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If your IT service desk is struggling to cope with the volume of IT incidents and service requests, added pressures such as shrinking budgets and higher employee expectations of service and support—then knowledge management will be a great help to your operations, your people, and the employees you serve.
This blog looks at what knowledge management is, why it’s important for organizations, and how it helps. Plus, the role that fit-for-purpose technology will play for its success.
There are various definitions, especially available online. In terms of IT service management (ITSM) best practice, ITIL 4 Foundation Edition describes its purpose as: “… to maintain and improve the effective, efficient, and convenient use of information and knowledge across the organization.”
Whereas Wikipedia provides a more detailed definition:
“Knowledge management is the process of creating, sharing, using and managing the knowledge and information of an organization. It refers to a multidisciplinary approach to achieving organizational objectives by making the best use of knowledge.”
It’s vital to appreciate the latter half of this definition. Because while “creating, sharing, using, and managing” knowledge is important to businesses, it’s what’s done with that knowledge that ultimately counts. In fact, one could argue that knowledge has little value until it’s proactively used in achieving a desired outcome (and creating business value).
Being able to engage users through a contextualized knowledge approach will play a key role not only in the creation of knowledge, but also in its use. This can be achieved through a knowledge management solution that allows you to go beyond the knowledge article and offer an engaging knowledge experience that will reach anyone within your organization.
There are a variety of benefits to be realized through effective knowledge management, no matter the IT or business use case. These very much relate to augmenting the knowledge and skills, and thus the capabilities of employees such that they can do more, quickly, and potentially with better outcomes. Ultimately, knowledge management makes us, and what we achieve, better—both individually and collectively.
Plus, the ability to retain knowledge in the event that key people leave (and also for the enablement of their successors). More recently, however, knowledge management is also playing a key role in enabling new technologies based on artificial intelligence (AI)—there’s more on this in the next sections.
Expanding upon the above benefits sentences, the high-level business benefits include:
As a follow up to “Tackling Common Knowledge Management Issues for IT Service Desks”, written by Principal Analyst and Content Director at ITSM.tools Stephen Mann, this article also outlines why IT organizations finally need to get knowledge management right for IT self-service and self-help success.
Knowledge management extends the capabilities of both people and technology. In terms of the IT service desk, the three main use case scenarios are:
Knowledge management can be viewed as a process but it’s so much more than that—this is reflected in the latest ITIL 4 best practice guidance that has moved away from best practice processes to “management practices,” one of which relates to the management of knowledge.
If you would like to think of it in terms of a process, then the image below is a simple representation of how knowledge is managed—from capture through to its retirement:
However, it needs to be far more than the above process. Instead, it has to encapsulate the behaviors required for people to actively share what they know with others. Plus, for people to proactively seek out relevant knowledge as a likely quicker route to resolutions. You can find out more about the softer side of knowledge management in this webinar or this knowledge management eBook.
Managing knowledge alone can be thought of as a process, and it will also need the right types of behaviors. However, it will also require a fit-for-purpose knowledge management solution to help at every step of the process. For example, to:
We'll expand more on the previous points in the next section, Must-Have Capabilities for Your Knowledge Management Tools.
If you want to learn more about how to get started with knowledge management and improve employee self-service, please download our eBook, The Ultimate Guide for Getting Knowledge Management Right for Self-Service, which offers you 7 tips on how to deliver powerful self-service and self-help capabilities to your employees.
The organizational need for effective knowledge management capabilities has grown significantly since the corporate discipline was first introduced in the 1990s. With increased operational complexity, shrinking teams, greater staff churn, and higher customer expectations all contributing to this.
Much research has been conducted into what makes for successful knowledge management, including the people-related aspects of encouraging both knowledge sharing and exploitation through use and reuse of knowledge. In fact, HDI research from the end of 2018 showed that knowledge management technology is already employed by 87% of support organizations and is the second-most important technology for providing successful support.1
Source: HDI, “2018 Technical Support Practices & Salary Report”
The same analysis states that knowledge management tools such as self-help and knowledge bases contribute to 14% of support organization’s ticket volume decrease.2 And although technology alone is not enough for knowledge management success, it still plays an important role in creating effective corporate, or business-function-specific, knowledge management tool capabilities.
HDI’s research also mentions that even though 22% of organizations that use knowledge management are successful, most of them use knowledge management only to solve 30% of their ticket requests.3 So what can you do to improve your knowledge management strategy?
Below we look more into six key facets of knowledge management tools that will help your organization finally succeed with knowledge sharing and reap the associated benefits.
These are provided in no particular order, because having one working well while another isn't is insufficient for knowledge management success. For instance, the best knowledge capture capabilities in the world will be useless if no one can access and use the knowledge when they need it.
