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KM to automation: the changing face of knowledge

Forrester Analyst Logo Gartner

Recently, industry analyst Forrester assessed a range of customer service technologies according to their business value and the maturity of the technology. Forrester classed knowledge management as a technology that’s relatively new in the marketplace. At first glance, that might seem odd. KM has been around for decades (centuries, if you count its non-computerized forms), so why should it be considered more novel than technologies like case management or email?

The answer is that there’s more than one kind of knowledge management. To borrow a fizzy drink slogan, there’s “old” KM and there’s “new” KM. While “old” KM is an established, even dated, technology, the “new” KM discussed by Forrester is a cutting-edge technology that still hasn’t been adopted by many businesses. Forrester isn’t the only analyst to observe this distinction. In the “Hype Cycles” by Gartner, current trends in knowledge management are seen as an emerging technology distinct from traditional KM.

What makes “new” KM different? The newer breed of knowledge management solutions, which include Transversal’s Prescience™, are more accurately called knowledge automation. By using AI to understand what information users need, they automate the delivery of knowledge and transfer the effort of discovery from the user to the computer system. This provides more accurate answers than traditional KM, as well as a more effortless user experience. Furthermore, the underlying technology can surface knowledge on any channel or device, making it platform agnostic.

While the features of a knowledge solution will vary among vendors, the following table indicates the key differences between knowledge automation and “old” KM.

Old KM

Knowledge automation

Relies on content editors to index knowledge articles for retrieval

Automates indexing of knowledge articles for retrieval

Retrieves knowledge articles through keyword search

Retrieves knowledge articles through semantic search

Returns long list of search results

Returns targeted list of the most relevant search results

Bases search results solely on the user’s typed query

Bases search results on the user’s context, customer history, etc. as well as on the typed query

Takes no action until the user performs a search

Can actively push knowledge based on the user’s context or behaviour, even if the user hasn’t performed a search

Operates through a single service channel or limited number of channels

Integrates into any channel or platform

Expects users to initiate finding information from the system

Expects the system to initiate serving information to users


The superior responsiveness and flexibility of automated knowledge solutions have given knowledge management what Forrester calls a “second life”. While old-style KM evokes carefully-crafted search queries and long lists of documents, knowledge automation is low-effort and intuitive, exactly suited to deliver the quick responses demanded by customers in a multichannel world. And with vendors such as Transversal offering solutions that are hosted in the cloud and integrate through an API, knowledge automation can support multiple channels through a single installation and with low total cost of ownership.