Knowledge Management from support tickets

KMTickets-headerNow that we have launched our intranet we constantly receive questions and support tickets from our users. That is not exactly a surprise, as we know that our current intranet is vastly different from our old one. We have SharePoint Online versus SharePoint 2007 and a completely new governance.
We learn a great deal about our users and our environment from these tickets and the discussions in our dedicated Yammer group.

Of course my team knows that I am into KM, so I am currently in a small “Virtual Expert” group on knowledge sharing. Our goals is to “translate experiences into knowledge”.

That sounds pretty formal, but it is quite simple really. And you know, I like simple, especially when it is about KM.

How it works

KMTickets-process

Whenever we receive an incident, we assign it according to the type of incident. This allows every one of our team to learn about a specific topic or process, and to improve the process or generate knowledge about this topic.
For instance, for a time all incidents dealing with permissions were assigned to me.
When I had gained sufficient knowledge of common permission issues, either by searching online or by doing experiments, I wrote work instructions for the rest of the team. Permissions issues (provided we recognize them when the tickets come in 🙂 ) can now also be assigned to others as we have a common procedure.
Yammer questions that can not be answered by the community receive similar treatment: we do online search and experiments where needed. (Although we ask people to submit a ticket when it looks like something in their site is broken)

We have a regular call to discuss any new and interesting issues.

When we run into a problem that we can not solve by searching online or doing an experiment,  we ask our very knowledgeable tenant admins. They show or tell us when they know the answer. My colleague and myself then turn this knowledge into documentation – be it a work instruction for the support team, a manual or a tip for end users, or sometimes a suggestion for extra communication or even a change to the system settings.

Most materials are stored on SharePoint: in our own team site or in the site we have created for end users.

Love all around!

KMTickets-LoveI love this structured approach. Our manger, who is very much into service delivery, formal processes and stuff like ITIL, appreciates the process we are going through.
Our tenant admins like to share their knowledge, knowing this will free them up to do tenant admin stuff.
My colleague and I have great pleasure in capturing knowledge and turning it into something tangible that helps us do our work faster.
The rest of the team is happy to have good work instructions.

SharePoint Holmes

It may be a small process, but it works for us and we enjoy the benefits.  And you…you see the SharePoint Holmes cases! 🙂

Header image courtesy of Kimberley Farmer on Unsplash.com

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SharePoint Online Site owner training

Learning-Collect“There’s plenty of SharePoint Online help, blogs and videos around” I boasted some months ago, when I set off to execute the training plan for the SharePoint Online intranet that we have launched recently.
I expected to “curate” most of the learning materials, and to create only a few.

Our criteria

We set off with a number of company and project criteria:

  • The company’s learning strategy is the 70/20/10 model. This means people learn new skills and knowledge in different ways: 10 % in formal training, 20% in peer-to-peer learning and 70% in their daily work.
  • Learning is based on the 5 moments-of-need model, so we have to make sure the right materials are available at the right moment.
  • We have made some customizations, such as a limited permission set for Site owners (less than Full Control), and a custom display on Promoted Links. We knew beforehand we would have to create materials for those topics.
  • I would focus on learning materials for Site owners.
Learning-principles
Our learning principles

Formal learning

The 10% formal training now consists of an e-learning program providing a high-level overview of purpose, concepts and functionalities of the new intranet, including the Critical Skills. (The “how-to-click” details are in the “on-the-job learning materials” which are referred to in the e-learning). It takes between 1 and 1 1/2 hour.

elearning-testI created several modules in PowerPoint, and recorded voice-overs. This means we can replace any module (e.g. Permissions, or Custom Site Templates) easily without having to redo it all. Some inconsistencies are still being fine tuned as I write, new functionality developed, and Microsoft may change some things as well 🙂
I then created a number of test questions with multiple-choice answers, and added a Site Owner agreement (rights & responsibilities) which all trainees have to sign off (using a SharePoint survey).

Our e-learning specialist turned this all into an e-learning programme. It looked very easy but he has obviously done this before 🙂 (He also does freelance work if you are looking for someone!)

This e-learning is mandatory for all existing and new Site owners.
And before you ask how we are going to enforce that: content migration from the old into the new platform is still going on, and a Site owner can not start working in their SharePoint Online site until they have completed the training.

