Crowdsource the Construction and Maintenance of Your Knowledge Base



Face it, you own your knowledge base. Not as a property, but the process. It was supposed to have been a joint effort, but since you've found yourself assigned to its management, you've become the owner of it. As the knowledge manager, you are likely the person doing most of the writing, editing, and publishing of the base for user consumption. Of course, this happens in almost all cases, and it's not optimal to the management of the process. But, as the owner of the process, there is something you can do about it.

Because you own the process, many of you treat their knowledge base duties as personal passion projects; you are the gatekeepers of all documented knowledge of the service desk, closely guarding the information. You edit and authorize each knowledge item before it's published for consumption.

This gatekeeper approach is less tenable than in the past, as  developments in IT might be pushing you to take another approach to your role as knowledge manager, but there are ways to tackle the task with a more team-focused approach.

More self-service, faster delivery

Your customers are likely getting more demanding when it comes to self-service. Google might be a reason. If they can Google search answers to any question they might have, why might it take hours to receive an answer from your service desk? They want you to offer them some kind of self-service portal where they can find answers to their questions and fixes for their most troubling or common problems. 

Business demands are changing, too. IT departments used to be all about providing consistent quality, but with the rise of agile the focus is shifting from perfect products to fast delivery. Critical functions still need to guarantee stability, and for everything else, knowledge management included, there's a pretty good chance the business expects you to prioritize speed of delivery over quality.

So you're expected to publish more knowledge, and to do so faster. But how? You have too little time for knowledge management as it is. How, then, can you speed up delivery while maintaining quality? The age-old question, doing more with less. 

The solution to delivering quality content faster is to not go at it alone; instead use the wisdom of the crowd. Compare recording the knowledge you manage to the compiling of an encyclopedia. If you ever thought about writing an encyclopedia, you’d need to engage a group of editors, and it would take years, if not decades, of collecting, writing, and editing before you could publish your first edition. However, if you were to start your own-Wikipedia-style page, you could write down what you know, publish the information you have, and then let anyone who wants to contribute, correct, and add to the content do so easily.

Thus, using the input from others and gaining feedback from your IT department and your customers, your knowledge base will gradually grow in size and improve in quality. Therefore, crowdsourcing your knowledge base is becoming increasingly common.

Trusting your operators

Even when taking a crowd-based approach, you still might decide to act as gatekeepers of content, wondering if you can trust your operators to draft decent knowledge items. You wonder just how much control you need over the process and if you need to review items before publication. 

This doesn’t need to be a concern, though. If you can trust your fellow operators to write and document answers in response to speciofic calls, then you can trust these same folks to draft content for the knowledge base. The information in a call serves the exact same purpose as a knowledge item: explain to your callers how to solve their issues.

As a knowledge manager, you have to let go of reviewing all knowledge items before they're published. Unfortunately, you become a bottleneck in the process. You significantly slow down the process of getting knowledge to your customers.

The future of the knowledge manager

If knowledge management is becoming a task of the entire department, where does this leave you as knowledge manager? Will you still have a job? Sure, but it won't be the same. 

Instead of acting as gatekeeper of all information, managing and editing all knowledge items before they're published, you will act as a curator. Your main task will no longer be to create, review, and publish all knowledge items, but to do what the role indicated all along: managing all knowledge. You'll identify the demands of your customers. You'll create a knowledge-sharing culture at your service desk and educate and instruct your team on how to best record their knowledge, ultimately guarding the process.

Taking this approach, your role as knowledge manager and as a curator instead of gatekeeper will have a larger, more positive impact on your organization. Then you can leverage the knowledge of an entire department, allowing you to share more of your knowledge with your internal customers, faster.


Nancy Van Elsacker Louisnord is president of TOPdesk USA. She's also a public speaker, a contributor to dozens of industry publications, and a service management expert.