1 February 2012
What is a template? Why are they needed as part of content management solutions? What templates are currently popular in the field of Knowledge Management?
I will attempt to answer the questions above in this article.
When approaching an informative source of any sort, we usually come with a question (or several questions) and are looking for a specific answer. In some cases, the subject is simple and a brief of the text's content leads to the area that will answer our questions. Yet in some cases the text is long, arduous and unorganized; in order to find the answer to a simple question we must read the entire text. If we are particularly unlucky, the answer awaits us in the last lines of the last paragraph…
Here are a few questions that can emphasize the idea:
When you open a newspaper, do you know exactly where to find the sports/gossip/finance section? How long does it take?
When reading an article online, how many seconds did you invest into finding the comment section?
When checking out a new product at the supermarket, after reviewing its (horrendously expensive!) price and you wish to at least assure yourself it is somewhat healthy, where do you search for the information?
Are these situations familiar? I sure hope they are.
When a certain template of information is etched into our brains, we approach it in a friendlier manner and it enables us to find the required information more comfortably and quickly, which undoubtedly benefits us greatly.
While we sometimes claim that staying in the same "box" is harmful since progress depends on thinking "outside of the box", many cases benefit from the use of templates and contribute greatly to the our daily conduct.
When managing informative knowledge, using content templates grants the user availability, navigation abilities and high accessibility which all decrease the time invested in searching for information and contributes to the efficiency and effectivity of the users' actions.
So, how do templates make our work more efficient?
Service representative- a classic example of a worker constantly under time pressure and flooded by many questions during their shift, all which need to be answered precisely and professionally. The representative works with an internal Knowledge Management system in which they search for questions asked by the client. Imagine, what if each conversation involved reading an entire long text to find the answer? Clients would probably hang up after a short while.
Yet if the representative knows that when entering a data item, they face a familiar template and can find the answer in a matter of seconds (e.g. prices, operation hours, etc.). The implications of quick, high quality customer service are self-explanatory.
Content editors- templates optimize content editors' work processes. When content editors are interested in uploading new data to the system and are obviously always trying to think of the receiver of the knowledge and make the search easier, entering the content according to a fixed, predetermined template that enables them to perform quickly (embedding data in fixed and predetermined areas) and adapt the content so that it can be comfortably used by the receivers and direct them to the relevant and required data accordingly.
Typical types of templates serving Knowledge management include:
Text- a template that contains a scroll of long text divided into segments/sub-headings indicative of the content under them (sometimes in form of paragraphs), which allows the eye to track a heading related to the subject which includes the answer we seek. At the top of each text page, editors can add internal links to the sub-headings and allow the reader to filter by subject rather than skimming through the entire text.
Tabs- templates which present a number of tabs arranged vertically bearing a name/title indicative of the content concealed under each tab which enables the reader (unlike a "text template") to scan vertically rather than horizontally to find the required subject (also known as "dividers").
Plusses- templates which displays a number of closed plusses coupled with a title indicative of the content concealed in them that allows the reader to quickly visually filter the content, focus on the relevant content and scan its internal and focused content.
Call scripts- this template presents the reader with a number of possible scenarios/situations. Choosing the relevant option leads to an answer or another stage depending on the choice (decision junction). This solution is a type of unique template that addresses specific and focused situations yet is limited in the number of possibilities it can contain.
Note: it is critically important to think rationally when choosing which template to apply to each situation to make a text efficient.
In conclusion, sticking to uniform content templates when managing knowledge enables those reading/searching for knowledge to navigate throughout the data and find information quickly and easily, what simplifies both professional and personal aspects. Furthermore, the content editor can quickly and easily add new content details effective for readers. Templates can be altered as long as they are updated uniformly to all templates in order to maintain a more effective and quicker work process.
Remember: in the world of Knowledge Management, when we are flooded with a vast amount of information on a daily/hourly basis, less is usually more. Time-saving tips for professional and practical filtering and focusing are vital; content templates are included in this arsenal.