What is Knowledge Management?We all use our own forms of subconscious knowledge management all the time. It’s a key component to our everyday problem solving. If you don’t know a solution to a problem, you’ll figure out who to ask or how to find the information you’re looking for. After you find the solution to a new problem, you store it in your head, or on paper, or on your phone, and recall it when you need it again. That’s why things that used to require critical thinking are now simply routine. How do you get to the new doctor’s office? How do you change the smoke alarm battery? Either you know how to do these things, or you know where to look. We develop our own habits for troubleshooting, for ways to find answers, and after a few times, the answers are engrained. The service desk should do the same for our organization. The knowledge base is the record of all the resources your organization has used for troubleshooting in the past. It doesn’t build itself -- your organization must prioritize its upkeep -- but with a little love and care, it’s a vital first line of defense against repetitive incidents. The benefits are obvious. Effective self-service depends on a robust knowledge base, and self-service can drastically cut ticket volume. Of course, some tickets will come through even with self-service options, and the knowledge base arms service agents with an entire history of effective solutions and workarounds. Technicians (as talented as they may be) will not know the answer to every question that users ask, so it’s nice to have a place to look first. If the answer is not in the knowledge base, they can add it once they’ve found the solution or workaround. Once they do, they’ve saved some time for coworkers when that question comes up in the future. For these reasons, knowledge management is an ITSM best practice for every service desk, no matter the needs of a particular organization. The following article should give you some ideas and prepare you to build an effective knowledge management strategy. It will also show you how new technology is helping the entire organization leverage the knowledge base to solve issues, regardless of ingrained habits.
Knowledge Management for ITSMKnowledge management is the strategy through which an organization produces, stores, and distributes knowledge. You always hear the word “efficiency” as it applies to service management, or specifically, the service desk. Without effective knowledge management, maximum efficiency is impossible. Employees (whether they’re users or service agents) won’t always know how to troubleshoot an issue, and the problem is compounded if they don’t know where to find the answer. Successful knowledge management, in context of a service desk, will help you avoid repeated, cumbersome troubleshooting processes to common problems. There’s no real science or advanced technology behind the concept -- it’s just a common sense way of problem solving. If Bob in sales needs to reset a password, he shouldn’t need to submit a ticket. He should be able to type “password” into the search bar and see instructions for any business account that he uses. If Jane called a meeting but can’t connect to the conference room audio speaker, she should be able to quickly find some troubleshooting methods to avoid disrupting her meeting while she waits for a technician. These are simple, break/fix examples of knowledge management that are applicable to almost every organization. Whether there are thousands of users or only a dozen, and whether IT needs are complex or very basic, these simple break/fix incidents shouldn’t include complicated processes or repetitive steps for every occurrence. The key is setting up a user-friendly access point, and encouraging a little bit of documentation now to save a lot of time later. It’s also important to remember that IT knowledge management provides resources for both employees and technicians. The self-service implications for users will be obvious by the time you finish this article, but as any service desk employee knows, there’s no self-service strategy that can stop the flow of tickets. A broad, detailed, and constantly updated knowledge base will help technicians resolve tickets much more quickly when they do make it to the service desk.
Building a Knowledge BaseThe best part of your knowledge base is that you can always update it. We’ll talk more in the next section about how smart technology is helping the service desk sort, and even suggest articles and resources to users. That will be very helpful as you and your team perfect the art of updating your resources as new incidents occur. And new incidents will always occur. Devices change, technology upgrades occur, and organizational needs change. It’s a lot to digest at the beginning, so start small. Password resets, laptop crashes, and common questions about devices / business tools are good places to start. For a simple example, let’s look at a crash recovery (or as it’s known in some cases, the “blue screen of death”). You’ll see a knowledge article in figure 2-1. It includes a screenshot of the crash and the versions of Windows that might experience this issue. It also includes a link to an article on crashes that may not look like the one in the screenshot.
Figure 2-1As you look at the example above, you can see that it’s useful, but potentially limited. It’s useful if your screen looks like the one in the image. It’s useful because there are a list of related incidents and keywords that might provide context for troubleshooting. But, what if the crash is a related to a monitor issue? What if the crash doesn’t look like the one in the example? Sometimes, the first knowledge article a user or technician finds is not the solution they’re looking for. An effective knowledge base allows for updates to its articles and resources to provide more options. As you can see in figure 2-2, the article was updated to provide options for different types of crashes and links to other areas of the knowledge base for troubleshooting. Perhaps you noticed how many links are in the example. There are seven. This is the beautiful part of an effective knowledge base. You can update each article to cover many possibilities that could be related or could have led a user to this particular resource, and you can redirect the user to a resource that will help them. The example provides links to articles on monitor issues, video issues, a search function for a specific error, and troubleshooting for a “fatal exception error,” to name a few. It shouldn’t take the user more than a few minutes to find the answer he/she is looking for, and of course, there’s always the option to just submit a ticket. You also may have noticed that this article is number 221. There is no limit to the number of articles you can publish for an effective knowledge base. The example refers to Windows issues. If the organization switches to Apple devices, they’ll need to start a similar tree of connected resources for new incidents and troubleshooting methods. Finding subjects to include will be easier than you think. Every organization uses a host of business tools and technology everyday, which leads to FAQs and common breakdowns. When the first line of defense is right at the users’ fingertips, business functions can proceed with minimal disruption.