Why Is ITIL Knowledge Management Vitally Important in an Organization?
Posted by on April 26, 2019
Jeff Battaglino is a well-seasoned IT professional who has focused his career in IT service management, compliance, and security for more than 25 years. He has served in management capacities in retail, manufacturing, financial services, higher education, and technology organizations. He is ITIL v3 certified, HDI Help Desk Manager certified, and is a certified administrator of four of the leading ITSM applications. He has been a frequent presenter at ITIL- and ITSM-focused conferences for more than 15 years.
ITIL's Knowledge Management process takes place in the Service Transition stage of ITIL's five-stage service life cycle model. The process aims to gather, analyze, store, and share knowledge and information within an organization, reducing the need for the organization to rediscover knowledge that it has already gained or developed. Another objective is to improve the quality of decision-making at the management level by ensuring that accurate and reliable information is available throughout the service life cycle.
ITIL Knowledge Management acknowledges that there are four stages to knowledge generation for the IT organization, known as the DIKW hierarchy.
Data - Raw data comes from metrics, things that the IT organization can measure. To improve products and services, IT organizations need to establish metrics that are used to measure their current performance and set goals.
Information - When raw data is combined with context and experience, it becomes information—data that starts to answer our questions about what is going on. To turn data into information, we need to analyze it. The analysis can be done by a person or by a computer, but its purpose is to understand relationships between the data we collect.
Knowledge - Knowledge is what we get when we look at the information that came from data and we actually learn something or gain some insight into what is happening. Sometimes, the data and information that we collect tell us about problems in the IT organization and the knowledge we generate can be used to fix the problem. IT agents or computers can extract knowledge from information by understanding patterns in the information.
Wisdom - Wisdom is the culmination of collected data and analysis. Wisdom is knowing what to do with the knowledge that you gain through the Knowledge Management process and using the data to understand why things are a certain way. To generate real wisdom, we have to understand the principles that produced the data we collected and how we can leverage those principles for better results in the future.
To facilitate the effective sharing of knowledge and information within the business and IT organization, ITIL recommends the implementation of a Service Knowledge Management System (SKMS) that should be accessible for everyone in the organization that may need to obtain information. All of the information generated throughout the entire service management process can be inputs for Knowledge Management, along with data pulled from the Configuration Management Database (CMDB) and Configuration Management System (CMS).
An SKMS is divided into four separate layers, corresponding to the four levels of the DIKW hierarchy:
Data Integration Layer - This layer contains the data sources for the SKMS and serves to integrate data that is needed to successfully run the Knowledge Management system. The data integration layer also houses tools that can be used to apply data as knowledge. Data sources include applications, software discovery tools, service management requests, the CMDB, and others.
Information Integration Layer - This layer of the SKMS works to integrate the information from all areas of the organization into one place. Information that you organization sources externally, such as information from vendor partners, may be integrated into the SKMS in this layer.
Knowledge Processing Layer - This layer allows users to directly report information that can be analyzed in the SKMS. This is where an IT manager could input performance data about staff to determine whether teams were consistently meeting their productivity targets.
Presentation Layer - Allows users to access information in the SKMS, visually presents information and knowledge to users, and may allow users to make updates or edits to the SKMS.
4 Key Knowledge Management Activities
Knowledge management is one of the most unique processes in ITIL because it takes input from all of the other processes in the form of data and outputs information to all of the other processes in the form of knowledge and wisdom. Because it can come from any source, there are no explicit guidelines for the process flow of Knowledge Management; in fact, there are no sub-processes described for Knowledge Management in ITIL at all! Instead, ITIL describes the four key activities that IT managers must undertake to ensure that effective Knowledge Management happens within the organization:
Knowledge Management Strategy - Under the ITIL framework, a Knowledge Manager is the process owner for the process. That person is responsible for establishing a comprehensive Knowledge Management strategy that will help the organization gather and store more information while reducing the need to rediscover knowledge.
Knowledge Transfer - Once a strategy has been established, knowledge managers should determine how the knowledge will be shared among team members and customers and throughout the organization. Knowledge may be made accessible through the SKMS, but it can also be useful to create a communication plan for effectively relaying critical knowledge and notices between departments.
Information Management - The establishment of common practices for information management helps to ensure that data will be collected, reported, and analyzed in a consistent way by everyone who contributes knowledge to the SKMS.
Use of the SKMS - The SKMS is often described as a standalone system, but it's really a set of systems and tools that draws data from a variety of sources, integrates it into information, and presents knowledge that the organization can use.
The Importance of Knowledge Management to the IT Organization
The Knowledge Management process is vitally important to the IT organization, as it allows the organization to accumulate useful knowledge over time while reducing the quantity of resources spent on rediscovering knowledge. Below, we highlight some of the most important ways this process can deliver value through the IT organization.
Effective Knowledge Management ensures that IT staff have adequate access to information.
Processes like Incident Management, Problem Management, and Event Management are valuable sources of data that feed into the Knowledge Management process. When IT agents resolve an incident or event ticket, it creates a report that can be fed into the SKMS through the data integration layer. Through Knowledge Management, the IT organization can gain valuable insight into the most common types of incidents, learn about common errors or bugs that are being reported within the organization, and find opportunities to escalate those issues to problem management or publish the best solution to that issue within the SKMS.