Peer-to-peer learning

The 20% was easy to set up: a Yammer group to ask peers or the intranet support team about all kinds of intranet- and SharePoint Online-related questions.
With the platform being launched recently and the migration of content in full swing, it will be no surprise that this channel is currently very active.

elearningyammerIn the e-learning and in all communications we invite people to share their questions in this Yammer group, and we make it a point to have all questions answered quickly.

For issues, such as things not working as they should, or errors, we have a more formal support channel.

On-the-job learning

The 70% would be the “curated content” I envisaged. I set off enthusiastically in the Microsoft support pages, as well as in many other blogs by people who write for Site owners, such as Let’s Collaborate, SharePointMaven, Sharegate and icansharepoint. Oh, and my own blog of course. My posts are often inspired by “my users” and my daily work.

Well, that was a bit of a disappointment.

Learning-format

As it turns out, the majority of the available information is not 100% applicable to us.

  • Our customized Site owner role made it hard to use anything that has to do with permissions. But also materials that tell you how to customize your site are not appropriate because the new role also has limited design options. So I could not use Gregory Zelfond’s Power User Training, for instance – it starts with creating a site and changing the look.
  • Our custom Promoted Links display needs some extra steps for certain page templates.
  • Many of the materials were not 100% current – with document libraries being managed with Tabs instead of the Modern look-and-feel, for instance. I wanted things to be 100% applicable when we launched – the correct look-and-feel and correct functionalities. The difference between the old and the new platform is too large otherwise.
  • Most of the materials have NOT been written in a “life cycle” format
    1. What it is and when to use it
    2. Create and configure “app”
    3. Add to and configure web part on page
    4. Add item to app
    5. Edit or delete item in app
    6. Modify something in app and/or web part (views)
    7. Delete web part
    8. Delete app
    9. Tips & tricks & troubleshooting
    10. Good practice

So, I have done a lot of writing, and my colleague has made tons of videos to accompany that. I have used Microsoft materials and some of the blogs I mentioned – often as “additional information” or “good practice”.

Final setup

Learning-tabel
This is the final setup

Next steps

I will continue to adjust my own materials and scout for other good stuff. I hope that over time, people will learn to deal with the ever-changing look-and-feel and not be confused by a video of a document library that has “last years style”. Then we will be able to use more materials created by others.

We are also working on a plan to make sure the Yammer channel keeps being active when everyone will be in the “business as usual” mode again.

I will also have to adjust the e-learning on a regular basis.

It has been quite an interesting project to create all this, but it is strange to be doing that while there are so many materials already available on the internet. It feels as if I am reinventing wheels, which I hate!

Have you created learning materials yourself or have you borrowed with pride?

Multiple choice image courtesy of Becris at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Working in a SharePoint box

spintranetsinaboxRecently I have been helping to launch a new Office365-based intranet.
While we set out with the idea of “out of the box” (a sound strategy, knowing my earlier experiences with extensive customizations) we have had to create some custom things to meet the requirements of several stakeholders.

I was therefore very interested in Clearbox Consulting ‘s evaluation of 26 “SharePoint intranets in a box“.
Unfortunately this report was published when we had already progressed very far in our intranet journey, so there was no reason to buy it.
Still, it kept nagging me because I was really curious if we could have used one of the “out-of-the-box” solutions.

So you can imagine my surprise and elation when Sam Marshall provided me with a copy just before Christmas, as well as a discount code for the readers of this blog.

What is this report about?

It compares 26 products of companies claiming to have a ready-made SharePoint intranet. This means that you do not have to do any developments yourself. It is just some configuration and a little branding.

The researchers have made the evaluation by comparing a set of standard scenarios that most intranets will need:

spbox-content
Content of the report. (Screenshot from the website)

Strengths

The major strengths are:

  • Many offerings compared – I never knew there were currently 26 different products!
  • The evaluators are all experienced intranet peeps who know what they are doing.
  • The evaluation is based on recognizable business scenarios.
  • Consistent and objective evaluation. (We could never have done it, since we would undoubtedly be biased by our own requirements)

To think about

  1. The cases provided are all very common in the intranet world. However, you may have some unique requirements that are not mentioned here. In that case, you may need to create your own filtering to find out who would be the best in-a-box-partner for you.
  2. As mentioned earlier, SharePoint and Office365 are changing very rapidly, and I do not know a. how well all vendors can keep up, and b. if and how quickly SharePoint developments will catch up with the vendor’s unique features. (I heard “Corporate News”  is on the Microsoft roadmap for 2017)
  3.  I expect new vendors to appear as well as consolidations.

So, I therefore hope and expect that there will be regular updates to this report…

Who should read this report?