While this starts with the ease of initially capturing knowledge that might be more than just text, you should also consider the ability to curate, enhance, and publish it. This includes amending or updating knowledge as and when needed. For instance, using self-help technology to simplify some of the processes, or aligning the organization with Knowledge-Center Service (KCS) best practices.
Self-service portals are one way to provide access to knowledge, but an omnichannel approach that includes access to collaboration platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Slack, Salesforce, etc., dramatically increases engagement because it lives where users work. Knowledge should also be created to suit the language and needs of the respective knowledge seekers, including IT staff, employees and customers.
While this overlaps with the previous bullet (in terms of the ease of finding/accessing knowledge and a simple and intuitive user experience), it also applies to how the tool or vendor guidance helps steer knowledge creators in publishing knowledge artifacts that are easy to consume. For instance, using conciseness over longer-form complexity whenever possible. The use of multimedia such as videos, step-by-step guides and images can also facilitate the user experience.
This is a set of usually qualitative capabilities that range from “thumbs up or down,” ranking up or down, to scoring knowledge articles. It’s very much the reporting of opinions related to whether a knowledge artifact is unhelpful, too complicated or technical, out of date, wrongly served up as an answer, or similar. Think of it as crowdsourced knowledge management improvement opportunities.
There are two elements here. The ability to track engagement—to see usage and what’s being accessed (as well as the feedback above)—is a much-needed indicator of whether your knowledge management initiative is successful. This is in both standalone terms and in changing the help-channel volume mix to a quicker and lower-cost method. It also feeds into the identification of improvements for the knowledge management capability as a whole, plus whether specific knowledge artifacts are achieving what they should.
There’s a range of available artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities to consider here as well:
Access to knowledge is increasingly important, no matter where the knowledge sharing is needed within an organization. For IT service and support teams, the need for effective knowledge management has certainly increased in the last half-decade and will increase as technology changes.
If you want to learn more about overcoming your knowledge management challenges, download our latest eBook, The Ultimate Guide for Getting Knowledge Management Right for Self-Service”, which offers you 7 tips on how to deliver powerful self-service and self-help capabilities to your employees.
Current ITSM trends focus on Knowledge Management, Self-Service, and Self-Help. With this comes the uncertainty, and complexity, of implementing an effective and well-designed knowledge management process, and while challenging, this doesn’t mean you can shy away from it.
According to findings from "The State of Knowledge Management: 2016-17 KMWorld Survey,” knowledge management is gaining momentum and encouragement. More than one-third of those surveyed, 38%, said they don’t have any knowledge management structure in place or are sitting in the “exploration stage.”
If you’re in the early stages of planning for your knowledge management system, or maybe you’ve already tried and failed at your knowledge management attempt, this article is for you. We’re sharing the top four mistakes companies make when implementing a knowledge management method.
After reading this, you can rest easy knowing you can avoid these costly errors!
There’s nothing wrong with tradition and following what’s been tried and true. But, if you want to succeed at knowledge management, you must cater to your users and the style of experience they want—more knowledge at their fingertips, that’s readily available and accessible with just a few keystrokes.
Many companies keep using their same knowledge strategy of gathering as much information as they can, but in the end, it’s rarely updated and barely used. This method is not the best if you want to succeed in the long run.
One thing you can do is change how you deliver your knowledge. Search engines are fine, but they only take individuals so far if the person doesn’t know what to search for. Your best option is implementing a tool that helps create an interactive and engaging knowledge experience, and that empowers employees, because at the end of the day, people want the ability to solve their own problems, but they won’t if it’s too hard. Plus, if your employees help themselves, then you can realize true ROI of your knowledge base where you see 30% less calls to the service desk—so it’s a win-win for everyone!
Many organizations think knowledge management is simply building a massive repository of knowledge articles, and that this act alone will encourage people to use it. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Creating a knowledge base is not the end. Once developed, it must be regularly updated, easily and readily accessible, and its usage needs to be reinforced company wide.
For instance, when a user calls for something you know is in the knowledge base, take a few minutes instructing him or her on navigating the system, and show how to find the answer quickly. It may take longer to resolve this particular call, but it may save the user from making additional calls in the future. This is a great example of promoting knowledge management and training users at the same time.
One of the biggest mistakes when building a knowledge base is going too big too fast. Don’t try to get all the knowledge in there just yet. Ambitious deployments almost always result in a knowledge base that is solid in places but spread so thin in others that it weakens the entire system. If users can’t find answers, they will quickly stop using the tool, leaving you with an uphill battle to get them back on board.
In the early stages, focus on the depth and quality of the information, rather than quantity. Concentrate on what matters most, what would solve the most problems today, and grow from there. Users must know that the information in your knowledge management system is reliable and accurate, which builds trust between them and the initiative, which means you now have advocates supporting the implementation.
