In my last article, Drive tangible results when Social Activity is “In-the-flow” of Business, I referenced people/sources over the years that have written about the importance of putting social activity “in-the-flow” of business in order to drive adoption and tangible business value. In this article, I’ll discuss a specific application that follows this design approach with Cim v2.0 on SharePoint. The application is a Knowledge Pipeline that works to capture raw knowledge, process it to transform it into publishable content, and then, serves it up to customers for them to consume and provide feedback.
Situation & Desired Objective
For many organizations, having quality knowledge at the fingertips of customers is very valuable to the organizations success. In today’s world that knowledge is often being re-packaged and presented in different media forms or multi-media packages. So, how are we doing?
We all have lots of raw information all over our organization – in SharePoint lists somewhere, on people’s laptops, in lots and lots of emails, in a forum, in videos online somewhere, in proprietary systems. We also have other places where people consume refined, published, passive content. We usually don’t have defined ways of getting the raw knowledge transformed into the right content in the right place. We also don’t know what knowledge is really needed or wanted. We also have issues of getting enough raw knowledge (ever try and get a developer to write some technical documentation) or the right raw knowledge. And, how are we doing in our knowledge life cycle? Do you have solid visibility into your knowledge pipeline?
Here is my list of the top 10 things that people are looking for to improve the results of getting good knowledge to customers in:
- We would want to know the needs of our customers – from their voices. We want this to be easy for them and for us.
- We need for it to be easier and more convenient for people to share their raw knowledge and be able to know what knowledge is important to our customers.
- We want our people to be able to easily collaborate to generate raw knowledge, validate it and improve upon it.
- We also want the raw knowledge, and the published knowledge to be at the fingertips of our internal users – they are customers too.
- We’d like to have a repository of raw knowledge that we could draw on to meet the needs.
- We’d want a process to effectively transform raw knowledge to publishable knowledge of high quality that meets the needs of customers.
- We need a way to efficiently prioritize what raw knowledge gets processed – all knowledge does not have the same value/urgency.
- We want to capture feedback on the usefulness of our knowledge and the quality, including the best format of knowledge (we are in a multi-media, digital world)
- We’d like to be able to see and manage the life cycle of the process.
- We want happy customers that rave about the usefulness and accessibility of our knowledge.
it is about meeting the needs of our customers. For most of this article, I am thinking of customer as an external customer. However, everything also applies to our internal people, in those cases where we want to treat them as customers.
Solution: Knowledge Pipeline Application
There are a number of very different activities that must occur to make a knowledge pipeline process work. Here I’ll lay out a standard design for a Cim-based Knowledge Pipeline application that brings them all together. At the heart of this solution is how it aligns the various activities into a broad, process that delivers the results.
Below is a schematic that lays out the flow of the process. It consists of four main elements.
The schematic above briefly describe the activities that occur within each of the four elements. In a SharePoint environment, each of the elements are typically completely separate SharePoint sites (or a cluster of sites) that may be located anywhere. The Process connects them.
This Knowledge Pipeline application is a typical Cim-based social business process. A core distinction is that it is not designed as a workflow, i.e., a sequential process to get ALL items from A to B. Instead it is a loosely-coupled, work stream. Each of the elements can operate and thrive on their own and are valuable in and off themselves. However, in this application, they are aligned and connected (loosely-coupled) so that those items that are prioritized CAN flow through a managed process. In addition, each element has social collaboration activities that help improve the result, including helping to determine what should go through the process and what the output should be. The result is that a process designed such as this helps to improve the effectiveness of the result and do it efficiently. There is a cost to any item that goes through the process. With Knowledge Pipeline, people are able to balance the desired and actual output with the costs.
Below I’ll look at each of the four stages and mention some key drivers of Cim on SharePoint that make for a more effective and efficient Knowledge Pipeline solution.
This application is particularly well suited to a SharePoint environment. In most organizations, SharePoint is a broadly adopted, distributed work environment. This means that people often work in their own areas – a site or sites within a portal area. The Knowledge Pool is a collaborative Cim community – a place to go and share. However, the main collaborative user interface for the Knowledge Pool can be snapped off and distributed to any site across SharePoint. Thus, the contributors are able to have it at their fingertips where they work. For instance, they may be in a project site and access the Knowledge Pool from there and quickly post some raw knowledge. They may be in a department portal, a team site, their My Site, or, an application – and post. Thus, as they do their day to day work the Knowledge Pool is effectively at their fingertips. In addition, they have the ability to search and access the finished product from the Customer Communities, again, from wherever they work. Thus, a Cim implementation on SharePoint is an effective way to put social activity “in-the–flow” of the day to day work of business. The result is more content, greater visibility, and more extensive feedback and collaboration.
