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2014 Forrester Groundswell entry - Cisco Tech Zone

Lithium Alumni (Retired)

This is an entry in the B2E - Employee Empowerment category of the Forrester Research Groundswell Awards 2014. Visit the Groundswell site for more info


Tech Zone: Transforming Cisco’s Technical Assistance Center using Social Knowledge Management


The Cisco Technical Assistance Center (TAC) is staffed by over 3,000 engineers; this team spans 20 TAC facilities worldwide, bringing support to Cisco customers in over 180 countries and in 17 different languages. Cisco's TAC continues to change the way engineers think about collaboration with robust, organic Social Knowledge Management Environments. Powered by Cisco’s Intellectual Capital Transformation group (ICT), Tech Zone has become a preferred channel for these engineers to collaborate, share and publish valuable content directly to customers via the web or mobile applications. Since its launch over two years ago, Tech Zone has transformed not only the way TAC manages their intellectual capital but how Cisco communicates, collaborates, and serves customers. In addition Tech Zone influences other engineering and consulting business units inside Cisco seeking similar benefits from Social Knowledge Management Environments. The foundational benefits include:


·         Collaboration Opportunities: By aligning business processes with a collaborative environment, engineers can solve customer issues together. This knowledge is captured and compiled as TAC-authored support articles that can be reused by the entire community. This dynamic collaboration has significantly decreased the "Time to Expert" for our TAC engineers. Engineers can rate these articles based on content and helpfulness and an algorithm, called Content Quality Factor (CQF), that takes into account these ratings and other factors (such as view count and case linkage) to assign numerical values to each article. Doing so brings our best content forward, creating a dynamic Social Knowledge Management Environment where documents are continuously improved by engineers.


·         Expertise Acceleration: Our Social Knowledge Management Environment expedites the process of transforming new users into expert engineers. Before Tech Zone, new engineers were on their own, absorbing knowledge with varying degrees of success and delaying their “Time to Expert.” With Tech Zone, even the newest engineers have an environment that allows them to consume up-to-date content more rapidly and identify experts worldwide who can enhance their knowledge and capabilities.


·         Content Lifecycle:  In the past, collaboration occurred in environments such as email that were not engineered to facilitate easy content storage. Social Knowledge Management Environments, like Tech Zone, capture the results of real time engineer-to-engineer collaborations and provide an organizational structure to create reusable knowledge assets. These assets are ranked using our proprietary CQF algorithm  and published outside of Tech Zone for the benefit of our customers.


·         Knowledge Trace Back: Tech Zone enables real-time tracking of an asset’s provenance. Specifically, knowing who, when, and how an article came to exist is valuable and important for any organization. Our Social Knowledge Management Environment connects experts to their contributions, making it possible to trace back and discover the true origin of any knowledge article. This capability drives deeper engagement, fosters mentorships among engineers, reduces duplicate efforts, and enables a more efficient workflow.

Supporting quotes from TAC engineers:


“The two biggest impacts Tech Zone has had for us is the reuse of knowledge in the discussion forums and quick and easy dissemination of document issues across teams in all theatres. The discussion forums provide visibility, track ability, and knowledge reuse for individual customer cases. Before Tech Zone, a recurring problem might be identified by a Subject Matter Expert and disseminated locally, or best case distributed by e-mail and then quickly forgotten about. Now, common issues are documented in searchable documents easily accessed by CSEs at all sites. Tech Zone has had an enormous impact on the operational efficiency of the Technical Services organization.“

- Adam Frankel, Unified Communications TAC Engineer from US



"Tech Zone has given a lot to TAC newbies like me and I sure would want to give back in whatever way I can!"

- Vinay Raichur, Voice TAC Engineer from India


“This is an excellent website, I didn't know this existed until a couple days ago. The reason I like Tech Zone is the contributors are doing a fantastic job explaining concepts in simple and easy to understand language. I myself was able to understand quite a few concepts.

- Rahul Munot, Sales Engineer from US


“What people like today is to have very powerful tools that are very easy to use. (...) tools are amazingly powerful (as Tech Zone is)”

-Tristan Van Egroo, SP Edge TAC Engineer from Belgium


Tech Zone has successfully created a model for dynamic corporate memory, displaying how knowledge can be leveraged, not only internally, but externally across Cisco as well. So well, in fact, that other organizations within Cisco and Cisco partners have requested Social Knowledge Management solutions similar to Tech Zone.


