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Knowledge workers are at the sharp end of Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPO). KPO involves confidentiality agreements; documented procedures and business rules; contracted service levels; systems for process control, quality assurance and accounting; training; testing; daily supervision; independent sampling; performance review; issue and feedback mechanisms; and project management. The knowledge worker underpins this infrastructure. A good one has all of the following attributes.

 

1. A sense of responsibility towards the client`s business

A client`s in-house data teams and its customers depend on the fitness-for-purpose of data captured and delivered: it`s the very stuff of the client`s business and its market position. Notwithstanding protective service level agreements, and all checks and balances, the great value of data should not be forgotten.

2. Reliability

Knowledge workers are actual or virtual employees of the client. Regular attendance and full focus make for a stable service.

3. Discretion

Whether data handled and delivered is personal or freely in the public domain, it is for the client only. Data security is paramount.

4. Domain knowledge

Understanding of industry concepts and terminology can be fundamental to delivery of a service that looks and feels like the real thing. Expertise brought to a service by a graduate or professional may not be directly relevant to an outsourced task but provides a receptive mind for the transfer of task-specific client knowledge, and an appreciation of nuances that differentiate precise data from imprecise.

5. The ability to assimilate new information quickly

Whatever knowledge a worker brings to the service in general, the key is to be able to readily understand the outsourced task in particular.

 

6. Willingness to do repetitive or unglamorous tasks

Knowledge workers from certain cultures tend to be much more able to bear mundanity and repetition, while still retaining pride and a sense of commitment. Outsourced tasks do tend to come from the lower end of a chain of client data processes, simply because in-house staff attrition, accuracy and productivity tend to be worse at that end, and not necessarily because tasks at the upper end are not suitable for outsourcing — they are.

7. The ability to apply (complex) instructions

Decision-making raises KPO above plain data entry. Decisions are embodied in documented rules, aiming to minimize subjectivity as much as possible. But, such rules may rely on data context, understanding of domain concepts and terms, and logical inference to be accurately applied to the satisfaction of the client and of its customers.

8. Consistency

Applying rules in the same way all the time is critical both at the level of the individual and of the whole data team. In team reviews, clarification and illustration of rules and feedback on errors aid this, but the onus is on each knowledge worker to carry through this ever-growing competency consistently into each day`s work.

9. The ability to recognize an exceptional circumstance (and do something about it)

All rules have exceptions, and many of these will be documented. But, real life continually throws up documents and situations that are not explicitly or unambiguously treated in the service manual. With these, there is no room for assumption, which is a root of error and inconsistency. Importantly, these novelties should be communicated to the client through an established channel, so that documentation can be updated with a correct treatment for the new case, which the data team will then learn.

10. Willingness to develop

Requirements change, and new ones come along as the outsourcing relationship evolves. Learning brand new processes, absorbing new information and procedures, and assimilating instructional and user software changes, are a way of life that should have the least possible impact on service continuity and the client`s business.

11. Competence with user interfaces

All kinds of software is used to capture data, some of it the client`s own. A general experience with navigation and technology enables focus to quickly move to the task itself.

12. Keyboard skills

Speed and accuracy while never looking at the keyboard is the expectation.
Take a look: could you do this every day (and do it well)? 

Simon Bates  

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