This is where the raw knowledge resides – it is the pool of knowledge waiting to be used. It is a place that you can go, typically in its own portal or embedded into an existing one. Users can find information by search, activity popularity, tagging, taxonomy, etc. They collaborate on items – comment, rate items, upload files of supporting or contrasting information, even do semi-formal peer reviews. Items get cumulative ratings and scores that can be helpful in prioritizing them for the knowledge process. In addition, needs are entered here that come internally or flow back from the Customer Communities.
A key part of the design is the ease with which people can just post information here in its raw form. Got good information in an email; just cut and paste it in. No need for formality – just share. In addition, Cim creates listings of Most Recent, Highest Rated, Top Contributors, etc. that further drives visibility and provides recognition for ones efforts. These can also be snapped in anywhere across a SharePoint environment to further increase visibility, participation, and collaboration.
The Knowledge Pipeline application has a Stage Gate process. The Process is used to take the raw information from the Pool and put it through a number of stages that transforms it into publishable knowledge. The transformation may be simple, like reforming text into a standard document template. Or, it may involve creating wholly new content or supporting content such as videos, presentations, etc. There is a cost to any item that goes through the process so only certain items are selected. The collaborative activity that occurs in the Knowledge Pool helps to prioritize what should go through the process.
The Process itself is very configurable. Typically, it consists of a number of stages such as Screen, Review, Finish, Decide, Publish, Portfolio. The Screening Stage is really just a view into the Knowledge Pool from where you select and push items into the Process. During each stage there are a number of activities – emailing, editing, reviews, comments, tasks, deliverables, votes, decisions, publishing, etc. When an item meets a certain criteria, a decision is made (the Gate), and, it is moved to the next stage. In a typical Cim implementation, the Process will have at least one primary collaborative review activity. The activity is tracked. As items go through the process contributors and others are notified of progress. Finished items then get published out to the Customer Community sites.
As a pipeline, you can see what is in each stage and make decisions to invest, expedite, hold, and, kill – you can manage it. Without a process such as this, i.e., in a typical ad hoc environment – there really is no way to manage the Knowledge Pipeline. Most organizations simply lack visibility. In addition, there is built in reporting so that managers can look at what is in the Knowledge Pool (upstream), in process in the pipeline, or that has been published (downstream).
In a full Cim solution on SharePoint, the communities are also built using Cim or a Cim community is embedded into an existing Internet/Extranet/Intranet site. If so, the Cim community information is not just static, passive content, rather, it is in the form of articles, with multi-media content – text, video, files, links, pictures – whatever is relevant to the topic. In addition, it is interactive. The users can easily find the content, consume it, and provide feedback via ratings and comments. They can also be enabled to do soft reviews or survey-style more formal reviews. In addition, the users can post their needs, questions, ideas for additional information which ties back to the Knowledge Pool and the Process and the process owners. A well designed community provides visibility of new content and makes it easy for users to find the content based upon their need as opposed to the media format of the content.
The Knowledge Pipeline is a great use of Cim on SharePoint. I know because we’ve implemented it within CorasWorks and it a key part of our drive for customer and partner success. It is one of those apps that didn’t get designed on a whiteboard – it evolved through experience with our customers and our internal experiences. In a future article, I’ll tell you the story of this evolution which I think will help you uncover additional opportunities for other applications that map to a similar pattern.
But for you, the Knowledge Pipeline application is good to go, and you can start with it today. To summarize…
Each of the four elements can leverage Cim to make them effective in and of itself. When they are aligned, as shown in this design, you then have an effective and efficient way to turn raw information into published knowledge in your interactive customer community. It is effective, because the social collaboration provides the visibility and feedback in order to make the right decision about what gets through the process. it is efficient because the application makes it easy and convenient to get structured work done.
The entire design of the application drives home the leverage that you can get when you align social collaboration activities with your business process – or as said by others – put social activity “in-the-flow” of your business.
If you want to see the Knowledge Pipeline in action, ask your CorasWorks sales rep or email email@example.com, and they can demo our internal implementation of it.