Tech Zone's success is the result of three main components:

 End-to-End Content Creation and Consumption: Collaborations between TAC engineers often contain large amounts of information spread out over multiple emails, messages, and tools. Tech Zone is able to act as an environment that captures and compiles these chunks of information into cohesive articles that can be cataloged and later referenced by engineers experiencing similar problems. The most helpful articles are published outside Cisco where they can be directly consumed by customers either on the corporate website or via the Cisco mobile application.


 Fully Integrated Workflow: Tech Zone takes collaboration to the next level by not only providing an environment for TAC engineers to work together, but also integrates within the existing TAC workflow.  The Solution Buddy application binds Tech Zone with the TAC engineer case handling tool, MyWorkZone, to surface relevant Tech Zone  content for assisting engineers to solve open customer issues.




Reputation and Gamification: Gamification is leveraged to drive user engagement and innovation. Tech Zone recently launched a competition called "Knowledge Champions League" to empower engineers and drive the creation of valuable content in their respective technology spaces by teaming them up with similar engineers from different countries. Winners will be able to travel around the world to meet their colleagues.


knowledge champs.jpg

Another successful gamification initiative was the “Best Greasemonkey Widget Contest,” for which engineers competed to create widgets that could enhance the Tech Zone user experience. Over 300 engineers submitted unique widgets and several were selected by the engineers to be implemented directly into Tech Zone.




Tech Zone has grown in three main areas:


  1. Value: Tech Zone's initially focused on creating an internal repository for content that TAC engineers could leverage to collaborate, improve, and reuse to better solve customers’ cases. The next step was to share this content with Cisco's customers by externalizing TAC-authored content from Tech Zone to the Cisco website. These externalized articles have saved Cisco a total of nearly $10 million from February 2013 to January 2014.
  2. Participation: Participation in Tech Zone has skyrocketed since its launch. Tech Zone's user base has increased by 103% since 2012 to more than 26,500 registered users and content has grown by 145% to more than 23,300 TAC-authored articles. Although Tech Zone initially targeted TAC engineers, the user base has grown exponentially; so much so that the original TAC engineers represent only 21.6% of the population of Tech Zone.

participation chart.jpg



3. Mobility: Starting December 2013, content from Tech Zone has been included in the new Mobile application (Cisco Technical Support), available for both iOS and Android. Since then, there have been almost 18,000 application downloads, and TAC authored articles from Tech Zone have received a total of almost 12,000 mobile views. The addition of these documents to the Cisco Technical Support mobile app has been well received by the Tech Zone community.



mobile app.gif


Customer feedback:

[Tech Zone Docs] are the publicly available documents that TAC has written to recommended best practices or address common customer issues, and many of them are pure gold!


Review by Ethan Banks, Network Architect, Chase Paymentech Solutions, Co- Host of Packet Pushers


Business Impact


The business impact for Cisco's Technical Assistance Center grew significantly in 2013 due to increasing participation, mobile access, and content externalization. Articles published on that resulted from collaboration within Tech Zone received 1.7 million views and saved Cisco nearly $10M due to case avoidance from February 2013 through January 2014. The rate of cost savings due to external articles has grown significantly each quarter, and this trend is projected to continue. For example, the quarterly cost savings increased by 48% over the last two fiscal quarters.

Although our primary focus in 2013 was leveraging Tech Zone to benefit Cisco's TAC, as word of this success spreads, our engagements are expanding to include other teams within Cisco, Cisco Partners, and external customers.  We are currently working with several other groups to specify and build similar Social Knowledge Management Environments that integrate into their workflows.  We believe we can continue to apply these environments to transform business processes in ways that deliver significant benefit to users and measurable value to the organization, and continue to serve our customers in new and creative ways, leveraging our expertise with Social Knowledge.



jack-denise-avatar.jpgDenise Jack is Lithium's Director of Customer Programs and is primarily responsible for showcasing Lithium customers’ success in social customer experience. She has more than 12 years of experience in customer marketing, technical sales and management consulting. Denise is a regular blogger for Lithium and in the Lithosphere you'll see her as DeniseJ. You can follow her on Twitter at @lithiumtech or @denisejack


About the Author
Denise Jack is Lithium's VP of Global Field Marketing. She has more than 14 years of experience in customer marketing, technical sales and management consulting. You can follow her on Twitter at @denisejack.
1 Comment
Occasional Commentator

Dear Denise Jack as a network security expert I must admire your knowledge about the Cisco’s Technical Assistance. A worthy share indeed.