Albert Einstein said that the only source of knowledge is experience, and yet there is very little done in most organizations to effectively store and manage our experiences. In the IT service management hemisphere, ITIL® V3 introduces the knowledge management process that works to turn data into information, knowledge and wisdom within an organization. It’s one of the first processes that should be looked at when assessing an organization.
Why is Knowledge Management Necessary?
I was once an avid user of WordPress – developing themes, modifying plugins and customizing a number of functionalities. Whenever I found a workaround, I quickly drafted a post around it, and published it on one of my websites. A number of people referred to my posts, and, likewise, I referred to a number of websites to tweak my WordPress installation. By documenting what I learned, I helped others move on to other cardinal to-dos, and I saved a good amount of time by implementing what others had already spent hours researching. The knowledge obtained by experience – either good or bad – if recorded will help people know what to do and what not to do. And, more importantly, they can start from where the other person concluded. Imagine if an organization could store everything they achieve, the secrets, the process and the working habits. Rather than reinventing the wheel each time they perform the same task, they can move onto other parts of the vehicle.
ITIL® Knowledge Management Process
ITIL® states that knowledge management is needed to ensure that the right information is delivered at the appropriate place, at the right time. Most organizations believe that implementing and maintaining knowledge management is an overhead that they would love to pass. But, they are missing the bigger picture. This overhead is a boomerang that can help them massively by improving the quality of management decisions made. It can be done by ensuring that reliable and secure information is available throughout the service lifecycle. Other positive effects of this process include timely resolution of incidents through Known Error Database (KEDB), a repository listing the known errors and the corresponding workarounds. Not only for incidents, all ITIL® (and project management) processes can refer to repositories of knowledge for making informed decisions, which will reduce the cost of the service provided to the customer. One of the common topics in every corporate board meeting is cutbacks. So, why not reduce the costs through this channel?
Knowledge Management Structure
Knowledge is not all about storing experiences and referring to them in the future; there is a structure around it too. ITIL® publication states that all content can be sub-divided into four categories: Data, Knowledge, Information and Wisdom. The structure or the relationship between the four is called as the DIKW structure.
[Image Copyright : Lee Scott]
Data is a set of discrete facts about events. In IT terms, it is the data dump that we can obtain from ticketing tools. It has all the fields associated, but there is no direction or a trend attached to it. Other examples include data in CMDB, KEDB, HR database and other data dumps. When you add context to this data, it becomes information. Suppose you pivot your data dump against specific parameters; it provides a context, thereby transforming it into information. Schema mapping, metadata management and mining are some examples of information. For information to evolve into knowledge, analysis is the catalyst.
Knowledge comes from experiences, ideas, insights, values and judgments – and is highly dependent on the individual performing the analysis. One can observe the pivot, follow the trend and put down the results of his or her analysis. An example: Stationary costs have increased by 10 percent. Examples of knowledge include reports, forecasts, models, scorecards and dashboards.
Wisdom is something far superior. It gives an ultimate discernment of the material and the sane and rightful judgment taken is based on a number of factors. Wisdom comes from years of experience coupled with ingrained knowledge. To further clarify the difference between knowledge and wisdom, consider this example. Knowledge is reporting that paper costs have increased by 10 percent. Wisdom would say paper costs have gone up 10 percent every year, and because employees don’t have access to laptops, they are printing out reports before heading into meetings, thereby increasing their paper usage, which is causing costs to rise. Service management plans, service catalogs, service packages and portals come under wisdom.
Knowledge Management Techniques
There are a number of techniques to achieve knowledge management in organizations. Here are some of them:
- Knowledge gap analysis – Finding the delta between where we want to be and where we are will be a good start towards preparing training material.
- Learning style – Finding the best method for transferring knowledge and maintaining knowledge within the organization. It will vary with age, culture and industry.
- Visualization – Pictures speak louder than words. Using images to transfer knowledge can be an effective technique.
- Seminars and Webinars – Delivering high-profile knowledge cannot and generally will not take place is smaller forums. Seminars and webinars are meant for such occasions.
- Journals and Newspapers – Organizations can choose to convey information such as policy changes in monthly journals and newspapers.
How do you know if Knowledge Management is working for you?
In ITIL®, we generally find out the effectiveness of a process through KPIs – key performance indicators. Here are some of them for knowledge management.
- Reduction in average time taken to resolve incidents (or any other activities)
- Ability to solve problems without the aid of external sources
- Reducing escalation rate
- Reduction in average time to find relevant material
- Increased rate of satisfaction with the knowledge management material
There are many others but these are key. If you get these right, you are on the right track as far as your knowledge management process is concerned. If you have questions on how to go about implementing it, give me a shout or let me know in the comments section below.
ITIL® is a Registered Trade Mark of the Cabinet Office.