COVID-19 is rapidly accelerating digital transformation for service organizations, and knowledge management is playing an enormous part. Companies will need to rely heavily on third-party contractors, and it will be imperative that all engineers — both third-party and employees — limit contact onsite by completing the fix the first time and as quickly as possible. In addition, the forecasted economic downturn brought on by the pandemic is creating intense pressure within service organizations to reduce costs and increase profitability.
The right knowledge solution will provide the digital training and deeper knowledge that engineers need onsite to improve accuracy and efficiency and reduce cost pressures for organizations.
Overwhelmingly, evidence has shown that knowledge management is key to increasing service efficiencies. Most recently, a 2019 TSIA (Technology Services Industry Association) report found that knowledge management had a huge impact on performance, with a 50% reduction in mean time to repair.
Your Success Will Be Determined by the Type of Knowledge You Focus On
There are two types of field service knowledge – tacit and explicit. Tacit knowledge resides in the minds of employees and can be difficult to express, while explicit knowledge already exists (e.g. FAQs, installation manuals, parts lists, etc.), but is unintentionally locked up in corporate silos and disparate file formats, making it difficult for engineers to access.
Both types of knowledge are highly valued by field service technicians. However, many leaders make the mistake of focusing on launching complex and expensive initiatives to document tacit knowledge instead of unlocking the wealth of knowledge that already exists in the company.
Successfully creating and delivering a tacit knowledge base requires a myriad of technical and human resources that are in short supply in companies suffering pandemic-related hardships. Publishing new knowledge articles means a company must draw the information out of the heads of busy staff, secure resource commitments from multiple departments and, once the knowledge articles are written, gain the approval of senior staff from product management, training, marketing, and legal.
TSIA reports it takes an average of 12 days to publish just one new article in a knowledge base, with some companies even reporting that it is not uncommon for the approval process to take 90 to 120 days.
Explicit Knowledge Has Never Been More Important
Delivering existing knowledge is a cost-effective and less risky approach for field service organizations. However, simply posting a 200-page installation manual in PDF format on a shared drive is not going to deliver the required information to field staff. An engineer cannot be expected to pick up their smartphone and scroll through 200 pages of detailed service information to find an answer to one question. This will hinder efficiency, rather than improve it.
Here are 3 features that any explicit knowledge solution needs to have:
- The knowledge base must be mobile and available offline on an engineer’s device of choice. As any engineer knows, connectivity is not always an option when working onsite. Therefore, it is important that engineers have access to the information they need, no matter their location. Additionally, forcing technicians to use devices outside of their comfort zones will yield poor adoption. After all, if someone is an iPhone devotee, giving them a knowledge base that only works on an Android isn’t going to go over well.
- The knowledge base must be current and incorporate your engineers’ feedback. Your field workers need access to the most recent data available and must be able to provide feedback on how to improve the knowledge base. Keeping a knowledge base optimized and updated seems like a herculean task, but don’t worry: a complete knowledge solution will provide the people, process, and technology required to keep the information up to date.
- The knowledge must integrate with your existing field service management software. If your new knowledge solution creates extra steps for technicians — like having to navigate away from work orders or copy and paste important information like parts numbers — it will quickly fall out of favor with your workforce. Integration will also help create a streamlined experience for your engineers, making them more efficient and accurate while avoiding technology overload.
While it is nearly impossible to predict the exact timing of an economic recession, most experts agree that the COVID-19 pandemic will be bringing one to our doorstep soon. Incorporating explicit knowledge into your knowledge management strategy now will help position you for success in the coming months and ensure that you aren’t left scrambling when the economy starts to rebound.
Ready to learn more? Check out ServiceMax’s joint white paper with partner AnswersAnywhere to gain insight into launching a knowledge management initiative and building a financial case for investing in a knowledge solution.