Starting the KCS Journey at Alation

Jessica Wu, Customer Success Manager at Alation, is KCS v6 Practices Certified and has been practicing KCS since 2014. While Jessica has experience running KCS programs at other companies, Alation started its journey in 2022 under Jessica’s guidance. Alation’s KCS journey is valuable to companies starting their KCS journey as well as those trying to improve their existing KCS program.

A critical first step in starting a KCS journey is selling the value of a KCS program to your leadership and acquiring an Executive Sponsor. Jessica leveraged the Consortium site for published KCS benefits and KCS case studies. She was fortunate that her VP, Daniel Rose, was already a big KCS fan.

While the Executive Sponsor must place the KCS program as one of the group’s strategic initiatives, the KCS Program Manager creates an overall KCS program plan. A KCS implementation is not a project with an end date, but rather a program that needs to continue to be tended to for the program’s life to reap the full benefits. Jessica shared how she developed a phased plan with detailed deliverables and dates for the near-term phase and higher-level deliverables and dates for the longer-term phases. This approach gave everyone a good idea of the overall program while placing focus on near-term steps.

One of their first deliverables was a Strategic Framework that tied the KCS program and its activities and outputs to Alation’s measures and values. KCS is a culture change, and Jessica nicely tied KCS to their company values.

The Strategic Framework forms the foundation for the Communication Plan, which details all of the audiences, What’s In It For Me (WIIFM) for each audience, potential objections and answers, as well as all of the various communication methods to be used. Jessica stressed that the Communication Plan is a living document that will be continually updated and executed for the life of the program.

Jessica’s next step was designing the new process for how Alation handles incoming issues. KCS is not something groups do in addition to their current job, but instead changes how they do their job. The people doing the work must be heavily involved in designing the new process. Jessica covered how she involved her Technical Support Engineers (TSEs) in transforming themselves into Knowledge Workers in their newly defined process.

In a KCS implementation, Knowledge Workers earn the right to more responsibilities and autonomy. Jessica shared Alation’s various levels of Knowledge Workers, how they get promoted to the different levels, and how they are rewarded and recognized along the way. The Coach is crucial in helping the Knowledge Workers become proficient and progress through the various KCS roles. Jessica shared their KCS Coach program and how they changed the Coach name to Mentor to better fit with Alation’s culture.

Training is vital to ensure Knowledge Workers are appropriately enabled. Jessica shared how Alation purchased the Consortium’s online training library and ran the courses on Alation’s Learning Management System (LMS). Alation also had their team members take the KCS v6 Fundamentals Certification and Jessica noted how popular the digital badges have been.

Along with People, Processes, and Measures, Tools are another critical component of a KCS program. Jessica shared how Alation chose to use their existing toolset at first and improve the technology over time. This is a common approach and gives companies some experience with KCS to provide more informed requirements for future enhancements.

Jessica and the Alation team did a great job setting a solid foundation for their KCS program!

Recording

This KCS in Action webinar was packed with a wealth of information and we had a great Q&A session at the end. Alation took the added step to provide detailed answers to questions we did not have time to cover in our live session. We encourage you to access the PDF of the slides, read the chat transcript, and view the recording.

Resources

Chat Transcript + Additional Details from Alation:

  • Jennifer Moortgat | Consortium | Dallas: Consortium Events open to the public
  • Arnfinn Austefjord, Consortium, Boulder CO: Available on LinkedIn if you are interested in presenting at a future KCS in Action, being part of a Practitioner Panel on a topic, or just want to connect.
  • Daniel Rose: what an incredible team!
  • Sunita Barik – Alation: Thank you all mentors who have joined
  • Kai Altenfelder: This Discovery Phase is Love at First Sight for me.
  • Marge R.: These is great information for someone looking to implement KCS in 2023.  
  • Terry Kim (RWS Group | fSDL): love the graphic 🙂
  • Christine Carcallas | Juniper Networks | Sunnyvale, CA: Very nice summary of key activities!
  • Brian Gregory: Did you put performance review goals or targets for the support team on their contribution or progress towards different role certifications?
  • Sunita Barik – Alation: Yes, goals for outcome base activities like AQA
  • Veronica | Brother | California: I might have missed it, what is a “TSE”?
  • Sunita Barik – Alation: Technical Support Engineer
  • Brian Gregory: any goals on progression to the next role level?
  • Sunita Barik – Alation: Yes, we do have self paced trainings and certification in place
  • Beth Coleman | CATALYNK | KCS Trainer APAC: Was there much change in writing the case to enable it to become a WiP?

