It seems pretty straightforward. You need information repositories to help your customers use your products, to avoid calls and tickets and frustration. It’s the knowledge housed in documentation, videos, and tutorials.
You also need to capture the knowledge that isn’t documented. It’s stewing around in the brain of company engineers, support engineers, and company users. It’s the dynamic knowledge that is best captured through dynamic, online Q&As, forums and crowdsourced (but monitored) platforms.
Knowledge management typically covers the more static, documented content that is carefully produced and added to a company’s knowledge base both for internal and external use.
The dynamic content is better grouped with your knowledge sharing efforts that include in-person and online communities. Both types of knowledge collection are critical, but knowledge sharing is more collaborative. Not only do you want to make it easy for users to find answers, you also want them to share an idea, answer other users’ questions and contribute to your expanding shared knowledge base.
The community component (Q&A) of knowledge sharing has its own unique set of challenges, including the need to not confuse it with traditional knowledge management. Here are a set of challenges (and solutions) we’ve culled from years of working with community managers – the people tasked with creating dynamic communities that increase knowledge sharing.
- Avoid setting up multiple knowledge sharing communities. It’s important to have one community that captures every question, answer, idea, article, and comment participants share, as well as intuitive organizational tools that enable administrators, and users, to properly file, and find, like information. Communities can be set up to be used by external and internal users with different permissions settings. There is no reason to keep two different versions.
- Think through your goals. What are the goals and objectives you are trying to achieve with knowledge sharing? Developer and IT productivity, customer satisfaction, collaboration, and ideation, innovation or first call resolution? Define what your goals are and then use analytics to help you keep track of your progress and the return on your knowledge investment.
- Make searching easy and intuitive for new community users. Set up a documentation flow that walks new users through the community to empower them to become active members quickly. Make the search bar highly visible. Tag all entries by topic so users know where to find the Q&A, articles, and ideas section for the subjects relevant to them. Include drop-down menus and other shortcuts. As you set up the community, understand that not everyone searches the same way. Developers, IT staff and executives have their unique idiosyncrasies in searching for answers.
- Deflect cases with kindness: Knowledge sharing communities can reduce support tickets, calls and lengthy chat sessions with crowdsourced and vetted answers and other up-to-date information. But be nice about it.Instead of this: “Do not a submit a support ticket until you’ve searched the community.’’Try this: “Avoid the bother of filling out a ticket. Type your question into our search box. If there is no posted answer, a company or community member is likely to answer within the next 48 hours.’’
- Manage community engagement, participation, and quality of interaction. You don’t just build it and wait for people to come. Map out user marketing campaigns. And then use your community dashboard to monitor usage by contributor, user, and topic. For instance, monitor time to answer to ensure questions are getting answered promptly. And if they aren’t? Find people to answer them.
- Identify topic experts and capture their knowledge. As your community grows, you will want to identify and recognize topic experts for a couple of reasons. First, the more you recognize someone for their expertise, the more they’re likely to share with the community. Second, identifying a topic expert lets everyone in your community know who the “go-to” person is for a particular area of expertise. While you may think the subject matter expert (SME) resides in your office, your knowledge sharing may reveal that the “real” SME is a user in Malaysia.
- Boost knowledge sharing with gamification and leaderboards. Developers like helping each other out – and getting recognized for doing it. Make it a game by awarding prizes (gift cards for your company store or branded swag) for people answering questions and posting articles. Employees feel that gamification makes them more productive (87%), more engaged (84%) and happier (82%) at work (TalentLMS 2018).
- Incorporate ideation. Unlike static knowledge management systems, a knowledge sharing community is the perfect location to encourage idea submission and let members vote on them. It provides product managers with a real-time look at what users want – and need. Keep the ideation process transparent by showing (via tags) where an idea is in the pipeline – including whether it will be acted on at all. Here’s an example of the different kinds of tags product managers can put on submitted ideas.
- Keep content relevant, fresh and valuable. Nothing is more frustrating than having to sort, or scroll, through duplicate content. If you want people to search first before opening a ticket, you need to do your part by managing the community to avoid duplicate questions and answers. Deletion and redirection skills are important.
- Customize to reinforce brand standards. Regardless of whether you’re developing and managing a private or public community, it’s important for community members to feel like they’re still on your site. Ensure you are able to customize your enterprise knowledge management platform to be consistent with your intranet or website. This will reduce confusion.
Capturing knowledge and sharing it can be challenging but also rewarding. For more solutions to these challenges and tips on how to increase developers’ motivation and keep them engaged, download our guide, How to Build an Engaged Developer Community.