Want to Shift Left in ITSM? Implement Knowledge Management

Posted by on July 26, 2017

Want to Shift Left? Implement Knowledge Management

Editor’s note: Catch up on all the posts in our series on the "how" and the "why" of shifting left for ITSM.

Like most only child '80s babies, I spent a lot of time watching television. I attribute a good amount of my vocabulary to WWF wrestling. I drew my sense of fashion through "Saved by the Bell" and "A Different World," and saw what happened when people stopped being polite, and finally started getting real on the "Real World."

Most importantly, I learned from watching "GI Joe" that knowing is half the battle.

It rings true to this day. The more you know, the more you can do.

With most IT organizations being resource strapped, I’m always encouraged by the recognition of the importance of Knowledge Management. On the other hand, I’ve found myself somewhat taken aback by the number of organizations who have yet to establish formal Knowledge Management processes and/or have struggled to implement it. 

Per the 2016 Technical Support Practices and Salary Report:

  • Among support organizations that saw a decrease in ticket volume over the past year, only 18 percent attribute this decrease to Knowledge Management
  • 74 percent of support organizations use Knowledge Management technologies to provide support, and 19 percent plan to update these technologies in the next 12 months

It is outstanding to see that IT organizations recognize the value of Knowledge Management, which specifically enables them to standardize incident resolution and request fulfillment, improve service quality, and increase customer satisfaction.

As we explore the concept of shifting left in IT service management (ITSM), Knowledge Management is critical in helping to move resolution and other activities as close as possible to the end user. By shifting left, these activities are moved to lower cost delivery channels, which optimizes costs and moves resolution earlier in the escalation hierarchy.

Knowledge Management is by no means a slam-dunk. It requires the integration of people, process, and technology, as well as owners to ensure knowledge is easy to find, useful, purposeful, and current. It is often a pre-requisite for another shift left strategy, IT self-service, as knowledge can be repurposed to serve the needs of the business user, as opposed to just being for the support organization.

In speaking with many IT organizations, we see their challenges with Knowledge Management, and offer some recommendations to help them achieve their desired outcomes of resource optimization and higher quality of service.

Challenge: Knowledge hoarding

In the information economy, knowledge hoarding is prevalent, and done at every level of the organization. The challenge is that if your peer knows as much, or more than you do, it can be difficult to understand how you demonstrate your value to the organization. Why should IT be any different?

Approach: Make Knowledge Management a team sport. The reality is at any point in time, information and knowledge can walk out the door, especially in areas of high turnover. The contribution of information and knowledge must be in the job description, in that everyone in support is required (and compensated) in accordance to their contribution. Ad hoc approaches to knowledge can go awry, as seen when your most knowledgeable support analysts are too busy solving problems, and cannot contribute to the Knowledge Management process. Turn this around by encouraging expert analysts to scale themselves with documentation, and encourage other analysts and technicians to consume that knowledge.

Challenge: Knowledge is easy to create, but hard to find

This often stems from poor use of meta data. But what’s the value of a knowledge article nobody can locate?

Approach: It’s important that knowledge articles are tagged appropriately and optimized for search, so as to ensure it can be found as quickly as possible. It’s also important to cleanse the knowledge base often, as out-of-date articles harm the knowledge base’s credibility. Finally, IT organizations don’t need to build Knowledge Management processes from scratch. Frameworks such like Knowledge-Centered Support (KCS) integrate the creation and maintenance of knowledge into support interactions. (For more on KCS, see this blog post.)

Challenge: The technology conundrum

Determining which technology to use can be difficult, as there is often a split between best-of-breed Knowledge Management solutions and the Knowledge Management database within your ITSM solution.

Approach: Best-of-breed Knowledge Management and collaboration platforms often have rich information lifecycle management features that can span through the entire company; but as such, they can be expensive and difficult to manage and maintain. The majority of ITSM solutions provide a knowledge base, but few provide the robust information lifecycle management capabilities required to centralize, structure, and measure.

Knowledge management isn’t the easiest shift left strategy, but when IT organizations can effectivity share knowledge across all support levels, it can have a profound impact on productivity, costs, and satisfaction.

Next Up: An InfoTech report evaluates 12 ITSM vendors, including their Knowledge Management capabilities.

View the Report