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Knowledge on the Go

1 October 2017
Michal Gil- Peretz
A cellphone with a light bulb coming out of it

Meet Shai—a field technician employed by an organization that provides a wide range of maintenance services to customers in their homes. Shai leaves his residence each day for appointments arranged by the organization's service center. However, he encountered an unexpected traffic jam last Monday, causing him to arrive an hour late for his first visit—an unpleasant experience indeed.

Upon finally reaching the customer's residence, Shai promptly apologized for the delay and swiftly addressed the malfunction. After approximately thirty minutes of diligent effort, he discovered the issue was more complex than initially anticipated. Nonetheless, Shai is not one to succumb to despair. Through several telephone consultations, he successfully resolved the problem and continued, leaving behind yet another satisfied customer.

Upon departing the client's home, Shai was summoned to attend a training session at the office. Following the meeting, he promptly resumed his fieldwork.

How do Shai and his colleagues navigate the various challenges they encounter in the field? They rely on the call center staff or their direct superiors to resolve any issues that arise. Access to organizational databases and various operational software enables them to support field personnel. Alternatively, they may need to reach out to their direct manager to seek guidance on resolving issues encountered at customers' homes or to obtain approval for actions not initially requested by the client. This reality necessitates a shift in the agenda of team managers, who find themselves inundated with numerous phone calls from their subordinates daily, leaving little time for their regular tasks. Furthermore, the need to visit the office during the workday poses an additional constraint, particularly in the absence of field-based training solutions.

The scenario outlined above underscores the gap between field personnel and the organizational knowledge essential for their tasks but often inaccessible to them. Regrettably, accessing this knowledge typically requires at least a phone call, and sometimes more. This challenge is common to new technicians; even experienced technicians may struggle to stay current with changes and innovations, leading to knowledge gaps they must endeavor to bridge. They may seek guidance where possible, but sometimes, they're left to improvise solutions.

Another question arises: Why are field personnel often constrained to rely on others' knowledge for solutions? The answer lies in the historical approach of organizations, which, until recently, prioritized investing most knowledge resources in internal personnel for several reasons:

  1. Historically, technological means tailored to field personnel were lacking, necessitating investment in centralized knowledge development that did not reach the field.

  2. Information security also played a significant role. Making knowledge accessible to field workers requires stringent information security measures, especially regarding remote access to knowledge repositories. Until technology evolved to allow decentralized access, organizational knowledge remained confined to the organization's servers.

  3. Organizational factors are crucial. For knowledge accessibility to become a priority, the organization must first recognize its benefits and commit time and money resources to its implementation.

Let's seize the new year as an opportunity to envision a solution for Xi and his colleagues. What if we could develop a tool they could take into the field, enabling them to address most of their challenges? What if we could empower them with independence and knowledge right at their fingertips? Well, such a solution is no longer just a dream! With the right conditions in place to overcome the obstacles above, we now have the means to provide field workers with accessible and tailored knowledge via mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets. Thanks to advancements in cloud technology in recent years, organizational knowledge managed by knowledge managers can now be readily accessible to field employees through mobile connections.

You might rightly wonder why field workers must have access to organizational knowledge.

  1. Independence: Empowering field workers to rely less on external factors.

  2. Time-saving: Allowing field workers to concentrate on their tasks, thus freeing up time for those who previously depended on them.

  3. Knowledge Availability: Ensuring information is accessible anytime and anywhere.

  4. Responsibility: Enhancing field workers' accountability toward the organization's customers.

  5. Uniformity: Ensuring consistency in knowledge across service representatives and field workers, enhancing the customer service experience.

  6. Unified knowledge base: Centralizing knowledge management, providing a comprehensive solution for diverse employees.

So, how do you kick off such a project? Here are several steps we've compiled for establishing a knowledge administration accessible to field personnel:

  • Diagnosis of need: In this diagnostic process, all categories of field personnel—newcomers, veterans, and managers—must be considered. Each group has specific needs and must be active partners in this diagnostic phase.

  • Identification of gaps: Pinpoint the knowledge gaps among field personnel. This mapping will inform a work plan addressing the need for more information in the field and maintaining ongoing professionalism. It provides an accurate picture of necessary content adjustments.

  • Choosing the solution: There are various solutions available. Opt for the one that best suits your needs. The trend leans towards managing knowledge in one place, making a mobile/responsive system solution preferable for optimal information maintenance and accessibility in field conditions.

  • Cracking the construction: The challenge lies in merging fieldwork characteristics (the need for immediate knowledge) with digital channel capabilities and crafting knowledge snippets in adapted templates.

  • Content writing: Remember, the knowledge is intended for field personnel. Ensure content is accurate and concise. Consider the practicalities—can it be easily accessed during field tasks? Get to the point!

  • Training: Conduct training a few days before launch to refine and ensure proper use. Training doesn't have to be in-person; virtual tutorial videos (MOOCS), YouTube channels, and more can be utilized. Consider distributing these videos publicly for self-service to company customers.

  • Launch: Treat the launch like a new product hitting the market. Invest in a strong launch campaign to make a memorable first impression. Remember, first impressions count!

  • Implementation: Recruit managers as active partners in the implementation process. Provide them with resources to support field personnel and encourage open communication for real-time gap discovery.

  • Measurement and control: Measure success through usage metrics, identifying the most and least helpful knowledge pieces. Gather feedback from the field regarding usability and impact. Adjustments based on feedback ensure continuous improvement.

After measurement, reexamine gaps. Yes, it's an endless cycle, but it facilitates continuous and effective improvement.

And what about Shai, you inquire?

Shai has specialized software installed on his mobile device. He can access answers to any professional question with just a click of a button. Suddenly, he doesn't just feel like a professional but a true expert in his field.

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