Miryam Brand, Suite Solutions

What is the Knowledge Value Maturity Model all about?

The amount of information in the average organization has exploded in recent years. Organizations need to focus on knowledge access, creation, and management to ensure that the tremendous volume of information can be used effectively. At the same time, companies wish to differentiate themselves from their competition by creating and delivering quality content to win more customer attention and improve the customer experience—all this while lowering costs and increasing the productivity of content-creation departments.

While information management is a tremendous challenge, it also presents an unparalleled opportunity. Corporate knowledge influences every stage of the customer life cycle. If correctly planned and managed, company content is not merely a source of costs, but an engine for sales, support, and customer satisfaction. Corporate content can be used for prospect and customer engagement as well as for reselling and upselling to existing customers and partners.

At Suite Solutions, we have worked with many organizations in a wide range of industries who want to improve their use of corporate knowledge for better customer engagement and employee efficiency. Many of these customers come to us for guidance in

1) understanding where they stand compared to similar organizations in their industry, and
2) budgeting and building their knowledge infrastructure and knowledge processes to maximize business value.

These organizations need to plan their knowledge framework in a way that isincremental, safe, and cost-effective.

Based on our experience with our customers, we have put together a model that helps them optimize their business processes and their use of corporate knowledge and content along ten self-contained, independent tracks. Our maturity model is a tool that allows you to give context to your overall content strategy and provides a roadmap for ongoing improvement in those areas that you identify as being most beneficial to your specific organization and industry (see Figure 1).

The organization’s level of “maturity” in each track is represented by three categories (found in the three columns of the model above). A lagging company functions below the level at which most organizations in the industry create and use corporate knowledge regarding that particular track. A performing organization has kept up with most companies in the industry, while a world-class organization is using knowledge at a level that actually provides it with a competitive advantage compared to other companies, whether that advantage is expressed in greater productivity, lower costs, or higher sales. Each track is self-contained: an organization can be world-class in one track and lagging in another. Your organization does not need to be world-class in everything: you should invest in the tracks that bring the clearest ROI and align with your business goals. “Lagging” in a track that is not central to your organization is not a red-flag: your own corporate goals and priorities should remain at the center of your processes and planning.

Moving up the knowledge value maturity model allows organizations to monetize existing content and increase customer satisfaction and sales. Being world-class on the knowledge value maturity model means using content to the fullest, not only for increased productivity but also for a richer knowledge community and better partner and customer relationships, leading in turn to greater opportunities for up-selling and cross-selling.

As noted, for each track of the knowledge value maturity model, organizations may find themselves in the lagging, performing, or world class category. A good example is the third track in Figure 1: knowledge distribution. A lagging organization gives users access to content via monolithic PDF files that can be found on the corporate web site or via an internal CMS. Most organizations are moving towards the “performing” level; thanks to structured content, users can access topic-based pages on the corporate web site, rather than being forced to wade through an entire manual. A world-class organization, however, does not satisfy itself with allowing customers to just “pull” content. It provides a facility for customers to create their own documentation based on what they are interested in and the goals they need to achieve. Because the world-class organization understands customer preferences based on their interest in specific topics, it can automatically push context-based content to these customers. For example, the company can inform customers of new versions, upgrades, and complementary products and services based on features they are already interested in, leading to increased sales. Since the “pushed” content is based on customer preferences, it is not perceived as an unwelcome intrusion by customers. On the contrary: customers appreciate it as a further aspect of the service that the company provides them. The world-class organization thus gains an important competitive advantage.

Each track is self-contained, but enables enhanced business benefits when combined with other tracks. For example, in the Community track, an organization can move from lagging to world-class by first allowing comments and feedback on topic-based content (performing) and then move towards building a knowledge community where customer feedback and user-generated content are incorporated back into the original content, so that documentation is continually improved (world-class). As the corporation advances on the Analytics track, each department receives topic-level usage analytics for each customer, providing important feedback for tech docs, training, support, and marketing teams. These departments can now easily identify areas where customers are having problems and which features they are most interested in and receive other important business insights. We discuss each track in detail, along with examples and recommendations for action, in a white paper that may be downloaded here.

The Infrastructure: Intelligent Content

The underlying foundation of the knowledge value maturity model is intelligent content. Migrating your content to structured, topic-based, findable content is the necessary first step for any significant increase in knowledge value. The good news is that once you have migrated your content, the rest of your move up the maturity model flows from there.

Structured and topic-based content allows specific content to be “served up” to customers and employees based on who they are, where they are, and what they need to achieve. An XML-based format, such as DITA, allows distribution to multiple formats and devices. It future-proofs your content via a standard that will allow distribution to whatever channel or technology that comes along in the future. Finally, building the right taxonomy, which classifies the important aspects of your content and how it should be directed to different audiences, creates the glue that holds it all together.

Why Move Up the Knowledge Value Maturity Model?

There is one clear reason to move up the knowledge value maturity model: You already have content. Use it!

You have already invested significant resources developing your technical documentation and training content. It is a crucial company asset. Moving up the knowledge value maturity model adds significant business value to the content you already own and makes it easier for you to create more value. Your content will be reused more easily and will enhance customer engagement, optimize support, and increase cross-selling and up-selling. As a result, your content creation department will take a more influential and central role within your organization.

Finally, moving up the knowledge value maturity model means your content becomes more useful to more groups within your organization, leading to co-sponsoring with other departments. This move increases your content creation and distribution budget for future projects.

In the final analysis, this model can help you optimize your corporate knowledge. Remember: as long as you are planning to use your structured content to increase knowledge value, you are on the right track.