Cherwell IT Service Management Blog
Resources, Best Practices, and Solutions for ITSM Pros

The Importance of Being Knowledgeable

Posted by

I had a friend who often said, “I know it was a mistake now. I’m just the kind of person who needs to experience it for myself in order to learn.” Unfortunately, she’d already made a series of easily avoidable mistakes.

When Spanish-American philosopher, George Santayana said, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” he wasn’t just talking about personal histories. Instead, part of a committing a mistake is failing to learn from the advising sources who have already experienced something. Whether that source is a parent or book, you’re almost certainly repeating a mistake someone has made before.

That is why people read books. In a sense, they experience something so that they too can learn from it, rather than continue in flawed thinking or mistaken behavior.

It’s the same for knowledge in the ITSM world. Once one person learns something, you’re repeating history if you don’t share the knowledge in an efficient way. Once it’s in the system, everyone should be able to access it and know it. According to Malcom Fry, the goal of knowledge is “creating a common mind.” Say one member takes ten minutes to resolve an incident, but adds the resolution steps to the knowledge base. Now, the rest of the team can solve it in half that time. That’s five minutes saved every time the incident comes up.

But simply adding loads of data into a database and expecting it to provide knowledge is a mistake too. Simply by definition, data is a large collection of facts and hard evidence. Information is understandable insights on patterns and trends. Knowledge, though, is modeled information that provides a solution for the specific context.

Malcolm Fry says the problem bluntly, “The problem is IT often knows surprisingly little about their customers.” Often, determining a correct context starts with making it specific to who the user is.

  • What is the employee’s role and in what department, or is he or she an external end-user?
  • Is there a way to limit the knowledge provided to tasks this role is likely to be completing?
  • What are the customer’s long term goals?

Knowing the answers to these questions will help you provide the right short term solutions. Use this to your advantage to model information into knowledge.

Knowledge loses its purpose when it is not context specific. This is especially important when you think of new roles for knowledge. With self service, contextualized knowledge is more important than ever before. The end-user probably doesn’t have the know-how to intuitively choose the correct solution out of large list of options. Without contextualization, you’ll be offering end-users a less-than-helpful list of hundreds of frequently asked questions. Here, you might as well be providing them with raw data. Instead, use knowledge and context to limit knowledge into a range of relevant solutions.

How do you learn from the past to provide relevant solutions?