By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service
I’ve taken note of a recurring theme in many of my conversations with service leaders in recent months: the prioritization of knowledge management within their digital transformation roadmaps. While knowledge management has long been considered “important” to some degree, this increased focused makes sense when you pause to consider a variety of factors at play within service that are shining a light on the need for a strong knowledge management program.
First, you have what is often referred to as the talent gap – experienced workers retiring at a far faster pace than companies can bring newer talent on. When these experienced workers leave the workforce with much of the knowledge they’ve gleaned over a lifetime’s career only in their heads, it presents a real problem. The ability for companies to capture this knowledge in a way that allows them to retain it once these employees have departed and make it consumable for others within the organization is becoming increasingly critical. Furthermore, access to knowledge has been linked with employee satisfaction – technicians are happier doing their jobs when they know they have the information they need to do them well the first time.
Second, there is the trend of the use of third-party field service workers. The need here isn’t all too different from the first – when you’re relying on resources to execute your work that don’t (yet) know your businesses, the need for an effective way to provide them with the knowledge they need to get the job done is very important. With a strong knowledge management system in place, the process of getting third-party resources up to speed, and your comfort level that they will be able to conduct the work with all necessary insights at their fingertips, is vastly improved.
Finally, knowledge management has a significant impact on productivity. In fact, in a recent TSIA report, it was found that knowledge management had a huge impact on performance, with a 50% reduction in mean time to repair. Access to knowledge improves MTTR and first-time fix, which has a positive impact on the customer experience (as well as the employee experience, as stated above).
For these and many other reasons, there has been more buzz this year about knowledge management as a key focus area for digital transformation efforts. I think service leaders have come to recognize the wealth of knowledge their employees hold and the importance of capturing it, as well as the benefits they stand to gain in making knowledge readily and easily available to their workers. As you evaluate your knowledge management initiatives, keep these three focus areas in mind:
- Knowledge capture. Companies are usually focused on two areas: the process of digitizing and expanding access to company information (manuals, product information, company history, etc. – any company-held information or resources for technicians to use on the job) as well as the ability to capture the insights of the workforce in a way that makes them accessible to others. I would say that, overall, companies have made more progress in the first category than the latter – despite the latter being arguably more critical. Employee knowledge can be captured through technologies they use – service management solutions, AR, communication platforms, etc. as well as through more hands-on methods. You want to consider what areas of knowledge are most important to the business, examine what you’re most lacking, and look at how you can work to capture that knowledge to incorporate it into a knowledge management platform.
- With a knowledge library built, you next need to think about accessibility and consumability. When you set a new employee up with access to the knowledge management system, how easy is it for them to find what they’re looking for? AI has some really great potential here in matching content, and even suggesting content, to different scenarios. The point around consumability is that the act of capturing knowledge doesn’t do you much good if that knowledge is not easily consumed by someone at the point at which it is needed. You want to think about how content will be accessed by mobile devices, how easily searchable it is, how the tool uses AI/ML, and so on.
- To get the most out of knowledge management, you need to think about all the ways the information and insights captured will need to be used and ensure the knowledge can be transferred appropriately. For example, besides the consumability of content on the job, can it be used for training new employees? Is the content available in multi-format options, for those that learn differently? Does the system provide analytics on what is being accessed and when that you can use to determine what further training and insights may be beneficial to your employees?
This is an area that is exciting because it provides a wealth of opportunity, particularly as companies evolve their service offerings and expand what the role of the field technician entails. If you’ve made some strides with your knowledge management efforts, I’d love to talk about it!