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KM past and future: closing the knowledge loop

This article appears in the issue January 2010, [Volume 19, Issue 1]
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Over the past decade, KM solutions have become effective at managing content, automating business processes and analyzing data, but information was not always easily shared across different applications and functional areas. The result was that valuable insights were lost and decision-making lacked empirical support.

Now, however, organizations are closing the loop on knowledge sharing. In some cases, the connections are coming from application integration (see “Tighter integration” sidebar), and in others, from rethinking underlying processes. Either way, the enhanced information flow is supporting better decision-making and promoting continuous improvement.

Although emerging technologies such as social networking are contributing substantially to greater exchange of information, much of the progress can be credited to mature KM solutions that are being used more effectively. Organizations are taking significant steps in gathering and synthesizing information to ensure that it ends up where it will do the most good.

From self-service to product development

Many software products are available to track customer interactions on self-service Web sites, but collecting information is not enough. Blue Coat uses InQuira not only to help customers find answers, but also to guide the inclusion of new information into the knowledgebase and provide feedback that is incorporated into product development. InQuira’s solutions provide answers to Web self-service customers and contact center service agents through intelligent search, information management and analytic tools.

Blue Coat produces hardware and software that facilitates the application delivery. One product offers visibility into application performance. Another accelerates and secures the delivery of business applications while mitigating the impact of undesired applications. Analysis of customer cases indicated that 30 percent of calls were requests for information.

“We needed a way to help our customers maximize their use of our products,” says Chuck Flood, senior manager of support infrastructure at Blue Coat, “so we started looking into KM solutions that supported this effort with a robust knowledgebase.” Flood analyzed KM providers and selected InQuira as the best match for Blue Coat’s needs.

Initially, Blue Coat aggregated all its technical literature, documentation and spec sheets into the knowledgebase. Customers access the knowledgebase through a portal and use InQuira’s natural language capability, which enables them to find the most relevant information.

“We are also getting started on intent-based search, which associates certain words with likely target information,” Flood adds. Subject matter experts distilled about 250 priority words down to 60 central concepts based on product features and capability. In addition, if numerous customers are seeking information on a particular topic, the search results can be tweaked so that the most relevant document comes up first.

InQuira has a robust set of analytical tools, Flood says, and Blue Coat is exploring ways to measure the effectiveness of the portal. For example, the company is examining queries that were being placed but not answered, to identify areas where more information might be needed.

“We publish a list of the top 10 questions for our staff, because it provides insights into how customers are using the product,” Flood adds. Blue Coat is also building a feedback loop to the product management staff, so they can use the inquiries as a guide to making product improvements.

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