Additional details from Alation:

There was no change for Alation to shift from WIP articles to using the Case as the WIP article since this decision was made during the Design phase of the program before training began for all the TSEs.

  • Reason for not considering WIP articles: TSEs were very vocal in not duplicating work and having a WIP article would be duplicative work since TSEs generally document case summaries throughout the case lifecycle. These case summaries is the WIP article. When the case closes, TSEs are required to have concise internal closure notes and customer-facing closure notes to summarize the issue and solution. To guide TSEs on what “concise and complete” is, closure notes follow a template:
    • Issue Defined
    • Root Cause
    • Troubleshooting Steps ○ Resolution
      The closure notes summarizing the issue and solution then serves as the completed article draft. To streamline the process, TSEs can create draft articles from the closure note summaries.
  • The current challenge: Case summaries do not use the same fields as the closure note fields. As a result, TSEs constantly need to copy and paste case summaries into the closure note fields upon closure. This step isn’t followed at times because it’s extra work which results in TSES forgetting to draft articles upon case closure.
  • Future solution: The future idea is to create “living case summaries” where TSEs can continually update only one set of fields and by case closure, the “living case summary” would be the complete draft article to avoid any copying and pasting.
  • Jennifer Moortgat | Consortium | Dallas: Online trainings here
  • Beth Coleman | CATALYNK | KCS Trainer APAC: I love your badges!
  • Jan Krishnamurthy: Brian – yes , there are goals on progression to the next role (it is a combination of tenure and how TSE’s are doing with  regards to practicing KCS)
  • Sara Feldman, Consortium, Las Vegas: Love how you’ve developed details for just what’s needed now and leaving room (and time!) to figure out the rest later, when needed, with placeholders to know when you get there.
  • Beth Coleman | CATALYNK | KCS Trainer APAC: Good point @Sara!
  • Sunita Barik – Alation: @ Brian – here is the slide which will give you an insight of the trainings
  • lartok: What were some of the key differences between your KCS LMS experience, and the KCS v6 Fundamentals Certification taken through the Consortium.
  • Arnfinn Austefjord, Consortium, Boulder CO: @lartok We give customers the option to run the courses on their Learning Management System (LMS) with our Unlimited Use License. More info can be requested here.
  • Jacob Watts: 10 out of 10, would recommend the online training from the Consortium 😃
  • Vats, Hari {PEP}: excellent presentation Jessica and team,so many key take ways  thanks  🙂
  • Hina Patel: Agree Excellent presentation!
  • Gonçalo Gregório: Great presentation and KCS action plan. Kudos
  • Beth Coleman | CATALYNK | KCS Trainer APAC: Time zone differences are a challenge – using your LMS must be a great way to overcome some of those challenges.
  • Marge R.: Did you guys find any advantages in your mentors having product knowledge experience vs. KCS? Based on what you have in place today, do you think that someone who does not have that product knowledge experience can still be successful?
  • Christine Carcallas | Juniper Networks | Sunnyvale, CA: Can you elaborate more on the KCS flags at the article level?

Additional details from Alation:

  • KCS flags is created as a custom object in Salesforce with a lookup to the knowledge article.
  • On the article, there’s a “KCS Flag” section where users can create a new “KCS Flag” record.
  • Currently, when a flag is created, we’re directing users to submit the suggestion to the article author. When the KDE program is live, the flags will most likely go into a queue managed by the KDES.
  • “Review Request For” field automatically receives an email when a flag is created.
  • Important note: Salesforce now offers a package for KCS Article Feedback alleviating the effort in creating a custom object.
  • Jan Krishnamurthy: @Marge – Mentors knowing the product gives us some advantage in terms of understanding the context of the article etc, but  getting mentors to understand KCS , so they can mentor effectively was important
  • Jan Krishnamurthy: Because metors are not KDE’s
  • Marge R.: Gotcha, thank you.  What I am understanding is that it would benefit the project if we had mentors who are knowledge experts that can also adopt KCS. Correct?
  • Jan Krishnamurthy: @Marge – Yes . That is correct .
  • Jacob Watts: We’ve found study sessions for the Fundamentals exam to be very helpful also.
  • Beth Coleman | CATALYNK | KCS Trainer APAC: Ditto @Jacob and for KCS v6 Practices!
  • Christine Carcallas | Juniper Networks | Sunnyvale, CA: Awesome results 👏
  • Marge R.: This outline is great.  Very digestible and easy to understand.  Thank you for the invitation.
  • Sam: How do we calculate/measure create vs reuse?

