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Erika Troconis-Rodell | January 30, 2020

What is Knowledge Management? Why Businesses Should Care

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.

Table of Contents

1. What is Knowledge Management?

2. Why is Knowledge Management Important for Organizations?

3. What is the Purpose of Knowledge Management?

4. What is the Knowledge Management Process?

5. How Knowledge Management Software Can Help

6. Must-Have Capabilities for Your Knowledge Management Tools

7. Mistakes to Avoid When Implementing Knowledge Management

8. The Benefits of Effective Knowledge Management

9. Why Knowledge Management is Critical for Self-Service and Self-Help

What is Knowledge Management?

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.

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7 Tips for Getting Knowledge Management Right for Self-Service.

Why is Knowledge Management Important for Organizations?

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:

  • Increased operational efficiency and reduced operational costs – because support staff and employees can get to the required solutions more quickly and with less lost productivity.
  • A superior employee experience – thanks to not only speedier resolutions but also better-informed decisions that result in higher quality outcomes.
  • Better use of scarce support resources and the productivity of the employees they serve – through support staff augmentation and employee empowerment via self-help , which we will expand upon in the next sections, and self-care.
  • Reduced duplication of effort – thanks to having known solutions readily available to people rather than them having to rediscover what needs to be done.
  • Less risk with staff turnover – because knowledge management minimizes the impact of leavers and makes the onboarding of new staff both easier and swifter.
  • Speeding up the delivery, and improving the quality, of AI-based capabilities – as outlined in the next section.

The Benefits of Knowledge Management Diagram1-01

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.

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What is the Purpose of Knowledge Management?

Knowledge management extends the capabilities of both people and technology. In terms of the IT service desk, the three main use case scenarios are:

  1. Augmenting service and support staff capabilities. Speeding up the incident resolution and service request processes, especially where service desk analysts are new or have been hired more for their personal capabilities than their technical know-how. Here the provision of scripts and knowledge articles helps support staff to achieve far more than they could by purely using their own knowledge and experience.
  2. Empowering employees via self-help or self-care capabilities. Where self-service capabilities provide employees with the ability to help themselves via FAQs and relevant knowledge articles.
  3. Enabling any new support capabilities that employ AI technology. Including machine learning which needs to consume data, information, and knowledge to successfully meet the opportunities and challenges it is being applied to.

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Three Main Use Cases for Knowledge Management Diagram-1

What is the Knowledge Management Process?

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:

The Knowledge Management Process Diagram3

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.

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How Knowledge Management Software Can Help

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:

  • Make knowledge capture easier
  • Make finding and accessing knowledge easier
  • Make using knowledge easy
  • Leverage AI for improved knowledge delivery
  • Provide performance measurement capabilities

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.

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Must-Have Capabilities for Your Knowledge Management Tools

6 Must-Have Capabilities for Your Knowledge Management Tools@2x

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

The Top 10 Must-Have Technologies for Providing Successful Support

The top 10 must-have technologies for providing successful support

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.

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6 Key Knowledge Management Tool Capabilities to Consider

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.

1. The ease of knowledge capture 

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.

2. The ease of finding and accessing knowledge 

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.

3. The ease of use 

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.

4. Available feedback mechanisms

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.

5. Performance measurement and relevancy reviews 

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.

6. Added intelligence 

There’s a range of available artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities to consider here as well:

  • Chatbots for end users and virtual agents for support staff—augmenting both their capabilities and knowledge levels
  • AI capabilities that assist with knowledge gap identification and the creation of new knowledge artifacts
  • Intelligent search capabilities such as context-driven “knowledge promotion” within self-service

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. 

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Mistakes to Avoid When Implementing Knowledge Management

Knowledge Management Mistakes to Avoid

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.”

Click here to learn how to lower service desk call volume with interactive  knowledge experiences.

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!

1. Doing things the same old way

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!

2. Having a "build it and they will come" mentality

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.

3. Spreading the knowledge too thin

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.

4. Not measuring and monitoring for success

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:

  • Article usage
  • Article satisfaction
  • Navigation times
  • Navigation flows
  • Ease of use

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.

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The Benefits of Effective Knowledge Management

There is little debate on the power of knowledge management at a high-level, with some of the potential benefits of knowledge management being:

  • The ability to get to required solutions more quickly – increasing operational efficiency and reducing operational costs
  • Better informed and higher quality outcomes – including the delivery of a superior customer and employee experience
  • The optimal use of potentially scarce resources, such as people, skills, and knowledge – through employee empowerment and capability augmentation
  • Standardized operations – with reduced duplication of effort and “wheel reinvention”
  • Greater control over organizational change – including minimizing the impact of leavers and on boarding new staff more quickly

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.

