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Knowledge Management 101

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7967019132_3e8442065c_z (1)One of the ITIL processes that tends to be glossed over is Knowledge Management which is a shame because it’s the process that can empower your people the most. Used effectively, Knowledge Management can empower your people, reduce Incident resolution times and increase customer satisfaction.

So what is Knowledge Management?

Knowledge Management is the process responsible for sharing perspectives, ideas, experience and information, and for ensuring that these are available in the right place and at the right time. The Knowledge Management process enables informed decisions, and improves efficiency by reducing the need to rediscover knowledge.

In other words, Knowledge Management is the process that takes all the information rattling around in our heads and puts it into a database / management system where it can be captured, shared and backed up.


 

What are the benefits? Too many to count!

  • How about increased engagement and staff retention? Take it from someone who knows staff attrition can be a nightmare especially in a Service Desk environment. Anything that can be done to improve morale and self esteem will increase engagement and help with staff retention. This can be in the form of training, mentoring or shift left.
  • Improved first time fix rates and improved Incident resolution times. If your people have the right skills, they will be able to resolve Incidents more quickly reducing call waiting times, improving up time and increasing ability to meet agreed service levels.
  • Less failed Changes. If service information is captured correctly the Change can be impact assessed more accurately and your team will be less likely to miss things. You know those wash up meetings where a Change has broken something because of a really daft reason? The meetings where the Incident and Change Managers are trying to write to the business explaining said daft reason?  It happens all the time. Off the top of my head I can remember a critical trade floor application being out of service for 8 hours because a time change wasn’t done correctly and the time the transactional website of a large retail back was down for over 2 hours because we forgot to restart a database as part of a planned Release. Both really daft things that caught us out because when we went back to look at our processes, they weren’t documented properly.

 

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Don’t get caught out, document your processes properly

  • Easier to find the right information at the right time – no more faffing about trying to find that key how to guide – it will be saved and linked to in one central location. This is particularly important in big organisations where things can get lost or misplaced within massive intranets.
  • No more reinventing the wheel. Having a Knowledge Management process means that reusing ideas, processes and experience is so much easier – making our processes repeatable and accurate using models and templates.
  • Getting the message out – again it’s about getting it right first time – the right information to the right audience.The Knowledge Base can be a great way to communicate with our customers;  think about it – if it’s the go to place for  everyone to check in use it to communicate new services or maintenance windows.
  • Promoting accurate, repeatable processes procedures and work instructions – a standard way of working that stands up to audit and external review. If everything is templated in a central location with an agreed review process, your processes and procedures will be accurate, useful and have a consistent look and feel.
  • Making niche or specialised knowledge more widely available. When I worked in second line support for a tech company 15 years ago, I was fascinated with Lotus Notes. It used to really bug me that every time we had a user call in with a Notes issue we had to sanity check and then bounce the call to third line support, so one day I went to see the e-mail team and asked them if there were some basic things they could teach me. There may have been some beer related bribery involved but I got some solid experience supporting the application and was able to share with the rest of the team. Also – when the Notes guys were looking for guinea pigs to try out a new instant messaging product – guess who was first in line? Everyone was a winner!
  • Empowering your customers and taking their experience to the next level – Self service and self help. We live in the world of Google, Amazon and Facebook; no one wants to spend 10 – 15 minutes on the phone to the Service Desk if it’s something they can take care of themselves so let’s start building this into our Service Desk functions!
  • Struggling to know what level of empowerment to aim for? This is how I’d love every business customer to feel when using IT services.
  • Speed of delivery– you can react quicker if you’re lean, streamlined and organised. If you have effective Knowledge Management in place you can be quicker to market – no more faffing about for a key document. RFP response template or spreadsheet – they’re all stored in one place.
  • Continual Service Improvement or CSI – improve improve improve. Knowledge Management drives CSI – gathering Data and processing Wisdom (more about this soon) enables us to focus on the most business critical areas to improve. Keep getting better. As the saying goes- knowledge is power so use it to ensure quality is inherent in everything you do.

What’s not to love?

How do I get started?

Let’s start with the basics. I know ITIL suggests the SKMS but being realistic – not everyone can afford a tool which has been hyped up to be effectively Google. Also – there is no one size fits all; the Knowledge Management requirements of a global investment bank regulated to the hilt will be completely different to those of a tech startup made up of thirty people so flex your approach accordingly.

If you don’t have a tool can you start capturing the basics on a network share or simple SharePoint form?

Have a chat with the Service Desk. Chances are they’re already doing some sort of Knowledge Management even if it’s pretty informal. Look at the shift left principle; empowering those the next tech level down from you to drive efficiency. If you work on the Service Desk, invite the second line support guys to your team meetings once a month to give you trouble shooting tips.  The first line support guys get to add to their skillset and second line support are freed up to concentrate on the more complex issues.

The main thing? Do something. Seriously – it’s that simple.

Anything you do will be better than not having anything in place. Start with the system that you know you’re on dodgy ground with support wise. Think about it – there’s always some quirky legacy system that depends on the expertise of one or two people. Having support rockstars is all well and good but what if they get sick or win the lotto and decide to relocate to Disneyworld? Ask them what their top ten support tips are and stick them in your Knowledge Base – even if it’s just a spreadsheet or word document. You’ve made a start in capturing key information about a difficult to support system so I’m calling that a win. At least it’s a start right? And that’s the thing – once you’ve made a start with Knowledge Management you can build on it over time until you’ve got a process that supports and empowers your people.


 

Up next I’ll be talking about the Knowledge Management process and the DIKW model so stay tuned. What are your thoughts on getting started with Knowledge Management? Let us know in the comments!

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2 Responses to " Knowledge Management 101 "

  1. Eoin Grace says:

    Hi Vawn, thanks for the interesting post. In days gone by when asked about the most important process to start within a Service Management project, I would have defaulted to the traditional Incident & Change processes. As the years have gone on, I continually come back to the point that these processes (and many others) are not as effective as they could be and in some cases fail, down to a lack of a Knowledge Management process. For those looking at toolsets, the most cost effective KMDB I have setup in the past, used a shared folder for storing knowledge and a free module of SharePoint called “Search Server” which allowed you to search the folder and file contents via a “google” style web page. I am sure in the current day, there are many more suitable (and simple) tools available.

  2. Thanks for a great article! Your list of KM benefits is excellent. We at KM Institute offer introductory, advanced and certification programs in the discipline of knowledge management. We do not promote a specific tool, but rather emphasize the timeless principles of knowledge sharing, collaboration, and other processes that enable effective organizational learning. Face-to-face and online classes available. Click here for more details: http://www.kminstitute.org