Mike MacDonagh's Blog

Somewhere in the overlap between software development, process improvement and psychology

Knowledge Centered Support in my project

Kelly Drahzal recently published this great presentation on Knowledge Centered Support which made me think a bit on the nature of support mechanisms. I’m currently engaged in rolling out a large and complex enterprise tool (Rational Portfolio Manager) and associated governance, portfolio management and project management practices in a large and complex client.

One of the things we need to do to get these pracitices and the tool embedded in an organisation is manage support. Our support takes two forms, tools support and process support. Normally when a person thinks they’re asking for one of them they’re actually asking for the other 😛 One of the interesting things about the support that my rollout team provides to the practitioners is that ultimately it’s a transient function – we won’t be the long term support team on this product, in fact support will be handed over to the centralised support function and the rollout team (comprised of external consultants (some IJIers, an IBMer and some independents) and contractors) will dissapate into the ether from whence it came. So obviously, as per Kelly’s presentation we’re very keen on knowledge centered support – we don’t want to waste our time, effort and brain power by re-recreating the answers to people’s problems.

So what do we actually do to try and avoid some of these problems and do some knowledge based support? We’re a transient support function so we don’t have and super tools or even specialist knowledge base management skills. What we do have is a highly skilled team and a number of communication channels.

We capture all support requests in a humble excel spreadsheet, regardless of their communication channel and categorise the requests into a number of categories. (Of course this gave me an excuse to write some cunning macros to keep everything updated automatically).

As well as providing lovely graphs the spreadsheet captures the issue and the response. As a result the team can all see who had what problem and how it was resolved. As problems are solved knowledge is created, capturing it in a spreadsheet is all well and good, and can be searched on by the support team but it’s not great in terms of sharing that knowledge broadly. (As it happens the support spreadsheet is publicly accessible via a guest account on our config management repository – but that doesn’t mean anyone is looking!)

To share the knowledge we communicate it through many channels. Sometimes it’s apparent that our education has been lacking some good guidance so we update the education programme (training courses, open surgeries, lunch ‘n’ learns). We have a wiki where we can post new bits of information, a message board/forum, emailing lists, laminated desk drops, a FAQ on the wiki and also some mentoring guides. One of the functions of our team is to mentor practitioners in the adoption of practices and tools and to do that we have a number of mentoring packages that we give to adopting teams. Ensuring that the mentors are all saying the same thing, giving the same solution to the same problem is important. One of the best ways of doing this it to get the mentors together to talk to each other, run through scenarios and gain consensus on the common answers. We also document these scenarios, sometimes in the practitioner facing User Guide and sometimes through mentor guides.

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One response to “Knowledge Centered Support in my project

  1. Pingback: Bookmarks about Knowledge

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