Re-Engineering Knowledge Systems

Simplify the User Experience

Blaise Pascal, the 17th-century French philosopher and mathematician, once wrote to a friend, “I have made this letter longer than usual, only because I have not had time to make it shorter.”  While humorous, this statement reveals much about the process of simplification – which often involves reiterative efforts to strip away the non-essential and crystallize what is truly relevant.

Most rookie Quality System auditors quickly realize that complex text-dominent documentation provides a fertile hunting ground for finding disconnects between documented requirements and actual practice.

So, how does a QA professional entice personnel to reach out to the internal knowledge system(s) with the same regularity as more universally accepted information discovery tools such as Google and Wikipedia?

One way is to offer a similar experience, where information is presented in a manner that caters to the user’s appetite – meaning they can continue searching and drilling down until answers are obtained that provide the level of detail sought.

Following are a few ideas and suggestions for making an electronic information system dynamic and engaging to the user while also improving implementation compliance.


 Suggestions for Dynamic Content & Navigation

Simplify the Presentation of Information:  Wherever possible, express information using infographics – visual images such as flowcharts for processes and simple, clear charts or matrices if information can be categorized, such as for responsibilities.  Each flowchart shape or matrix box may be a link allowing the user to drill down for greater detail.  Requirements buried deep in text are easily overlooked.

Each Requirement in One Location Only:  Linking allows for the elimination of duplicate information, and thus the ability to design out the possibility of conflicting requirements.  By adhering to the One Requirement – One Location Rule, the costs associated with duplication, confusion and non-conformance can be reduced.  Wikipedia provides an excellent model for on-page and off-page linking and navigation.  When circumstances call for a requirement to be duplicated, such as a form, identify clear transability to the master (primary) requirement location.

Generous Use of Media: 
If a picture says a thousand words, then imagine the powerful impact that multimedia can have on implementation – meaning requirements are fully and consistently cemented into actual practice.  Implementation depth soars when audio and video media tools are provided to supplement requirements expressed in other forms.  Such tools can be made accessible 24/7 for education and training purposes.

On-Page & Global Search Features:  Integrate search capability at the localized subject matter level as well as throughout the documentation system.  When showing breadcrum trails, use intuitive nomenclature so each page’s position within the overall site structure is easily determined.