Celebrate the Success Stories of Knowledge Management - 2022 KMWorld Awards

  • October 30, 2017
  • By Marydee Ojala Marydee Ojala, Conference Program Director, Information Today, Inc
  • Article

KM is Easy as ABC

I hear the phrase “It’s as easy as ABC” frequently and I’ll bet you do too. It shows up in song lyrics from multiple artists and I learned recently that it’s also the title of a Rudyard Kipling story published in 1912 and set in the year 2065, when the world is ruled by the Aerial Board of Control (ABC, get it?). We teach the ABCs to children very early on in their lives, pleased beyond measure when they can recite the entire alphabet for us. I wonder how long it takes them to learn that “elemenohpee” is not an actual word.

Some years ago, I employed a young man, part of whose duties were to place copies of magazines on shelves in alphabetical order by title of the magazine. It took me awhile to realize that, as he moved around the room with his stack of magazines, he was quietly singing the alphabet song to himself. I still don’t know whether it was a crutch he used to make sure he got them on the shelves in the correct order or whether it simply amused him to sing the alphabet as he was alphabetizing.

The Building Blocks of KM

The alphabet is a basic component of our lives, so when Kelly Koelliker chose the ABCs to explain best practices of building knowledge bases, I thought it highly appropriate. The alphabet blocks we give to children are foundational to them learning their letters. And so are the ABCs Koelliker has spelled out for us when we are learning about KM.

I suppose I should be grateful that she didn’t choose an XYZ analogy—because then I would have been tempted to go back to basic algebra. The old “Find X” problem, to which the student answers, “She’s never coming back, don’t ask Y.” OK, bad joke, I know. Better to stick with the alphabet and letter blocks. Koelliker suggests we start stacking those blocks in alphabetical order. Let’s start with A.

Running Through the Alphabet

A is for Analytics. In Koelliker’s view, those analytics stem from search logs. To create and maintain valuable knowledge bases, you need to know what topics are of interest to your users. And the best way to ascertain those topics is to check your search logs so you get a clue about what they are searching for and, perhaps more importantly, what searches are not providing answers. The latter is an invitation to create content. It’s not just the “what” but the “how” of the searches. User search behavior is likely to provide wonderful insights and guide you to an understanding of what should go into your knowledge bases. Ask for feedback and act on it.

B is for Bringing in your online community. I suppose another B word would be Brainstorming. Without understanding the basics of what people look for and tapping into the proverbial “wisdom of the crowd,” KM is likely to be ineffectual because it’s not up to date. The online community, social in nature, surfaces the newest issues and collectively solves problems. The data is unstructured and needs to be mined so it can be added to the knowledge base.

C is for Cookie, it’s good enough for me. No, no, sorry, I got distracted—that’s what Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster would say, but it’s not what Koelliker says. C is for Checking speech analytics. There are other Cs that come into play here. One is the Customer. Whether you’re designing for internal or external use, it’s customers who drive the process. The other is Call centers. Queries that come into Call centers are in the form of the spoken word. Transcribing and analyzing the speech queries allow you to determine what queries aren’t being answered quickly, well, or with customer satisfaction. Once you know that, you can do something about it.

C could also be for Change. As Koelliker points out, knowledge bases need to stay abreast of evolving conditions, whether those stem from changing customer interests, alterations in the business climate, or modifications based on trend analysis.

D is for ... Oh wait, there is no D. The phrase isn’t “easy as ABCD,” just “easy as ABC.” Feeling sorry for poor, left out letter D, I’ll suggest that D is for Demonstrated value of knowledge bases. Or maybe it’s Design of knowledge bases. Or Determining the best information to include in your knowledge base. All three are important to the smooth functioning of KM within the organization and to the overall benefit that a robust KM system brings to the organization.

Stacking Your Blocks in the Right Order

If you follow Koelliker’s ABCs of knowledge base organization, you’ll be stacking those alphabet blocks in exactly the best way. You’ll have a workable knowledge base, optimized for customer satisfaction and operational efficiency. Not only will you have KM that is as easy as ABC, it will be comprehensive, going from soup to nuts, or should I say A to Z? It’s easy as ABC, easy as do re mi, easy as 1 2 3. Are you singing yet?

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