Why Knowledge Management, and Why Now?


by Roy Atkinson
November 3, 2016

Knowledge management (KM) can be a touchy subject in the world of support. Many organizations struggle with it, and far fewer have managed to create a mature KM process. Along with tackling the questions posed in the title, maybe we should look at the other side of the coin and explore what is keeping so many organizations from realizing the value of KM.

Knowledge management can be a touchy subject in the world of support.
Tweet: Knowledge management can be a touchy subject in the world of support. @HDI_Analyst @ThinkHDI #knowledgemanagement

We’re smart people.

Many analysts pride themselves on their level of technical and institutional knowledge. Looking things up all the time seems like it’s “for rookies.” If people want to work there, they should be able to figure out how these things work, right?

Well, as we all know, things change. Too often, even the best veterans are left saying, “When did that get changed?” about a procedure or a system. Having accurate, up-to-date knowledge can ensure that the staff are aware of changes and are using the correct procedures.

It takes too much time.

Documenting what we do does take time and effort. Even when the processes of Knowledge-Centered Support are integrated into the handling of each case, there is still effort and time involved. In the world of support, where every minute is measured, time is precious. In a world where success is measured by how many tickets Level 1 closed today, the time to document work simply doesn’t exist, or so it would seem.

Consider this: The few minutes you spend now documenting your solution to an incident will save others—possibly many others—the time it took you to troubleshoot and test and document the solution. Documentation is money in the bank.

We’re trying to do knowledge management, but our tool doesn’t do it right.

Granted, some ticket management systems either have a built-in knowledge base, or have a way to connect to purpose-built knowledge systems. But, in many cases, it is a high-effort endeavor to get the knowledge base to connect to the individual cases the way we would like. While not optimal, copy and paste can be a good workaround.

Work with your ITSM or ticket management system provider to make sure you are taking full advantage of any ways you can manage the knowledge your team gathers every day. Organizations are using many creative ways to store knowledge and make it searchable and—more importantly—findable. Wikis, SharePoint, databases, and even searchable text files are superior to having no recorded, shareable knowledge at all.

The analysts don’t like having to use the knowledge base.

Yes, your analysts are smart people; but as the environment you support becomes increasingly complex, it’s more important than ever to have valid, updated knowledge at hand. No one can remember it all, but—given good guidance—a technician or analyst can work through just about any scenario.

Paul Dooley shares 6 Steps to Build a Knowledge Management Culture.

Some support staff will invariably complain that using a knowledge base makes them feel less valuable, creative, or smart. While this is understandable, it is really not acceptable. Ask them a simple question:

The next time you get on a plane, do you want the pilot to skip the checklist?

That’s right. Even the legendary Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger ran through a complete checklist before taking off. If using knowledge is good enough for Sully—and every other airline, civilian, and military aviator and astronaut—it’s good enough for your support center: Check first, then solve.

What’s your strategy to improve knowledge management in your organization?


Roy AtkinsonRoy Atkinson is HDI's senior writer/analyst, acting as in-house subject matter expert and chief writer for SupportWorld articles and white papers. In addition to being a member of the HDI International Certification Standards Committee and the HDI Desktop Support Advisory Board, Roy is a popular speaker at HDI conferences and is well known to HDI local chapter audiences. His background is in both service desk and desktop support as well as small-business consulting. Roy is highly rated on social media, especially on the topics of IT service management and customer service. He is a cohost of the very popular #custserv (customer service) chat on Twitter, which celebrated its fifth anniversary on December 9, 2014. He holds a master’s certificate in advanced management strategy from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business, and he is a certified HDI Support Center Manager. Follow him on Twitter @HDI_Analyst and @RoyAtkinson.


Tag(s): KM, knowledge management, KCS, supportworld

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