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The Growing Imbalance Between Knowledge Management Opportunities and SuccessThe Benefits of Effective Knowledge Management@2x

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:

  1. Service Desk Agents – To start, there was the need to speed up the incident resolution process, especially as service desk agents were increasingly hired more for their personal capabilities than their technical know-how. This involved the creation of scripts and knowledge articles that were commonly housed in a knowledge base.
  2. Self-Service – Then there was the opportunity offered by self-service capabilities and the ability to access FAQs and focused knowledge articles. Importantly, the available knowledge (articles) needed to be easily searchable, understandable for non-IT staff, and easy to use. And they needed to be all three to be truly successful.
  3. Artificial Intelligence (AI) – Now the anticipated influx of AI-enabled capabilities—in particular machine learning—requires that AI consumes data, information, and knowledge to successfully meet the opportunities and challenges it’s applied to.

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.

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Why Knowledge Management is Critical for Self-Service and Self-Help

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:

  1. Logging a ticket and waiting – a more structured approach to the email channel, although it might require a heavier investment of personal time (with it also being more beneficial for service requests than serious issue reporting)
  2. Receiving an immediate resolution – similar to the telephone approach but potentially even faster if the end user can quickly find and successfully employ a known solution (a knowledge article, automated remediation, or both)

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.

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How to Transform Knowledge Management to Support Your Call Center Agents

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.

How to Transform Knowledge Management to Support Your Call Center Agents@2x

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.

1. Think of Call Center Agents First

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!

Solutions:

  • Start by making your knowledge article easier to digest. Break up those long-form articles and create bite-sized ones so it’s easier for the agent to search through.
  • Make sure you’re taking advantage of intelligent search. Natural language processing search and capabilities add a common-language interface for agents when looking for knowledge.
  • Consider the channels where knowledge is being served. How you get to the knowledge is critical and it should be where the agent works. Make sure when your agents search for knowledge, it also searches through similar resolved tickets—that’s knowledge too!

2. Focus on the User Experience of Your Knowledge Base

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?

Solutions:

  • Take advantage of third-party tools and applications for relevant knowledge. The call center aggregates a lot of data, especially if you have a customer relationship management (CRM) platform. So preferably, when the agent begins searching for a solution, the knowledge base should serve up information based on the profile of the customer who is calling in. For example, if the customer is calling in because the garage door isn’t working, then the knowledge should only show the information about the garage opener that was purchased. This reduces the time spent on searching through knowledge articles that might not be relevant.
  • Consider the logical way a call center agent works to get to a resolution. A traditional, static knowledge base article usually lists out steps that the agent will need to convert into a question to the customer. Then, the agents would most likely have to figure out what to do next based on the response. Instead, knowledge should be interactive and guide the agent. This can only be achieved by using knowledge flows. For example, knowledge flows could present one question and possible responses. Then based on the customer’s response, it will guide them to the next relevant step. Time will be saved; agent effort will be reduced, and satisfaction will be higher.

3. Leverage Feedback

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.

Solutions:

  • Make knowledge a central point of emphasis in your organization’s culture. Allow the users to make comments and give feedback within the knowledge base article that can improve existing knowledge.
  • Identify subject matter experts (SME). Empower SMEs that focus on different areas of your business to create new content that can be used by agents and across the organization. Ownership of the knowledge articles and participation are directly connected to usage and taking pride in the quality or accessibility of the content.
  • Allow employees to make comments and suggest changes.Don’t lock down knowledge because it will quickly become stale and nobody wants to use outdated knowledge. You can achieve this by creating valuable dialogue between the SMEs and field agents with comments on knowledge articles.

Takeaways

  • Don’t boil the ocean. Identify your top call center requests and prioritize the types of knowledge articles you need to tackle first. Make these top articles readily available to the agents no matter where they are in your knowledge base.
  • Yes, maintaining a knowledge base can be time consuming, but with the right tools—like a self-help application—your knowledge managers, or SMEs, should be able to easily capture, structure and distribute updates. Your agents will benefit from accessing updated information directly from the source.
  • Finally, remember that no matter how much effort you put into creating the right knowledge base for your users, you still need to study its usage and results. Reviewing and analyzing interactions will help you understand the success and impact that your knowledge base has on your call center. If executed properly, you will see first call resolution go up, call durations decrease, and end user sentiment survey scores go through the roof!

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.

 

Contributing Authors: Evan CarlsonBenjamin de MoncanStephen Mann

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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.

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Erika Troconis-Rodell

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. Erika loves all things technology and enjoys reading about ITSM, IoT, and SaaS. Fun fact, she also speaks Spanish, French, and Mandarin.