Knowledge Management 101 Better Support Decisions, Faster

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1 Knowledge Management 101 Better Support Decisions, Faster A Third Sky White Paper By Brian Florence, ITSM Senior Consultant for Third Sky, Inc. Third Sky, Inc. Introduction Information used to support IT decisions can be difficult to uncover. Having the ability to access all of the critical information and understanding related to the IT environment in one, centralized way would be an extremely important advantage. The ITIL 1 process known as knowledge management is intended to provide such an information store to allow for better, faster, and more effective decisionmaking for IT. This paper will identify how knowledge management can work to support better IT decisions and assist with additional processes, and in particular, operational processes such as incident or problem management. Knowledge Management Background The purpose of Knowledge Management is to share perspectives, ideas, experience and information; to ensure that these are available in the right place at the right time to enable informed decisions; and to improve efficiency by reducing the need to rediscover knowledge. 2 It is a process that supports all stages and processes of the service management lifecycle, and its primary role is to improve the quality of decision making by ensuring that accurate, reliable, current and trustworthy information is available when needed. Knowledge consists of data and information, in any form it may currently exist, and combines it with the perspectives and experiences of the support team(s) and correlation with other information sources. The practical application of knowledge becomes wisdom and understanding when it can be further given a why context. Data and information become more valuable to a business when it can be captured into a structured format and presented in a contextual and consistent way with a formalized process to ensure all knowledge is effectively managed. Knowledge puts information into an ease of use format that allows for improved decision support. Knowledge can take many forms and include items such as the following examples: 1 ITIL is a registered trademark of AXELOS Ltd. 2 ITIL Service Transition, 2011 Edition Third Sky, Inc. Page 1

2 Third Sky, Inc. Known Errors and Workarounds How To information Troubleshooting Guides Event, Response, and Error Codes Test plans, records of incidents, problems or changes, etc. Reference materials such as architectural diagrams, run books, escalation and routing procedures, etc. Provisioning and Configuration Information Policies, Process and Procedural Information Technical documentation Strategic plans, release plans, SLA information, service catalog details Once Data and Information have been combined to create knowledge, wisdom can be derived with the application of context, situational awareness, and interpretation of that knowledge. Wisdom can be applied as solutions to address a variety of situations and circumstances - the application of knowledge to solve real world situations. The diagram below shows the different elements of knowledge management and their evolution: Figure 1: ITIL Service Transition, 2011 Edition, Figure 4.35 Third Sky, Inc. Page 2

3 Third Sky, Inc. The Service Knowledge Management System A collection of knowledge created by an organization needs to be kept where it can be accessed easily and quickly when needed. Typically, knowledge is captured within a Service Knowledge Management System (SKMS), a structure where multiple layers of data, information and knowledge are maintained. Within an ITIL 3 context, a system, (such as the SKMS), is defined as A number of related things that work together to achieve an overall objective. 4 That is what knowledge management is intended to capture; all associated data, information and knowledge related to the local IT environment and the tools to manage it. The SKMS can comprise all the examples previously mentioned that are used to support decision-making and service delivery, including all offered services (captured in the service catalogue) and an organization s configuration management system (CMS), which in turn contains their configuration management database(s) or CMDBs, along with all of the organization s other data and information. Knowledge may be stored across many different repositories and, as such, the SKMS includes tools that provide a common access point for information federated from multiple sources (e.g. Service Management, HRIS systems, Financial Systems, Security systems, etc.). Figure 2: ITIL Service Transition, 2011 Edition, Figure ITIL is a registered trademark of AXELOS Ltd. 4 Copyright AXELOS Limited All rights reserved. Material is reproduced with the permission of AXELOS Third Sky, Inc. Page 3

