Editorial September 2020

From the Guest Editor

By Dr. Liz Herman | STC Associate Fellow

Knowledge management (KM) is my love language. I love understanding how people in organizations manage what they know. I love, as a technical communicator, making sense out of the complex information and data that endlessly swirls around us. If we’ve met, you likely know that I see technical communication everywhere and as a part of everything. And if KM is my love language, then technical communication is my . . . soul? It’s absolutely the foundation and engine that has driven my entire career, enriched my life, and been the focus of my continuing education. Shout out to all my STC colleagues who have encouraged and supported me throughout the years! Which reminds me, I’m on the Nominating Committee, so if you’re interested in running for the STC Board, please reach out!

But back to this issue. Where was I? Oh—my English-major, technical-communication, knowledge-management-lovin’ soul. It’s why I believe that technical communicators make great project managers, and it’s why I believe that technical communicators also make the best knowledge managers. Whether you’re starting to think about KM as a career path or you’re fully engaged in a KM project and figuring out how to do more with less, this issue has something for you.

Starting us off, in “Knowledge Management in Practice,” Dr. Maureen Hammer defines KM for us and shares tools and approaches to make KM initiatives successful. Specifically, she provides an overview of successful KM practices that any organization can adopt. You’ll remember that I like to talk about the many hats we wear as technical communicators. Well, Maureen talks about the different hats you need to wear in KM: strategist, persuader, organizer, facilitator, and measurer. If that sounds like the skills you have—and I’m sure it does as a technical communicator—then you won’t want to miss her article.

In the next article, “Supercharge Your Technical Content Value with Knowledge-Centered Service,” written by Sara Feldman, you’ll gain an understanding of yourself as a knowledge worker with a KM methodology to reference and deploy. Knowledge-Centered Service (KCS) focuses on knowledge as an organization’s key asset. By systematically connecting technical content with customer interactions, KCS drives improvements in time to proficiency, customer self-service, and data-driven product improvements. Sara also touches on change management, which operates in parallel with any KM initiative, and her final section gives you some tangible dos and don’ts to consider while you move forward.

In the third article, John Campbell writes about his challenges, successes, and failures creating a knowledge base on the cheap. Technical communicators certainly understand how to do more with less, and John’s case study provides great detail about how to build an open-source solution to transform a collection of Microsoft Word documents into a full-fledged KM repository linked to alerting, ticketing, and reporting systems. “Developing a Knowledge Base on the Cheap: A Case Study” is a hands-on example of KM in practice.

Finally, the article titled “Digital Services and Knowledge Management: A River Runs Through It” includes my thoughts on why KM is central to any digital services strategy. There are a great many lessons learned from the past few months that we can use to improve online services to customers, and KM—with its focus on people, process, technology, content, and culture—runs through all of them.

I trust that you’ll enjoy reading these articles as much I did. Thank you, Maureen, Sara, and John, for sharing your knowledge. Knowledge sharing is such an important component of any KM initiative, so it’s wonderful to see you all embodying that practice.

In the spirit of sharing even more knowledge, I’ve also included an article written by Terence Pyle, who in turn, shares his knowledge about “Guidelines for Creating Effective Software Design Documentation.” His tips for keeping design documents accurate and up-to-date will surely resonate.

From my experience, KM is a continuous, iterative process. It doesn’t simply end after the first round of knowledge is collected and shared, and it certainly doesn’t simply stop once an enabling technology has been implemented. If you’re participating in, or leading, a KM project, help people understand that it requires maintenance and ongoing attention and the people to manage it. In other words, it requires love!

Thanks for reading,

Liz

 

KCS® is a registered trademark of the Consortium for Service Innovation™ (https://www.serviceinnovation.org/kcs/).

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