Celebrate the Success Stories of Knowledge Management - 2022 KMWorld Awards

  • August 7, 2018
  • By Marydee Ojala Marydee Ojala, Conference Program Director, Information Today, Inc
  • Article

An Overabundance of Knowledge, Information, and Data

We are surrounded by knowledge, bombarded by information, and inundated with data. Scarcity of knowledge, information, and data is not our problem. We have an abundance. Sifting through it all to find the useful, valuable, and actionable bits is the problem. It reminds me of the Ancient Mariner’s complaint of “Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink.”

You’ll recall, of course, that that quote is from “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Despite the thousands of results that you find via a web search on the “rhyme” of the Ancient Mariner, the correct word is “rime,” as in “frost.” I’m guessing that people search for rhyme because they know it’s a poem and they think all poems rhyme. Also not true. The plight of the sailor, who is doomed because he killed an albatross, is that he’s surrounded by salt water, which is not drinkable. It’s a good analogy for today’s world of information overload.

The amount of information that surrounds us makes it difficult to find the knowledge we need. Our thirst for knowledge is not sated when we can’t determine which glass (or information silo) has what we need. It’s not usable, not drinkable.

For another example of overabundance, let’s move from the ocean to the land and think about weeds. Every gardener I know is mystified by the fact that it’s so hard to grow flowers and vegetables but weeds flourish with no help at all. In fact, weeds resist all efforts by the gardener to extinguish them. It’s perverse. Nobody fertilizes weeds. They don’t seem to need it. If you’ve ever had your garden or even your lawn being strangled by vines that you didn’t plant, you’ve experienced a variation on the theme of information overload and the need for good management techniques.

The problem posed by weeds, put into the context of managing the abundance of knowledge that exists within organizations, is that of information overload. It’s difficult to find the useful plants, the vegetables, in the middle of a bumper crop of weeds. When people search for information, they only want the vegetable equivalent; they don’t want to be confronted with masses of data that requires them to waste time sifting through to find the actual information they need to do their jobs or find a specific product.

KM to the Rescue

How can you employ knowledge management (KM) best practices to combat the equivalent of undrinkable water and ungovernable weeds in your organization? Kelly Koelliker has ten suggestions both for making your enterprise information usable (the Ancient Mariner problem) and for not overloading people with huge amounts of useless data (the gardener problem).

She starts with the customer relationship management (CRM) system. The knowledge contained within a CRM system should be enhanced with KM to personalize results. Integrating the systems should aid contact center employees and improve the customer experience by adding customer knowledge to the CRM system.

In our current omni-channel world, requests for information can come in through many different mediums. Whether it’s email, chat, tweets, instant messaging, social media posts, or carrier pigeon (OK, probably not carrier pigeon), a centralized knowledge base is key to effective and consistent answers. Nobody wants to be forced to look in multiple spots that may yield contradictory responses. It’s not just people who benefit from a centralized knowledge base, virtual assistants need to call upon them as well if they are to provide good answers.

Koelliker notes that self-service is increasingly popular. A centralized knowledge base can simplify customer service by quickly responding to a question with information already known and adding new information to the knowledge base when new issues arise. Online communities add the component of discussion to the self-serve rubric.

Let’s Talk About It

Speech technology is gaining favor by leaps and bounds. Simply put, it’s easier to talk than it is to type. The implications for KM are many. With the speech-to-text capabilities of IVR (Interactive Voice Response), you can bypass a human agent and have answers to customer questions come directly from the knowledge base. Speech analytics takes this a step further. As Koelliker says, “The best way to give employees the information they need at their fingertips is to actually listen to what the customer is saying.” That seems so obvious, but advances in technology make the ability to analyze speech vastly more robust than in earlier times.

Managing customer service operations entails quality control, training, performance evaluation, and process analytics. Linking your quality management (QM) system to your KM system guides employees to higher quality call handling. As the complexity of customer service inquiries increases, KM-driven elearning will accelerate the training of new employees. For performance management, adding KM metrics to the mix will track knowledge usage and feedback provided, in addition to the more traditional call times and process accuracy.

Consider the value of KM in desktop and process analytics. In a perfect world, all employees would remember every single action they’re supposed to take. This isn’t a perfect world, so incorporating pop-up knowledge articles to remind employees to do something is a great idea.

Whether you’re confronting the equivalent of “salt water” information and need “fresh water” information or you’re tired of hacking through a weed-infested garden of knowledge, Koelliker’s suggestions for using KM as the solution will help. 

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