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Stephen Mann | August 29, 2019

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, along with dealing with added pressures such as static or shrinking budgets, staff recruitment and retention issues, 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 explains what knowledge management is, why it’s important, and how it helps. Plus, the role that fit-for-purpose technology will play for its success.

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.

7 tips for getting knowledge management right for self-service

Why is Knowledge Management Important?

Knowledge management offers businesses a variety of benefits across the modern triumvirate of being “better, faster, cheaper.” These benefits initially related to the augmentation of people capabilities, such that they can do more, more quickly, and potentially with better outcomes.

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 section.

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 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 Diagram

What is the Purpose of Knowledge Management?

As already mentioned, 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. Including machine learning which needs to consume data, information, and knowledge to successfully meet the opportunities and challenges it is being applied to.

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

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.

How Knowledge Management Software Can Help

As already mentioned above, 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. This is not only the initial capturing of knowledge but also the capability to curate, enhance, and publish it. It also includes amending or updating knowledge as and when this is needed.
  • Make finding and accessing knowledge easier. This is applicable to both IT support staff and employees using self-help. It includes making knowledge access an omnichannel capability because people will want and expect to be able to use the channel they prefer.
  • Make using knowledge easy. Not only making it easy to find knowledge, as per the previous bullet, but also in how the tool helps knowledge providers to create and publish knowledge artifacts that are easy to consume. For instance, using brevity over long articles whenever possible.
  • Allow for user feedback. Possible feedback mechanisms include ranking articles up or down, like or dislike (or “thumbs up or down”) options, and the scoring of knowledge articles. It’s a great way to identify whether a knowledge artifact is unhelpful, too complicated, too technical, incorrectly presented as an answer, or simply out of date.
  • Leverage AI for improved knowledge delivery. There’s a range of tool capabilities to consider here. For employees, there are chatbots, intelligent search capabilities, intelligent email autoresponders, and the context-based promotion of knowledge within self-service. For support staff, there are virtual assistants to augment their capabilities and knowledge levels. Plus, AI-based capabilities that can identify knowledge gaps and fill them with knowledge created from ticket histories.
  • Provide performance measurement capabilities. For example, to track knowledge article engagement and success.

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.

Getting knowledge management right for self-service ebook

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Stephen Mann

Principal Analyst and Content Director at the ITSM-focused industry analyst firm Also an independent IT and IT service management marketing content creator, and a frequent blogger, writer, and presenter on the challenges and opportunities for IT service management professionals. Previously held positions in IT research and analysis (at IT industry analyst firms Ovum and Forrester and the UK Post Office), IT service management consultancy, enterprise IT service desk and IT service management, IT asset management, innovation and creativity facilitation, project management, finance consultancy, internal audit, and product marketing for a SaaS IT service management technology vendor.