Originally published on Ragsdale's Eye On Service - Today at Technology Services World I am releasing the results of my August knowledge management survey both online, and in my Power Hour session at 4:15. The data shows that companies continue to find enormous potential in knowledge management, but are often thwarted by corporate culture, and tend to blame technology for process problems. Also, there is growing interest in emerging technologies that are changing the approach and priority of knowledge capture and sharing.
To me, the single most compelling piece of data related to the untapped potential of KM. The survey asked, “If your organization was sharing knowledge as well as they possibly could, how much would it improve the productivity of your team?” Here are the results.
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It's All About the Process
40% of respondents said that doing KM well could increase employee productivity by 20-30%, and a third of respondents said that KM had the potential of a 30-50%+ improvement. Every year KM technology tops the list of solutions companies plan to invest in, and this is the reason: they understand there is enormous potential for ROI by doing KM well, and they are allocating budget to make it happen.
However, as I have said for years, and wrote a chapter about in my book Lessons Unlearned, the reason most KM programs fail is not about the technology, but process. Usually a new knowledge management platform is launched, everyone gets knowledge centered support (KCS) training, and support organizations see immediate results in lower resolution time and higher first contact resolution rates. But then sometime in year 2, things typically start falling apart. Key resources are pulled off projects, project champions move on to other priorities, and the number of dedicated knowledge workers declines. Content becomes stale, there are a lot of outdated and duplicate articles, and both employees and customers stop using the knowledgebase.
According to the survey, only 35% of companies regularly update content on a daily or weekly basis, and 27% admit “We have not updated our content for a very long time.” Only 36% have a proactive process to identify content gaps, and 35% say they have zero tools or processes to find content gaps.
The Need for a New KM Tool
Although clearly there are holes in processes contributing to the downfall of many a KM program, as soon as problems arise, the first thing everyone says is, “We need to find a new KM tool!” According to the survey, 48% of Employee-Facing knowledge implementations and 39% of Customer-Facing knowledge implementations are on their 3rd, 4th, 5th or more solution in recent memory. “Rip and replace” continues to be the most common approach to fix what is almost always a process problem. And guess what? 2 years later, if the processes don’t improve, they are in the same position and shopping for a new KM platform once again.
A major shift to knowledge strategies in the last 5 years has been the number of content sources. It is a bit unrealistic to expect a large enterprise to have a single knowledgebase, but even if they do, they also have many other valuable content sources, including online communities, online documentation, release notes, etc. For this reason, search technology has emerged as a cornerstone of a successful knowledge strategy.
How Search Technology Is Shaping Knowledge Management
I am a big advocate of unified search technology, which indexes all of your content sources–in any format in any location–and returns search matches based on concept (not key word) matching, as well as providing filtering options to drill down into exactly what you need. Federated search is less helpful; these search tools just leverage whatever search capabilities are inherent within each content repository and present a consolidated list of returns. The problem is federated search is usually a full text search, not a concept search, so if you search for ‘voice of the customer’ it won’t find ‘customer satisfaction’ or ‘customer experience,’ which are related concepts but different terminology.
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Only a quarter of companies have implemented unified search for employees and customers. More than half say that the search engine they offer for their knowledgebase ONLY searches the knowledgebase, meaning if there is relevant content in the community or online manuals, the user will never know about it. This comes up in the majority of my KM-related inquiry calls, so I’m hoping to see some movement in these numbers in the 2015 KM survey.
For TSIA members, you can download a copy of the report detailing the survey findings later today on http://www.tsia.com. For those of you attending TSW, you can pick up a copy of the report in the TSIA EXPO booth.
Thanks to everyone who participated in the survey. And, as always, thanks for reading!