A Finite Problem-Solution
August 6, 2006
SQI uses formal knowledge theory for insight into our specific domain - the commercial deployment and support of complex products. Applying knowledge theory from this perspective we can tighten knowledge definitions.
SQI defines knowledge in the above context as a specific unit that leads to a specific result:
A Knowledge Unit is a problem-solution representation. When the solution to a problem is communicated effectively, it enables a product user experiencing a problem to solve the problem in a manner that assures the product's expected Economic Return.
Key aspects of this definition are:
An Actionable Concept
The SQI Knowledge Unit is an actionable concept that immediately increases the Economic Quality of a product. The Knowledge Unit presents clear guidelines for small firms selling sophisticated products to demanding, large clients. The process of acting is:
This form of knowledge, as a managed process developing specific solutions, increases Economic Quality to users and increases the firm's margins by reducing direct support costs.
The definition of a Knowledge Unit talks about a Problem-Solution Representation - a technical aspect referring to the information packaging. Many content technologies are used to store Knowledge Units and all can be effective communication channels
However, the most important part of the Representation is user access. The technology must make it easy for the user to find the appropriate Knowledge Unit.
The Problem - Solution Pair
The Problem/Solution pair has a number of names:
Whatever the terms used, the form and function of the representation is the same:
Some problem/solution pairs present the knowledge representation in an informal setting – FAQ - and others present a much more formal environment – Business Processes. However, they all have the same components and strive for the same result - deliver the product's economic return.
SQI defines the problem component of a knowledge unit as:
What a user experiences executing a given task that impedes the user's expected economic return, and thus the Economic Quality, of the product.
Key aspects of the definition are:
Most user problems are solvable by providing the information, within the appropriate context for the user's skill level, on how to proceed. These situations are the focus of knowledge units. Some problems are “hard” product bugs that only engineering changes can address.
SQI defines the Solution/Context component as:
A Solution is an information set on how to accomplish the target task, which is communicated to the user in a context that allows the user to perform the required corrective actions.
Key aspects of the definition are:
A solution always has user context – a profile of general technical competence, educational background, understanding of the product and enabling components, and general understanding of the product's domain.
The context of the solution is probably the hardest aspect of the Knowledge Unit to address. Getting the context correct requires knowing or estimating the skill set of the target user-profile. For example, the statement “change the Apache configuration file so that option X is active” is perfect context for a experienced Linux system administration. However, this will most likely overwhelmed a novice Linux user who needs a much more detailed step-by-step explanation.
To understand user context, create profiles of the different users interacting with your product and the expected skill levels and background of each profile. Craft Knowledge Units to communicate effectively given a specific profile. And, of course, monitor the communications effectiveness of Knowledge Units and change context profiles as required.
Types of Knowledge
Different types of knowledge exist. Knowledge that is well understood and documented is different that knowledge that is created when support is asked to solve a difficult client requirement. See the links below for more details.
Knowledge Management is the process of capturing knowledge and moving isolated, situational knowledge units to a broader, more general access.