4 Third Sky, Inc. Reactive and Proactive Use of Knowledge An underlying driver for knowledge management is that looking at past history for what has been done before helps properly plan for how to handle future circumstances. Knowledge can be captured from service desk support calls, or incidents, or problem (root cause) investigations, workarounds or known errors, or multiple other sources. It can then be used to plan for improvements in services offered to the organization. It is all well and good to understand what has happened previously, but it is critical to use that understanding to drive future support. The reactive side of knowledge management has to do with all of the capturing of data and information in response to something that has happened. A very simple example is to use a search of the existing knowledge base of SKMS data for information/knowledge associated with whatever issue is being dealt with at the time, and then applying that understanding or solution to that current issue. It is a way of applying any existing understanding that is already known to a current situation. The proactive side of knowledge management involves using the knowledge gathered to influence current planning or future decisions or solutions. It is a way to be consistently thinking ahead to plan in advance for proper actions to prevent issues, failures or waste. Forecasting and analysis can be done in early stages of planning to use what has been known about past implementations or projects (or incidents or anything else) to continually improve and influence the current or future activity. As an example, consider the support calls that come into a service desk from a user community. Is there a trend that can be understood for issues/problems identified? If there can be a focus placed on the 20% of problems/issues that generate 80% of the support calls, then the effectiveness of that service desk support can be improved with future support calls being handled more efficiently. Specifically, another proactive way that knowledge can be used is to provide support for first call resolution of an incident. Having details available to the service desk regarding previous incidents is imperative for them to be able to resolve incidents quickly. When a service desk representative takes a user call, if they are able to quickly access any understanding from previous issues or occurrences of the user s situation, they can then immediately apply that understanding and resolution for the current user. Having the ability to increase this first call resolution of incidents would be able to significantly increase user satisfaction for incident processing. A similar proactive knowledge application would apply for a handling a major incident, impacting a business-critical component of an organization, or in using documented workaround actions or known errors related to problem management investigations. Third Sky, Inc. Page 4

5 Process Lifecycle Third Sky, Inc. The activities associated with the Knowledge Management process can be viewed as a lifecycle, as illustrated below. Once information is identified which needs to be kept as knowledge for the organization, it can be documented (populating in whatever form is appropriate for the specific circumstances), verified for accuracy (confirmed by management representatives), published and kept as a component of the SKMS, and then updated (maintained as appropriate) if and when anything changes due to updates in the environment or in the business activities of the organization. These activities can also identify new data or information that needs to be kept as additional knowledge, at which time the cycle would start again. One of the ways that an organization could take advantage of this lifecycle would be in the periodic review of activities within that organization; activities like incidents, capacity planning, plans related to releases or deployments, or security concerns (to name just a few). As new information is learned about changes taking place or ways the business could run more smoothly, then more knowledge can be documented and added to the SKMS through that process. As this process is repeated, more and more understanding and wisdom is built about the organization and more and more stability can be created. (And even more growth possibility for the business!) Conclusion The Knowledge Management process is intended to support more effective IT decision-making. It is critical for an organization to be able to capture what it knows about itself and about the environment(s) it supports. The more a business can deliberately define about itself, then more opportunity is created for growth. Knowledge Management helps to define and control that process. Third Sky, Inc. Page 5

6 How Third Sky can Help Third Sky, Inc. Third Sky can assist you with defining and refining your Knowledge Management process. We have worked with multiple organizations in multiple industries and can help you to leverage the tools, data sources, people and experience you already have to achieve better results. Approaches include the use of our Knowledge Management workshops, along with process assessments and client-specific action planning. Reach out to your Third Sky representative today. About the Author Brian Florence is ITIL certified and a Senior ITSM Process Consultant for Third Sky. Brian has supported Incident, Problem and Change Management at all three major domestic automotive companies over a period of fourteen years. He has more than 25 years of IT experience, and has participated in assisted in determining ITSM support direction for multiple ITIL Processes. About Third Sky, Inc. Third Sky is a recognized thought leader in the IT Service Management space, and provides a full suite of services around Service Management including Education, Consulting and Technology services. Their approach to Business-Driven IT leverages frameworks such as ITIL, CobiT, PMBOK and ISO/IEC20000 as part of a hands-on, real-world approach to ITSM that has helped hundreds of companies transform their IT organizations into strategic, business-aligned service providers delivering the highest levels of service and support, all while lowering costs. Business-Driven IT For information please call:, visit or us at Third Sky, Inc. Page 6

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