You’ve got your people, processes, and technology in place, and you think you’re done—not so fast. After implementation, the real work comes in tracking and measuring how the knowledge management environment is being used. Some key performance indicators should include data on:
Capture as much data as you can on how the knowledge is used and consumed. A good self-help tool should assist you in learning which processes and navigations function best, what articles users find valuable, how deep users dig to get the information they need, and who is actually using the knowledge base. Furthermore, use this data to justify increases in resources, funding, and additional tools to maintain the success of your company’s knowledge investment.
In the end, several factors will play a role in the success of your knowledge management initiative. But now that we’ve let you in on some of the biggest mistakes companies make, you can prevent these and reap the benefits of successful knowledge management implementation.
There is little debate on the power of knowledge management at a high-level, with some of the potential benefits of knowledge management being:
It is also important to highlight the fact that the above benefits ultimately come from knowledge use and reuse—or exploitation—rather than its collection.
The IT service desk is not alone in struggling with knowledge management, which often is a corporate capability that fails to deliver on its promise (even though it shouldn’t).
The impact of this issue is also increasing as the criticality of knowledge and knowledge management grows thanks to additional technology-enabled use cases. This is easiest thought of as the three evolutions of IT-support knowledge management use cases:
Originally, the failure to get knowledge management right—even before the need for IT self-help capabilities—is something that just keeps on hurting IT support capabilities and its outcomes.
As with knowledge management per se, many IT organizations have struggled with end-user adoption of their new IT self-service and self-help capabilities (Level 0 support). For example, research by the UK-based Service Desk Institute (SDI) states that only 12% of self-service initiatives have delivered the anticipated return on investment (ROI), with this mainly boiling down to the lack of user (employee) adoption and use.
When taking a broad view of self-service and motivation, consider what’s in it for employees. In the absence of self-service and self-help, employees predominantly use telephone and email channels. The former offers an immediate resolution while the latter is a much slower support offering in terms of the total elapsed time. However, telephone support involves a higher investment of personal time—from waiting in a queue to initially speaking with a service desk agent, while email is relatively quick—typing and sending the email, then working again.
When a new self-service capability is introduced, there are two different speeds of support:
Thus, what is actually in it for the employees is the immediacy of resolution that comes from accessing fit-for-purpose knowledge articles and automated capabilities. It makes sense that self-service capabilities that offer inferior or no self-help support struggle with user adoption. Ultimately, there is little reason for end users to change their existing way of working, i.e. seeking help, from using telephone and/or email to a new support channel.
Self-help knowledge management capabilities are the “killer app” for self-service portals and they will ultimately “make or break” your IT self-service capability in terms of realizing the anticipated ROI that comes from higher levels of end-user adoption.
One of the top expectations when customers interact with the call center is that the person on the other end of the line has the knowledge and experience to help them resolve the issue quickly and confidently.
To meet this expectation, it is important that your knowledge base is not only useful to your agents but that it’s also easy to navigate. Unfortunately, the problem isn’t just that knowledge articles aren’t easy to find. But also, when users do find them, it’s usually a static, long-form article that forces them to put customers on hold while they dig in to find the right answer or the next step.
Below are three innovative steps to turn your knowledge base into a strategic business asset that will help you transform your call center to allow agents to get to answers quickly and increase customer satisfaction.
The Problem: In many instances, call center agents have to handle the customer’s request, while at the same time having to search for information in a knowledge base, browsing through the knowledge article categories or searching for keywords and reading different articles that can potentially lead to a resolution. This back to my main point, it takes too long to mine through articles, which can be overwhelming for your agent!
The Problem: Agents are used to searching Google, buying on Amazon, communicating with chatbots, so they expect the tools they use in the workplace to be at the same level of user experience—how can you do that with knowledge?
The Problem: Keeping knowledge relevant constantly can be time consuming. Even when users are able to find the right knowledge articles, if the knowledge itself is outdated, then it won't be useful for anyone.
I hope that you found this blog helpful. If you are looking for a knowledge management solution that can help you reduce requests and increase user satisfaction by empowering users to solve their own issues, try our software.
Watch this quick 2-minute video to learn more about Self Help technologies.
1,2,3 HDI’s 2018 Technical Support Practices & Salary Report
4 Gartner, Design IT Self-Service for the Business Consumer, Chris Matchett, 04 October 2017
GARTNER is a registered trademark and service mark of Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates in the U.S. and internationally, and is used herein with permission. All rights reserved.
Erika Troconis-Rodell is the Sr. Digital Marketing Manager at EasyVista. She leads the content and blog strategy for the company, and manages global digital marketing initiatives. She loves all things technology and enjoys reading about ITSM, IoT, and SaaS. Fun fact, she also speaks Spanish, French, and Mandarin.
May 10, 2022