  • Anyone who is starting on a new intranet should definitely read this.
    This may help you to decide if SharePoint would be a good option for your organization. You may think SharePoint is too much and too big, but an out-of-the-box solution may just offer what you need without too much hassle.
    If you already know you are going the SharePoint way, the report may help you to determine if a ready-made solution would be useful. Even if you think you know SharePoint well, you will learn a few things that may be relevant for you now or later.
    You may decide not to go for a ready-made solution, or even not to go for SharePoint at all.
    The report may also trigger you to refine or extend your requirements. For instance, we all have “Company News” on our radar, but have you thought about if and how SharePoint can be used for ideation? If Communications is your major stakeholder, they may not immediately think of the need for transactions. You may want to check with all stakeholders if they have thought about those things.
  • Anyone who has to decide on the need for custom development.
    If none of these vendors mentions what you are setting out to do, you may indeed need to develop it yourself. But if they all provide this functionality, it is probably available as an app somewhere.
  • Anyone who is working on their intranet or digital workplace roadmap, to determine whether it makes sense to move to a ready-made platform in future.
  • Anyone who is curious what intranets-in-a-box have to offer.

But isn’t this a lot of money?

No, it is not.

  1. That amount of money will buy you only a few hours of consultancy.  If you want to set up your own requirements to test against, agree on it, find and talk to all the vendors, have demos and evaluate all the results in a consistent way you will need much more time than “just a few hours”.
    Besides, the evaluators have not been biased by their own requirements.
  2. I can offer you a 10% discount if you use the code IIAB2CBOX10on the product page .
  3. You can probably get away with charging this (< 500 € / £ / $) on your credit card and submitting it as expenses 🙂 .

Good to know

I have reviewed this report for a number of reasons:

  1. I was interested in the topic because I was curious if the intranet I am working on could have been done out-of-the-box, which might have saved us a ton of time and hassle.
    (Answer after reading the report: I think we really needed the extra work we have done to meet the requirements.)
  2. So far, I have been the only “practicioner” who has reviewed this report. I think it is important that someone, who is actually in the middle of a SharePoint project in a company, shares their view.
    You will find more reviews on the Clearbox blog.
  3. I have known Sam Marshall personally for a number of years. I also know most of the people who have worked with him on this report. I have great respect for all of them. Therefore I trust this report.
  4. This has been a Christmas present so I have had the time to read and think. 🙂

So, everything came together very nicely this time.

Title inspired by “Living in a box” by Living in a Box from 1987.

 

 

Executive blogging? Hmm…

NoBloggingBlogging by senior management appears to be an ongoing struggle. I wrote about it earlier and remarked that it is not for everyone.
In my opinion, key success factors are:

  • You need to like doing it. It will cost a lot of time and effort, and if you do not like to spend that on writing, you’d better use your time in another way.
  • You need to add something new to the mix, something your employees have not already heard several times through your official channels.

Last week, I came across two other articles about executive blogging.

Do not blog if you do not know where you are going

Erika Parker posted “Executive Blogs: 7 Signs You Should Just Say No “

She also mentions that executives have to feel a need to blog. There should be something driving them, whether that is their personal opinions, a need to interact with employees or a need to change behaviours. If they feel they do it because they have to, they better find another channel or another way altogether.
And while it is not necessarily wrong to hire a ghostwriter, an executive has to feed that person with the direction, the tone-of-voice,  personality and topics. They can not leave it all to the writer. But remember: they should always post their blog themselves!

Do not blog about knowledge management

And if this all does not show enough that blogging by executives is not necessarily a simple thing that you “just do”, Nick Milton posted: “Why you should not ask your senior managers to blog“.

That sounds more forbidding than it really is. Nick warns that senior management should not blog about knowledge management, at least not about anything other than stating its importance.
In general, a senior manager’s blog will be too formal (an official communication), too hierarchical and too conceptual to be of practical use. It is not a good example to start informal company-wide knowledge sharing between peers.

Nick gives a few better options for using blogging as a method of sharing knowledge among employees.
I strongly support that opinion, just like I support blogging instead of publishing monthly newsletters.

I am almost starting to feel sorry for all executives.
If they have the drive and enthusiasm (which appears not to happen too often), then they are forbidden to blog about a certain topic. If wonder if any executive still has any motivation left after all this. 🙂

Perhaps you know of a good example?

