Technical Publications organization, but writing KB articles is a specialized skill. I usually see knowledge teams included in a larger Support Ops team, along with support planning, training, and marketing.


How do you staff your knowledge management initiative? Please share in a comment.