IT Knowledge Management: It’s Not As Hard As You Think

Experienced service desk staff know that having access to effective knowledge is at least as valuable as the solutions IT uses.

Experienced service desk staff know that having access to effective knowledge is at least as valuable as the solutions IT uses.

Knowledge Management is one of those service management topics that’s always low on the list of things to talk about and implement because it’s considered hard. Yet, how many times have you read about the “next big thing” that will make service desk tasks faster and easier to perform and promising lots of sparkling functionality? Knowledge Management can do just that. It’s a proven concept that will save time and money and is already at your fingertips.

Experienced service desk staff know that having access to effective knowledge is at least as valuable as the solutions IT uses. I’m talking about the type of knowledge that’s often overlooked: The context-rich know-how that’s interwoven into the type of environment customers operate within, the type of infrastructure IT has to work with and the types of tasks to be performed. It’s that collective knowledge that’s only acquired by responding to and addressing problems specific to their environment and customers’ needs.

So why is knowledge management often overlooked? Because this knowledge is locked in the heads of employees and doesn’t get shared. This then amplifies all of the fire-fighting issues that service desk face such as longer resolution times, inconsistency in resolution, and loss of knowledge when staff leaves.

There are probably lots of ways to resolve this issue, but the one I favour is Knowledge Centered Support (KCS). KCS is a methodology for building an effective knowledge management system as a by-product of day-to-day support activity. As a result, you’ll have a centralized repository of best methods and information about common issues. KCS ensures that lessons learned once are accessible to all, even if the employee who first solved the problem has left the company.

One of the biggest objections I hear to Knowledge Management is that it’s too time consuming to build up that information base and staff are already too busy resolving incidents and problems. But if you incorporate it into resolution workflow, it becomes a much simpler proposition.

Through the right processes, staff can capture, approve and publish information as they work. For example, when a resolution is entered into your service desk system, you give your staff the option to turn that resolution into a piece of knowledge that can be shared with others. It’s as fast and simple as that! (Of course as part of that process you may wish to include a review and authorise loop before it’s published.)

Once that knowledge is available it’s just a matter of getting it into the hands of the right people to use it to ensure its acted on. Publishing by roles such as first line support or the customer of IT ensure that only the information they need to see will be available and you don’t inundate your audiences with irrelevant data. KCS-based solutions don’t just create and hold the right information—they make it easier to find, use, and manage it.

Version 3 of the ITIL guidelines highlights knowledge transfer, recording of troubleshooting measures, and flagging of known errors. However, ITIL v3 doesn’t given any guidance on how organizations should achieve these goals. KCS fills that gap and tells you how to generate the knowledge, but executing on that knowledge still requires a solution and toolset that combine ITIL service management with powerful knowledge management abilities.

There is no doubt that an effective knowledge-powered service desk will see a reduction in the number of incidents resolved by analysts and, possibly, an increase in customer satisfaction because the easy, repetitive stuff has been removed or addressed through self-service because IT customers now have access to a wealth of information to help themselves.

See, it’s not that hard.