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

KM: Leaving Experts Knowledge Extraction Flowchart

It is about time to reveal the second part of the Leaving Experts flowchart, don’t you think? Until now I have only been showing you the first part, to determine if an expert has knowledge to transfer and if yes, how long (s)he is available to do this.

This is the second part, including the best ways to extract their knowledge given the situation.

KM-LeavingExperts2

Download the full flowchart as pdf.

It will come as no surprise that someone who retires in 6 months will give you more options than someone who leaves the company in 2 months’ time. So if your colleague is leaving the company soon, get into action as soon as possible!

The flowchart above shows the best extraction methods. You may want to check if these are also the best ways to produce the knowledge products that you need. The table below shows you more.

KM-Method-Product-Table

Or download as pdf.

The “staying connected” knowledge extraction method is not mentioned since this can take all kinds of shapes and is usually ad-hoc.
You will also notice that some techniques lend itself to create many different products:

  • Interviews
  • Workshops
  • Thinking out loud
  • Mind mapping

You may want to brush up on those skills, or learn where you can hire the expertise.

Now you go and get that knowledge from your colleague before it is too late!

Even better, start promoting working out loud at this very moment, so you do not have to leave everything to the last moment.
If that feels like too much exposure right now, why not start blogging first? This will not only be useful for your colleagues, but also for yourself.
I write blogs to collect, store and share my own experiences about things like SharePoint permissions or copying from Excel into a SharePoint Datasheet.  I also use blogs (my own and other’s) as help materials to the users I support. A good blogpost saves me a lot of time explaining it over and over again.

And if you think: “Why is she writing this to me? I am not a KM expert or responsible for knowledge management”, think again. Capturing and retaining knowledge is also your responsibility, perhaps not for all your organization, but certainly for your own work and your own team.

So, how are you dealing with “leaving experts” in your team?

KM: 5 more ways to extract knowledge from an expert

KM-extraction with othersIt often takes 3-6 months before a successor can fill the vacancy that an expert has left. Vacancies need to be approved, people selected, obligations to the earlier employer fulfilled. The person-to-person knowledge extraction methods described in my previous post are not applicable then.
The following methods are available to capture knowledge without the need to have the successor(s) present, but you will need someone to do the “writing”.
These methods are indirect, because the knowledge is only shared through the knowledge product and there is no option to ask for an explanation or feedback. On the other hand, these products are independent of time and location and they can be re-used and improved upon over time.

  1. Interviews

The following set of questions could be used to structure an interview focused on knowledge:

  • What types of skills are relevant for your work?
  • What would you have liked to been taught when you took this position?
  • What are the main information sources (internal and external) that you use on the job?
  • Who are the people (in or outside of the organization) who provide you with knowledge?
  • What are the key points your successor or the organization needs to know?

The interviewer could write the questions into a top 5 do’s and don’ts, a list of resources, a skill set and training plan for this role, etc.

2. Thinking out loud

The expert is confronted with a situation and is asked to deal with this while talking aloud about all decisions, alternatives, doubts or side steps that come to their mind during the problem solving process. These situations could be ‘real life’ situations or cases that are typical for real situations. The process is normally recorded on video. After analysis this information could be used to create decision trees or protocols.

I am currently practicing this on SharePoint permissions issues, to make my approach more consistent and sharable.

3. After action reviews

After Action Review (AAR) is a method for extracting lessons learned from an unexpected event, usually a problem, defect, recall or similar occasion. It is a professional discussion that has to be planned immediately after the event, amongst people who were involved (i.e. team members). In the discussion four questions are addressed:

  • What was supposed to happen?
  • What actually happened?
  • Why was there a difference?
  • What can we learn from this experience?

An AAR is a good example of a simple instrument to share lessons and to make knowledge tangible. It can lead to an adjusted protocol or workflow. I think many of you are using this on a regular basis.

It is not always suited for planned knowledge exchange, in case of a leaving expert. Unless you create the event yourself, of course 🙂

4. Project evaluations

A project evaluation is comparable to an After Action Review but is focused on a complete project, so it has a much larger scope. The objective is to capture all relevant lessons from the people involved, share them amongst the participants and report the most relevant lessons for use within the follow-up project, the project organization or company. The outcome could be a set of do’s and don’ts, a good practice, an improved process or material for a case study.
Like the AAR, these are not always suitable for a leaving expert, but if you have an opportunity to plan the evaluation while the expert is still there, use it!

Project Evaluations have been a large part of my KM-work, and I will post about this later.

