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December 12, 2022 | 3 Mins Read

Make It a Priority to Master Knowledge Management

December 12, 2022 | 3 Mins Read

Make It a Priority to Master Knowledge Management


By Sarah Nicastro, Creator, Future of Field Service

At Field Service Europe, Tim Burge of Aquant shared some findings from the company’s recent Service Intelligence Benchmark study. One insight he shared stood out in my mind, which is “if all employees had the knowledge and skills to perform like the top 20% of employees, service costs would be reduced by 21 percent.”

Based on the discussions at the event, companies aren’t nearly where they need to be when it comes to having a modern and effective knowledge management strategy for field service. Compounding that fact is the sheer volume of frontline employees within service who are approaching retirement age, presenting a significant risk to organizations in loss of incredibly valuable knowledge. 

Knowledge management is defined as “the process by which an enterprise gathers, organizes, shares and analyzes its knowledge in a way that is easily accessible to employees. This knowledge includes technical resources, frequently asked questions, training documents and people skills.” While the concept of knowledge management isn’t unique to field service, there are some challenges specific to field service that make it uniquely important to get a better handle on:

  • As mentioned, there is a large quantity of very knowledgeable workers nearing retirement age and a huge risk of losing their tacit knowledge 
  • The types and volume of insights needed by frontline workers in field service has expanded as customer expectations have evolved and grown
  • Digitalization has made information more accessible, but has also in many instances caused data overwhelm without quick and easy access to the insights really needed at any given time
  • An inability to retrieve the necessary knowledge in an accessible, digestible format in real-time when it is needed causes costly return visits and negatively impacts customer satisfaction

In the coming year, with cost pressures on the rise and frontline workers leaving the industry and taking valuable insights with them, improving our focus on and strategy around knowledge management must become a priority. For service success today, having access to meaningful insights is just as important for a field technician as having their toolbox or the correct spare part. 

Knowledge management is often discussed with three types of knowledge in mind: tacit, implicit, and explicit. While most organizations have strong documentation of explicit knowledge and processes for distributing it through training, manuals, etc., we need to consider how well (if at all) we are capturing and making usable the implicit and tacit knowledge of the frontline workforce. 

Automate Knowledge Capture

At the event, numerous attendees shared frustrations around getting the frontline workers to agree to document their insights or “offload” their knowledge in some way. And I don’t blame them! It’s cumbersome for an employee with years of experience and countless interactions that have culminated in that tacit knowledge to try and distill it down into some sort of manifesto. 

If we realize the imperative to improve knowledge management, we then need to consider the best approach. As much as possible, we need to find ways to capture and leverage knowledge as it is being organically used and shared among the workforce – this reduces the burden on any one individual to spend (non-productive) time documenting or downloading. You likely already have technology in place that you could be deriving these insights from, such as:

  • Your field service management solution
  • Augmented reality or video collaboration tools
  • Help desk interactions
  • Many others!

Before you ask an employee to spend time documenting or sharing their insights, be sure you are embedding the wisdom already being shared within your organization. You may have areas where you find you have gaps to fill, and then you can get creative about gleaning additional insights from some of your most experienced technicians. 

This is one of the examples of AI use that makes me chuckle at those who say, “one day, AI will take the jobs of the field technicians!” Doubtful, particularly when many companies aren’t even putting to good use AI to make accessible some of their knowledge. We have a long way to go! But knowledge management is a perfect example of where AI can play a practical and very impactful role within field service – an area that you need to be putting a concerted effort into mastering.