Bruce Power plugs into knowledge management tool

When Christoph Michel joined Bruce Power 18 months ago as director of information technology, he was faced with a broad scope of challenges to address.

“”My role was to seek out ways to apply technology to improve operational

efficiency,”” says Michel. “”One of the issues that immediately came to light was roughly 50 per cent of the staff are going to be eligible for early retirement within the next three to four years.””

That’s half of the firm’s 3,200 employees, which presented Bruce Power, Ontario’s largest independent power generator, with a significant problem to be solved: How did it retain the knowledge of these employees once they had gone?

“”That situation suggested a risk of intellectual capital loss,”” says Michel, “”and thus it may be appropriate to implement measures to mitigate those risks, try to retain knowledge and to provide the people who would remain behind with the tools that they need to be more effective in their work.””

Bruce Power chose Kana IQ, a software tool for providing a self-service knowledge base, and began by implementing it in its HR department. A central knowledge repository was created to provide easier access to information for employees. Kana IQ now supports 20,000 hits per month.

Via a Web browser, users are able to ask questions in their own words and tie them to questions that have been asked by others and subsequently answered.

It means Bruce Power employees now resolve between 200 and 300 routine human resource issues a day, online, freeing up HR to deal with to deal larger, non-routine situations.

But this is just the beginning, says Michel. “”The knowledge domain here is vast. People say ‘high tech’ and typically think about Silicon Valley and chip manufacturing, but the nuclear industry is very high tech. It really combines all of the scientific disciplines and engineering disciplines . . . . There’s a very rich environment here.””

The task ahead is to capture information and make it available to people when, where they need it and in a form they can assimilate, says Michel. “”One of the things we were getting back when I was talking with staff is that it’s very difficult for them to find the information they needed to take effective action,”” he says. “”This was slowing people down.””

Bruce Power is now looking to deploy its knowledge repository across all business units. For instance, a worker assigned to do maintenance on a piece of equipment could not only find out what repairs were last done on that equipment, but also who did the work and what their particular experiences were that might be relevant.

Michel says Bruce Power expects to save more than $7.5 million alone with the HR rollout of Kana IQ, thanks to the efficiencies and redeployment of staff to where they are needed more.

“”Originally I had thought we would have to amortize the expense over several departments before it would really start to make sense,”” he says. “”It far surpassed our expectations.””

Bruce Power’s situation is not an uncommon one, says H.A. Schade, director of product development for Kana. “”What they were dealing with was a relatively (small HR group) tasked with serving a very large population — all of the employees of the company — and really what they were getting asked was the same questions over and over again.””

Kana has a suite of applications that range from full-blown customer contact centre applications to solutions for e-mail response management or the knowledge-based solution that Bruce Power chose, says Schade. “”Kana IQ is a solution that essentially provides a tool and a set of methods for organizing information in such a way that’s easy to provide answers to whoever’s asking the question, whether it’s someone internally or in a self-service fashion.””

Schade says it may be an overgeneralization, (but) “”it’s cheaper to do things using the Web. It’s the exactly the reality our customers are telling us.””

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Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson is a Toronto-based freelance writer who has written thousands of words for print and pixel in publications across North America. His areas of interest and expertise include software, enterprise and networking technology, memory systems, green energy, sustainable transportation, and research and education. His articles have been published by EE Times, SolarEnergy.Net, Network Computing, InformationWeek, Computing Canada, Computer Dealer News, Toronto Business Times and the Ottawa Citizen, among others.

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