• 10:40:04 am on February 8, 2010 | 0
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    “Begin with the End in Mind: User Demand”

    This paraphrase from Steven Covey’s 7 Habits summarizes the beginning and end of the KM game plan itself.  Knowledge Management practices are fundamentally all means to one end:  the right person finding the best information to meet their need at the right time.  “Knowledge” in KM  refers to information tailored for use as well – specific to the task or inquiry, formatting the key elements in readily consumable fashion. So the  activities, tools and resources used to enable KM drive to this one objective.  Success = access to knowledge, whether it’s a customer readily self-serving, engaging in effective online chat or mail, or a customer service rep finding everything they need just in time to drive a quick, quality service interaction.

    It stands to reason, then, that the first thing one needs to know to build towards the goal of meeting user requests is to know precisely what that demand IS.   Furthermore, within that demand it is imperative to know what combinations of information, in what forms, will meet those needs.  So to start thinking about any form of KM a few basic but critical questions need to be answered:

    1. Who are my USERS?  What are their expectations, level of understanding and expertise, ability to engage your tools, processes and data?
    2. What is the amount and distribution of the types of QUESTIONS they ask, what needs are there to satisfy?  This must be understood at more granular level than simple topics or questions – it’s key to define as rich a taxonomy of issue types and classes as possible.
    3. What types of INFORMATION do they require?  What’s going to satisfy the common requests?  Again, the further you can define the full spectrum of content types, interactions, and information aggregations the tighter the fit wil be.
    4. How can they best CONSUME the information on each channel, given the constraints and opportunities of that channel?

    Sound basic?  It is.  Sound easy?  It’s not – not if you want to profile and respond to the full slate of potential issues.  It takes good reporting & data analysis skills to develop deep insights into users and questions, and a relentless focus on reviewing information and how it’s used to keep it aligned with evolving data and tools.

    But here’s where the wisdom of ‘begin with the end in mind’ comes in – it can keep us on track, bring us back into focus again and again as we get distracted by all the moving parts in our environment.  If we examine WHAT our users want, HOW they want to consume it, and WHEN it is presented in relation to each service channel, we’ll always come back to first principles.  Simple as this adage is, faithful adherence to it forms the cornerstone of KM best practice. It assures that:

    • The right content is created and maintained
    • Tools are focused on optimal user interactions for each channel
    • Presentation and structure of information fits usage
    • Resources are aligned and prioritized to the top issues and demand drivers

    To paraphrase Covey one more time, all the Saw Sharpening in KM flows from this “First Principle of KM”.

    It’s so easy to get focused on technology issues, content challenges, business changes in themselves and over time fade away from a laser focus on what KM is actually doing for users.  But if you find yourself in a situation where it’s not clear how well any part of your knowledge program is working, start at the end and work backward.  You may find that by just profiling and examining user demand the path forward will become clear, once you have the ‘end in mind’!

    John Chmaj
    “The Knowledge Advocate”

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