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

“”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: How would 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 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.

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

Bruce Power’s situation is not uncommon, says H.A. Schade, director of product development for Kana Software Inc. “”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 were 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.

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.””

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. 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.””

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