Additional details from Alation:

  • Definition: The number of articles created vs the number of articles reused
  • Limitations: This cannot be calculated in Salesforce and must be exported into spreadsheets.
  • Steps to calculate create vs reuse:
    • Export all closed cases with an article attached. Ensure that the following fields are part of the report:
      • a. Case open date
      • b. Case closed date
      • c. Publication status = Archived and Published
    • In the spreadsheet, identify whether the author of the article attached is the same as the case owner. Run a formula to identify this and name the column Case Owner = Author.
  • Formula example: =if(case owner = article author, “Yes”, “No”)
  • 3. In the next column identify whether the article attached is possibly a create or reuse
    instance
  • Formula example: =if(Case Opened Date >First Published Date, “Reuse”,
    “Create”)
  • In the next column, calculate whether the instance is truly a create or reuse by using the
    results identified above.
    a. Formula example: =if(and(case owner = author=”Yes”, Create vs
    Reuse=”Create”),”Create”,”Reuse”)
    b. Note: When the case owner = the article author, there’s a higher chance the
    instance is a create rather than a reuse. The results of this column calculates the number of articles that are created vs reused in a given timeframe. The time frame Alation uses is the case closed date.
  • Create a pivot table from the raw data to identify the number of create vs reuse during a given time period based on the case closed date.
  • Veronica | Brother | California: For a future KCS in action, I would love to hear from a company that had traditional Knowledge Management (a group of employees creating knowledge for all) then switched to KCS. This is where I am at trying to convince leadership to switch to KCS. It is a struggle
  • Beth Coleman | CATALYNK | KCS Trainer APAC: Great idea @Veronica! Maybe a panel discussion may be possible.
  • Padma Sai Prasad: Do you have a rewards and recognition program for KCS?

Additional details from Alation:

The Rewards and Recognition isn’t fully flushed out and Sunita, our APAC Knowledge Manager, now owns this program to evolve it into something more tangible and meaningful. While the program is evolving, here is what we have today.

Current Program + Ideas

  • Quarterly kickoff meetings: celebrate and recognize team and individual wins with a
    company expensed meal to encourage attendance
  • Knowledge swag
    • Laptop stickers for the program logo and KCS role badges
    • Knowledge t-shirts, hoodies, and jackets. More advanced KCS roles receive
      nicer swag.
    • KCS mugs from Zazzle for all new program participants
  • Knowledge Spotlight Award
    • Identifies the top 3 individuals in 2 categories on a quarterly basis: Contributor+ KCS roles and KCS Mentors
    • Criteria are based on a mix of activities and outcomes: Cases solved, article views, avg. AQA, avg. PAR, articles published, articles improved, articles reused
    • Each criteria is weighted. Activities have lower weights than outcomes or metrics
      like AQA and PAR.
    • (TBD) Yearly ultimate winners: Still TBD but the idea is to have a knowledge
      offsite with the top 3 individuals based on the group of winners throughout all the
      year’s quarter.
  • Mentors
    • Expense a meal every month
  • Celebrate milestones and give participants swag for these milestones
    • 100 article milestone (e.g. KCS mug)
    • 1000 article milestone (e.g. Knowledge t-shirts)
  • (TBD) Consistently high knowledge performers
    • Reward: receive an automatic knowledge bonus for the next QTR
    • For example, TSE have great PAR and AQA scores and exceeded the
      benchmark 2 quarters in a row. In the next quarter, their bonus for knowledge is automatically given and doesn’t need to be earned.
  • Veronica | Brother | California: Thank you Jessica and Alation team! This was very informative and helpful
  • Sue van Gelder – Consultant – Charlotte: Excellent preso, Jess!
  • K Robinson: Great presentation Jess!!!
  • Brian Gregory: very helpful. good to understand your journey. thank you
  • Marie.Coon: Excellent presentation
  • Korneel Vanhie: Great presentation!
  • Maria Flores: Super helpful. Thanks so much
  • Christine Carcallas | Juniper Networks | Sunnyvale, CA: Great presentation, thank you for sharing your experiences and insights
  • Patrick BAUER, HUG, Geneva Switzerland: Excellent, thank you so much !
  • Elizabeth: Great Presentation!
  • Libby Krause: Great presentation!
  • Alyssa W: Thank you!
  • Marge R.: Thank you for a wonderful presentation.  It was super informative and lessened my fear in implementing the practice.  I do know that this will benefit.
  • Jan Krishnamurthy: Hi Libby
  • Hina Patel: Thank you Jess! Amazing presentation
  • Padma Sai Prasad: Great presentation!
  • Barbara Chudak: Jess, great presentation!  Accomplished a lot in a year!
  • Beth Coleman | CATALYNK | KCS Trainer APAC: Fantastic presentation! Looking forward to seeing the ‘questions answered’ too.
  • Alex (MF): Thank you, it has been very informative!
  • Cressenda Youngs: Can you please explain your Bonus plan when it comes to KCS?

