His experience led him to work on KM projects for The World Bank, The Harvard Business School, and MIT, where he was introduced to ‘the cutting-edge of Artificial Intelligence (AI).’ Sedarius recognized that the two fields were a perfect match as automation with AI had the potential to solve all the pain points associated with manually managing information. Eventually, Sedarius established a company that built custom KM platforms, SharePoint sites, and portals for clients where he got to apply the R&D in the field of AI to actual projects. “We worked with NLP and ML to automate content tagging and auto-categorization,” adds Sedarius.
However, Sedarius and his team constantly encountered a problem with many of their clients. “No matter how much money people spent on SharePoint or building portals, they almost always complained that they were too complex, difficult to use, and it was tough to find stuff,” he recalls. Whether it was a Fortune 500 insurance company with offices around the U.S. or a consulting firm with offices all over the world, the problem was the same.
"We’re going to win by having the most innovative product in the marketplace"
It was here that Sedarius decided to develop a well-defined KM solution built on AI that could solve the problem that every company faced—the complexities and difficulties in finding relevant knowledge when required. By bringing in a senior executive from the previous company, and by partnering with a start-up veteran who had successfully built two companies from scratch, Sedarius and his team went on to establish Shelf. The rest, as they say, is history.
Building the New Vision of KM
Companies can unlock new dimensions in productivity if they can make the right knowledge available at the right time to the right person in a streamlined and intuitive manner. However, “KM is not sexy. It requires a painful, grinding effort to handle an organization’s content,” says Sedarius. “We’ve personally worked in this field for over a decade and always have seen its great potential for impact and change, but, unfortunately, more often than not, KM has been plagued by shortcomings,” he adds. And that’s a part of the reason why the idea of KM, despite its promising potential, has not earned widespread appeal.
Many enterprise leaders still do not consider KM as an absolute necessity. First off, there is little means to measure ROI of KM initiatives accurately. Secondly, most KM solutions are not built to align well with the workflow styles of today’s enterprises.
Shelf enables other AI platforms to learn faster and provide more meaningful content, allowing companies to get a better ROI out of their AI investments
Overcoming these drawbacks, Shelf is driven by the new vision of KM, where knowledge automation takes center stage.
The Age of Knowledge Automation
Shelf’s vision is to continually align with the evolving ways that humans work and interact. “The promise of KM is straight forward; to connect questions to answers as quickly and easily as possible,” says Sedarius. Traditionally this meant heavy training, cheat sheets, knowledge bases, content repositories, and many other tools prone to human error. In such an approach, the Achilles Heel of KM was the time-consuming maintenance tasks that an analyst or manager needed to perform to keep the system up-to-date and accurate. They often needed to perform these tasks along with a multitude of other time-sensitive activities that had a higher priority.
Another major issue with the traditional management of knowledge was that it was difficult to measure the effectiveness of the overall program. No one could answer questions such as what content was most important, where were users losing time, who were the best performers, or was the overall system helping or hurting performance.
Meanwhile, workplaces across the globe today are becoming increasingly distributed and more intelligent, with companies moving away from centralized legacy software to adopting specialized SaaS solutions. In this modern workplace, the traditional model of KM is being massively disrupted by the merging of three trends: the maturation of the cloud, the next generation of big data & analytics, and advancements in artificial intelligence. Knowledge tasks that used to require massive human effort are increasingly being replaced by automated, intelligent technology. The modern workforce lives and dies by their ability to quickly learn, share key learning, and take the right action at the right time.
Shelf strives to be the facilitator in helping companies unlock these abilities through the power of automation. The transformation of KM to knowledge automation enhances knowledge accessibility and lends transparency to how people use content—significantly reducing the administrative overhead. This exponentially increases the effectiveness of a small number of people and improves the flow of knowledge in the organization.
For realizing this objective, Shelf believes that KM (Intelligence) still involves people and processes. “Trying to force technology on people—no matter how advanced or effective it can be—will usually lead to failure,” adds Sedarius. A process of setting up, properly onboarding, and training the people that are using the technology is a critical step that is surprisingly skipped by many companies.
Today’s companies have several concerns regarding their KM initiatives: How do I integrate KM into my other business systems to make them more intelligent? How do we go about maintaining our frequently changing, unstructured information so that the KM solution remains a trusted resource for our end users? How do I standardize content delivery across channels so that the information helps our people consistently make better decisions? How can I leverage KM to get more out of my AI investments? How do I simplify the end-user experience around KM so remote workers are in the loop, and new employees can get up to speed quicker?
Shelf answers these questions by centralizing content delivery. It can seamlessly integrate with other core business systems and automate the delivery of knowledge to end-users. The offering provides an intuitive interface for end-users and a best-in-class search feature, ensuring that information can be accessed in a fraction of the time it used to take. Shelf enables other AI platforms to learn faster and provide more meaningful content, allowing companies to get a better ROI out of their AI investments. “We also apply our own AI and analytics to simplify life for those responsible for maintaining KM content,” adds Sedarius. Shelf emphasizes knowledge automation for surfacing relevant information the moment end users need it, as opposed to having to stop what they’re doing to find it themselves. By reducing the friction that has historically been associated with traditional KM solutions, Shelf is helping ensure that employees are using the most current, best available information at all times.
HireRight, HelloFresh, Gerber Life Insurance, Indeed, and DaVita are few among many enterprises that use Shelf today. They chose Shelf because of its ability to streamline knowledge discovery and simplify the maintenance and upkeep of their ever-changing knowledge assets. Shelf’s success stories are aplenty. One of their clients, an automotive assistance company, was looking for a way to improve the efficiency of their customer support function in a significant and sustainable way. Working with them, Shelf identified significant bottlenecks created by their employees’ inability to retrieve answers deep in car manuals and other large documents. By integrating Shelf with their key systems, the client was able to eliminate the need to “task switch,” and instead, employees automatically found the answers they needed. This resulted in a massive efficiency gain. The average time for information retrieval in this business unit dropped from 3.5 minutes to under 30 seconds.
The VP of a Fortune 500 company once said, “We use Shelf to take one of our new employees and instantly give them the knowledge of a veteran with five years experience. Shelf saved our content team 100’s of hours a month,” said the Vice President of Customer Service of a leading research firm, another one of Shelf’s satisfied clients.
A Promising Road Ahead
With a growing list of happy clients, and having carved a unique niche in the market, the company had explosive growth this year, and Sedarius anticipates that the company will continue to rapidly grow for the next 7-10 years. “We’re going to win by having the most innovative product in the marketplace. The things we’re going to release in the next years are going to fundamentally change how people acquire knowledge and learn,” says Sedarius. Rest assured, the clients of Shelf can take comfort in knowing that their KM initiatives are in the best hands.