Communities of Client Knowledge and Expertise (CAKE)     


Vagner Figueredo de Santana photo

Communities of Client Knowledge and Expertise (CAKE) - overview

Communities of Account Knowledge and Expertise (CAKE)


The relationship between organizations and their clients are complex and multifaceted and requires a great deal of knowledge and expertise about each individual client’s business needs, requirements, practices, and the like. This is particularly true in the context of IT service delivery where the boundary between service providers and their clients grows increasingly dimer. On the other hand, the challenges of managing all knowledge as well as the broad set of stakeholder involved in such relationship become increasingly more complex.

Traditional approaches for knowledge management and client-relationship management are limited to the extent that they rely primarily on the formalization of knowledge and relationships. That is, they assume the possibility of capturing, storing, and retrieving information of the past to help people in problems of future, irrespective of the future contexts in which information will be required. Also, they assume clear (formal) contact points, agendas, and significant levels of mutual understanding between organizations.

Today’s business realities demands more nuanced and distributed approaches for helping organizations manage the relationships with their clients, notwithstanding.

CAKE is a research project that investigates the everyday practices and technologies of large scale IT service delivery organizations in order to devise new methods and technologies to improve not only service processes but, more important, the relationship between these organizations and their clients. To this end, this project has conducted a series of ethnographic studies of service practices and designed and implemented a system, clientfaces, that aims at better organizing and representing the knowledge of clients. This project also looks into new theoretical foundations for understanding and conceptualizing IT service delivery to support the design of new service processes and technologies.

Ethnography of Service Practices

In the past 2 years, this project has been studying the ways that IT service delivery operates and, in so doing, is devising new mechanisms (technological and otherwise) to improve service delivery practices. In particular, it has conducted a series of field studies in a large IT service delivery site, which has provided important insights into the ways that everyday work is performed. As a result, the project identified important information elements that come to be construed as critical for supporting a particular client—the knowledge of the client. On the whole, this project investigates the question of how knowledge and expertise are shared, maintained, negotiated, and even lost as service deliver personnel go about their everyday work activities.

clientfaces – A Social Technology in Support of Client Relationship

clientfaces is a one stop shop for the knowledge of client designed to improve how service organizations manage their client relationships. It is a social system that consolidates, organizes, and represents the various facets and information sources of and about clients. clientfaces is comprised of four main types of information sources: people, status, agenda, and knowledge.

clientfaces architecture diagram
  • People consolidates all individuals who have been somehow involved with a particular client and can consequently offer important information about it.
  • Status represents the current situation of the client as measured by, say, the number of projects in discussion, issues being addressed, and the like.
  • Agenda brings about the internal and external temporal scenario of the client, such as, important business dates as well as project deadlines.
  • Knowledge aggregates and manages the various sources of information about the client. It also promotes the flow of information exchanges among various people in order to maintain a lively and up-to-date understanding about the client.

clientfaces has also been designed to suit different usage scenarios and requirements. While a technician or a system administrator (sysadmin) will be hastily looking for pieces of information to help them better understand the problem at hand, executives will have an overview of the status of their clients by quickly glancing at the status representation on their smartphones. Thus, its interface was designed to work on different types of devices: from a desktop to a smartphone to a wall-display.

clientfaces thus aims at supporting service organizations by creating a more effective and efficient means of client knowledge and expertise creation, sharing, and management.