Answer post session from Alation

Yes – TSEs are incentivized to level up to the next KCS Role (e.g. KCS Candidate → KCS Contributor) by tying the goal to the bonus. Expectations on when to level up to the next role is also tied to the bonus

  • Alation Support’s bonus details
    • Cadence = quarterly
      Note: Quarterly bonuses have worked out very well has in motivating TSEs to complete knowledge milestones on a quarterly basis and drive program momentum
  • Knowledge = 25% of bonus plan
  • Bonus plan differs by TSE’s KCS role and whether they’re a new hire
    Clear criteria are established on how to get to the next level in order to accomplish the knowledge goal and bonus
  • The criteria consist of meeting AQA or PAR benchmarks and completing a list of tasks. Once the criteria is met and all the tasks are complete, the TSE is eligible to move on to the next level after passing a short quiz.

Regarding performance review goal, they don’t exist at the moment. In general, managers keep an eye on multiple activity measures to determine bad, good, or great performance. When the balanced scorecard is complete, managers will have an easier time assessing their team’s performance. For now, we emphasize looking at 3 metrics:

  • PAR score – KCS adoption (is the team practicing KCS?)
  • AQA score (i.e. CSC, AQI) – article quality (is the team following the Style Guide and
    KCS content standard recommendations?)
  • % of cases with articles (i.e. attach rate, participation rate) – good indicator of whether
    a TSE is creating or reusing articles. An idea of what a good attach rate looks like for your company can be gathered from the PAR score. For example, Alation sampled 242 closed cases in Q3 and the results are as follows: This means that around 74% of our cases could have an article attached to it either through a create or reuse instance which means having a benchmark of 60-80% seems reasonable.

Based on the maturity of Alation’s KCS program and still being in the adoption phase, there’s only concern when the PAR is below 50% or the attach rate is below 40%. The benchmark for PAR is 70% and attach rate is 60-80%.

Example bonus plan

Example bonus plan for a new hire to move from being a KCS candidate to KCS Contributor

  • Step 1: As a new hire, complete the following goals to receive the knowledge bonus for
    the QTR.
    • Attend KCS introduction courses delivered by KMs
    • Complete the Consortium for Service Innovation self-paced KCS courses
    • Get KCS v6 Fundamentals Certified
  • Step 2: After completing step 1, to achieve the next QTR’s knowledge bonus, follow the KCS Candidate training plan to become a KCS Contributor. All or nothing bonus. Training plan for a KCS candidate is as follows:

Consistently practice writing articles on a weekly basis for at least 4 weeks with a mentor to help build the mindset and habit of practicing knowledge with the case workflow.

Benchmark: publish 2 articles per week.

Note: The benchmark was extremely easy to meet when the program began because there were zero articles. With the recent new hires, the weekly benchmark becomes invalidated if the mentor and mentee are not able to identify article opportunities from recently close cases during their weekly 1:1.

  • During these 4 weeks, mentors run an AQA on the articles written and it doesn’t matter what the score is. The AQA at this point is used as a mentoring and calibration tool.
  • After 4 weeks, starting in week 5, TSEs continue to consistently write articles. When the last 3 articles each have an AQA score >= 80%, the TSE is eligible to take the Alation’s Contributor Quiz.
  • To become a KCS contributor, the TSE must pass the quiz with a score of >= 80% and a writing sample with an AQA score of >= 80%.
  • Arun Vats: Great Presentation !!
  • Rashmi Chaple: Great presentation, Thank you.
  • Cressenda Youngs: Great presentation!! Thank you!
  • Sunita Barik – Alation: Thanks everyone

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