This article was originally published in theApril 2010 issue (Vol 15, No. 1)
About the Author
Arun Martin is a member of the India Chapter. Arun is working as a Technical Writer for VMware, Bangalore. Arun is a first-time author of an article for Usability Interface.
Knowledge at Your Fingertips
By Arun Martin, India Chapter
Once upon a time, we perused a myriad of manuals and reference guides to learn how to perform a particular task, how to solve problems, and how things work. We searched the table of contents and the index to find some semblance of what may be the answer to our question. If we failed to find the answer, we asked our friends or coworkers or, as a last resort, called the vendor's Help Desk.
In this column, we'll discuss consistency. Consistency is all about how we identify and re-use visual and textual elements and behaviors. Actions should always be performed in similar ways, reducing the need to learn the same thing twice.
When technology afforded us a medium to publish information online, we thought that finding answers to our questions would be easier; however, it only became more complicated because the information was not indexed and searchable. Then came an idea that revolutionized the way we find answers to our questions-the Knowledge Base.
A Knowledge Base is a special kind of database for knowledge management that offers computerized collection, organization, and retrieval of knowledge. A Knowledge Base is also a collection of data representing related experiences; their results are related to their problems and solutions related to a particular product, service, or general information.
Why a Knowledge Base Has Become an Essential Tool of Today's Support Organizations
Managing knowledge is an essential function of today's support organizations. Using the Knowledge Base, support centers can increase first contact resolution rates, educate new support personnel, reduce handling times, and provide more efficient and consistent troubleshooting methods. An effective knowledge management tool integrates calls with problems resolution, provides speed and ease of use, and depth and breadth of information the customer base such as "How do I…" resources, error messages, and answers to common problems.
Within an organization, the typical users of a Knowledge Base are server administrators for the service provider and enterprise markets, business owners in the small and medium enterprise markets, and developers or Quality Assurance engineers for the Test and Development markets.
The content of KB articles is the sole piece of information that the customers will use to decide whether or not to spend time, money and effort to deploy the fix onto their systems.
I write articles for posting in a Knowledge Base (KB). The writing style and method of gathering information to create a KB article is slightly different than the way you may be accustomed to writing a user guide or Help file. The need for KB articles is determined by customer escalations and priority customer issues. The KB articles are written to detail the symptom, the issue, and the fix. Sometimes, it could be an issue reported internally.
How Knowledge Base Articles Are Written
The process begins when project management triages a list of important issues, and the writer prepares the KB article for one or more issues. The draft articles are sent for technical review, comments, and editing. Sign-off (approval) is obtained from stakeholders (developers, Quality Assurance engineers, and the technical support) before publication.
To provide quick solutions to customer-reported incidents, KB articles are created and published. This helps because most of the incidents are unique and the engineering team provides a fix based on the issue. Updating the guides for every fix would be time-consuming and also increases the size of the guides. Hence, it is cost-effective to write KB articles for critical customer reported issues. Also, it is easy to update and republish a KB article. Most of the KB articles have the symptom, the issue, and the resolution sections listed. A few KB articles include installation instructions, which are verified by the engineers and the writers. You can view the list of latest published KB articles at http://blogs.vmware.com/kbdigest/ and can follow the Knowledge Base through Twitter at http://twitter.com/VmwareKB. I create the KB articles through Knova. More information on Knova is at http://www.knova.com/default.aspx.
Video Knowledge Base
VMware has also created videos on Knowledge Base known as VMware KBTV. You can have a look at the videos at http://blogs.vmware.com/kbtv/. The videos focus on technical topics such as networking, storage, etc. The videos work in conjunction with the written KB articles.
The response has been overwhelmingly positive for the videos. The videos are targeted at the most common issues, or the most used/viewed content. In some cases, the videos have helped to decrease the call volume regarding an issue. While the videos have been very successful, there are definitely topics that are not right for video, and that's where the written KBs are useful.
To improve the content and quality of KB articles, I collect feedback in two ways:
The Importance of the Knowledge Base
Knowledge Management by Answers.com
|All articles are property of the author or publication providing reprint permission. Reprinting this content in part or in whole requires permission from the source.|