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Acquisition Spree Leaves Marconi in Need of
Knowledge Management (KM)
When Marconi went on a shopping spree and acquired 10 telecommunications companies over a three-year period, it faced a serious challenge: How could the $3 billion manufacturer of telecommunications equipment ensure that its technical support agents knew enough about newly acquired technology to provide quickand accurate answers to customers on the phone? And how could Marconi bring new agents up to speed on all the company’s products?
Marconi’s technical support agents?500 engineers scattered in 14 call centers around the globe?field approximately 10,000 questions every month about the company’s products. Before the acquisitions, agents had relied on Tactics Online, an extranet where they andcustomers could search for frequently asked questions and text documents. As new agents and products joined the company’s ranks, Marconi wanted to supplement the website with a more comprehensive knowledge management system. As engineers from the newly acquired companies came on board, however, they were hesitant to share their knowledge about the products they had been supporting. "They felt thattheir knowledge was a security blanket that helped guarantee their jobs," says Dave Breit, director of technology and R&D for managed services in Warrendale, Pa. "With all of the acquisitions, it was essential that we all avoid hoarding knowledge and share it instead."
At the same time, Marconi wanted to streamline its customer service organization by making more of its product and systemsinformation available directly to customers and shortening the length of customer calls. "We wanted to leverage the Web for customer self-service versus increasing the number of agents," Breit says. "We also wanted to provide our frontline engineers [who interact directly with customers] with more information more quickly so that they could resolve more calls faster."

Building on a KM FoundationWhen Marconi began evaluating knowledge management technologies in the spring of 1998, the concept of sharing knowledge among agents was nothing new. Agents were already accustomed to working in teams of three or four people, gathering in war room fashion to solve customers’ technical issues. And a year earlier, Marconi had started basing a percentage of agents’ quarterly bonuses on the amountof knowledge they submitted to Tactics Online as well as their involvement with mentoring and training other agents. "Each agent was expected to teach two training classes and write 10 FAQs to earn their full bonus," says Breit. "When we brought new companies online, the new agents received the same bonus plan. This approach allowed us to build a very open knowledge-sharing environment."
Toaugment Tactics Online, Marconi chose software from ServiceWare Technologies, in part because its technology would integrate easily with the company’s Remedy CRM system, which agents use to log incoming calls from customers and track other customer interactions. In addition, says Breit, Marconi wanted its agents to populate its existing Oracle database of product information.

Breit’sdivision spent six months implementing the new system and training agents. The system?dubbed KnowledgeBase?is linked to the company’s CRM system and is powered by the Oracle database. The integrated view of Marconi’s customers and products provides agents with a comprehensive history of interactions. Technical support agents can, for example, put markers in the database and immediately pick up at thepoint where the customer last spoke with another agent.
On the Front Line
Tactics Online complements the new system. "The data stored in KnowledgeBase are specific troubleshooting tips and hints on our various product lines," says Zehra Demiral, manager of knowledge management systems. "Tactics Online, on the other hand, is more of a doorway for customers to come into our customer support...
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