The end result of this type of knowledge sharing is that IT staff have access to the most current knowledge about known bugs and issues, making them better able to service customers and resolve incidents and events as quickly as possible.
Effective Knowledge Management supports a self-help service catalog model that saves time and reduces costs.
As IT issues escalate through the service desk, the total cost of resolving the issue increases with each escalation. Many IT organizations have implemented a self-help service catalog that makes it easy for their customers to resolve incidents or fulfill basic service requests on their own—without the help of a live agent.
Service catalogs are an investment in Knowledge Management for an organization. IT organizations that take the time to document knowledge that customers can use to resolve their own issues can reduce the burden on the service desk and drive down the overall cost of incident management and request fulfillment for the organization.
Effective Knowledge Management centralizes knowledge and supports business continuity, avoids knowledge silos.
Large organizations can generate a lot of knowledge, and without an effective Knowledge Management system (and accompanying SKMS), that knowledge simply lives in the minds of the employees who use it to solve their business and IT problems each day. That might be an effective way to operate in the short term, but what happens when a company loses staff members that hold a lot of insight about the organization and its systems?
ITIL's Knowledge Management process helps to ensure that knowledge generated within the organization stays there even in the face of employee turnover. It also helps to avoid knowledge silos, situations where a certain class or set of knowledge is only available to a specific department, business unit, or other group. With an implemented SKMS, organizational knowledge is available for everyone that needs it, all the time.
Effective Knowledge Management decreases training costs for new agents.
New IT agents joining the business will always take time to get up-to-speed with policies, processes, and the inner workings of your IT systems. With a robust Knowledge Management system, however, it can be much easier to train new employees. A new hire can spend their time reading the knowledge base and reviewing some of the work that other IT staff have done within the knowledge base to get more familiar with your operations and reduce their time-to-productivity as a new hire.
Effective Knowledge Management lays the groundwork for service automation with AI.
IT organizations that wish to be early adopters of Artificial intelligence (AI) for help desk can benefit from the establishment of a robust knowledge base. Artificial intelligence applications will be able to live chat with customers of the service desk, perform automated searches of the knowledge base to find the answers to customer inquiries, and even resolve some incidents without interference from a human agent.
Effective Knowledge Management supports quality decision-making at all levels.
As we mentioned earlier, Knowledge Management feeds into every other process in the service management life cycle. The wisdom generated through this process can influence decision-making right up to the executive level, helping the business and IT organization develop strategic initiatives that are grounded in data that the company itself generated. With an effective Knowledge Management process, organizations no longer have to rely on expensive reports or "industry average" benchmarks—it becomes much easier to track your performance, create your own benchmarks and optimize your business accordingly.
Effective Knowledge Management extracts genuine value from connected data through the DIKW hierarchy.
The Knowledge Management process provides a consistent and repeatable system for organizations to evaluate metrics and extract data from multiple sources, integrate it into information, and generate knowledge and wisdom through the SKMS. This wisdom can be used to inform organizational decision-making, but it also has a real market value in its own right.
IT organizations can leverage their organizational data into knowledge that can be sold to other companies, used to improve their product and service offerings, or used to develop entirely new products and services for the marketplace.
How Does Cherwell ITSM Support Your Knowledge Management Initiatives?
Cherwell's ITSM software platform offers out-of-the-box compliance with 11 of the most commonly adopted ITIL processes, including mission-critical IT functions like Incident Management, request fulfillment, Change Management, and configuration management. These processes generate extensive amounts of data that feeds directly into the Knowledge Management process, helping to drive down ticket resolution and overall IT costs and driving end-user satisfaction.
Cherwell's service platform makes it easy to extend and integrate your Cherwell applications with other platforms, and features such as code-less configuration ensure that you don't have to be a rocket scientist to make it happen. Cherwell's service platform includes automated workflows and actions, search/filter functionality, CMDB, and a presentation layer that visually displays your ITSM in a beautiful and simple interface.
Its ease of integration with other applications and support for critical ITSM processes makes Cherwell an ideal partner for any Knowledge Management implementation.
The Knowledge Management process is vitally important for IT organizations, as it helps to create and distribute knowledge within the organization and reduces the need to rediscover information that has already been learned.
The process is based on the DIKW hierarchy, a system or tool that should be familiar for all IT managers. In this model, data is collected in an SKMS and developed into information through data analysis. Users or computers can then look for patterns in the information with the goal of developing specific knowledge about a problem and its solution. Finally, users can investigate knowledge with the goal of understanding any underlying principles and developing wisdom that can guide the business towards success.
Knowledge Management plays a role in ensuring staff have adequate access to information, reducing on-boarding time for new hires, decreasing training costs, facilitating self-service models and AI automation, and promoting effective, data-driven decision-making at all levels.
Interested in what Cherwell can do for your organization?
Ebook 7 min
7 Deadly Sins of ITIL Implementation
Wondering whether ITIL® is still relevant in today's fast-paced digital environment? ITIL holds many timeless truths, but it can be misapplied when taken too literally. Uncover the seven mistakes commonly made with ITIL implementations, and gain guidance on how you can go faster—while still upholding ITIL's key principles.
White Paper 7 min
ITIL Made Easy: Best Processes and Best Practices
How do you simplify and remain ITIL compliant in today's increasingly dynamic and fast-paced business environment? This white paper details the step-by-step process to achieving ITIL success using the "Golden Triangle" (People, Process, Technology) framework as your guide.