 5. Mind mapping

The mind-map in itself is abstract and high-level, but will be sufficient for another expert. (not so much for a more general audience) It is a fast way to capture the essentials when your expert leaves soon.
As discussed earlier the process itself could also be used to create other forms of job aids. For instance one could use mind mapping to identify the index of a manual / hand book or the issues which should be addressed in a training binder, or the disciplines involved in a certain process.

What? No mention of “working out loud”?

You may have missed references to Working Out Loud (in a network) and Blogging. Yes, I definitely consider them means to extract and share knowledge. In fact, I prefer them to the others, because they can be started long before your expert becomes a leaving expert.
But hey, remember I am writing my memoirs from around 2000 here. Working Out Loud and Blogging had not really been invented by then 🙂

What other current knowledge extraction tools have come up in the meantime?

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

KM: 6 ways to extract knowledge from an expert

6wayextractionIn one of my earlier KM posts I have discussed various knowledge products.
Before you can create a product, you have to extract the knowledge from the (leaving) expert.

That sounds more painful than it is 🙂

The most painful part is probably finding an internal or external person who is capable of capturing the knowledge and processing it into a useful product.

Knowledge extraction with the successors

If one or more successors are known (and this could be the remaining team) there are several options to choose from. This way knowledge is transferred directly from one person to the other. It is recommended to add “creation of the appropriate knowledge product(s)” to the objectives of the knowledge transfer, to check a correct transfer and to have something tangible to fall back on later

  1. Observation/Shadowing

Shadowing focuses mainly on transfer of knowledge by imitation. Employees who should take over the activities of an expert could join him/her and watch closely how a person performs the job. The successor repeats the activities when the next activity comes in. To make the shared knowledge explicit the observation period can be evaluated by a short ‘debriefing’ session in which the expert explains certain decisions and in which the other party can ask for explanation. The successors can then create a product in which they make their knowledge explicit.

2. Coaching

In daily life knowledge is transferred when an expert coaches trainees/juniors in their new role. In coaching the expert verbalizes much of his knowledge ‘on the spot’. Unfortunately much of this feedback disappears in action but when properly documented this feedback could be used to create more tangible products. One could ask the successors to document the feedback they receive from experts and translate this feedback into a top 5 of do’s and don’ts, a decision tree, a mind map etc.
A leaving expert might coach the successor in his new role. The successor takes over the activities and receives feedback while doing so.

3. Workshops

Workshop can either be very focused (how would we solve this specific problem together?) or have a more open structure (discuss the area in more general terms). Workshops are especially beneficial when the knowledge should be shared to a team of people at once.
For leaving experts an exit workshop may be useful, where successors can ask all kinds of questions to the leaving expert. Successors have the opportunity to ask their specific questions and address the issues they think are most crucial to be transferred. Preparation is key for success: successors should prepare what they would like to know about.
Preferably the outcomes of the workshop are reported into an FAQ, top 5 do’s and don’ts, a list of resources etc.

4. “Ask the expert”

Building a repository of questions and answers could be done based upon the actual requests for expertise. An expert could agree on answering requests from people in the company via the enterprise social network or another tool. This helps day-to-day problem solving but also allows for recording of expertise because questions & answers are documented at the same time. Employees could use this growing set of questions & answers when they encounter problems before they ask the expert for help.
For a leaving expert, you could organize an  “online workshop” or “leaving expert chat” on a certain date and time.
This method can be used to create FAQ-repositories based upon an analysis of actual questions.

5. Lecturing on internal programmes

The knowledge of an expert may be so valuable that it should be part of an internal training program. This expert can act as lecturer and share the knowledge with several other employees at various times. Of course the experts should be supported in the process of creating educational materials (slides, stories, exercises, reading materials, E-learning modules) in order to achieve the most optimal results. This instrument should be applied in collaboration with the training and development department or people who are responsible for internal training programs.
This is generally used when the expert stays in the company.

6. Keep connected

For leaving experts one could arrange a so-called ‘Keep connected initiative’. It might be that the leaving expert agrees on being available for some time afterwards for questions of his successors. This could be organized by telephone or email, or via LinkedIn or other networks.
One of the important prerequisites for these types of initiatives is an up-to-date Employee Directory allowing the successors to find their predecessors, if they stay in the organization.

In my next post I will mention the methods that can be used without the successors present.

If you have any  other suggestions for person-to-person knowledge transfer, please let me know!

Once again, I am indebted to Rob van der Spek .

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net