What is ITIL Knowledge Management?

Posted by Dan Morgan on Apr 12, 2013 4:53:00 PM

In ITIL, Process Improvement, Knowledge Management, Service Desk

Knowledge Management has been around as a concept since the early 1990s and has been continually evolving. Adoption of the concept has grown as more comprehensive knowledge tools have entered the market allowing even the largest organizations a way to centrally manage and distribute knowledge. If we can leverage our disparate silos of information, we can more effectively support our customers and more quickly and efficiently resolve their issues.

To effectively manage our knowledge, we first need to understand what Knowledge is. At its most basic, knowledge is a collection of experiences and insights. Good Knowledge Management lessens the time people waste “rediscovering” knowledge and allows people to be more efficient, effective, and empowered at their job because the right knowledge is at their fingertips.

There are three basic types of knowledge, Explicit, Implicit and Tacit:

Explicit Knowledge

Explicit knowledge is information that is available in a tangible form, whether that be in a document, on a web site, or in a database somewhere. Explicit knowledge is already documented in some form and is usually the easiest type to make available to your Knowledge Management System. Explicit knowledge is objective and it can in many if not all cases, be taught and is usually bound by definitions, rules, and exact limits.

Implicit Knowledge 

Implicit knowledge is information that is NOT available in a tangible form, but could be made explicit with a little effort. Implicit knowledge is usually the knowledge that many individuals know, but they have not taken the time to document it yet.

Tacit Knowledge 

Tacit knowledge is the kind of knowledge that is difficult and may even be impossible to transfer to another person by means of writing it down or verbalizing it. Tacit knowledge is sometimes referred to as “tribal knowledge” and it is not formally documented and is loosely held by a variety of individuals who use it.

Lets give an example of the three types:

Explicit – An Incident is an unplanned interruption to an IT Service or a reduction in the quality of an IT Service.  This definition can be written down, transmitted to someone else, and it can be understood by a recipient.

Implicit – When a customer calls the service desk to report an incident, that incident could be categorized in many different ways, and depending on the way it is categorized, a different resolution may be given to the customer.  Although the resolutions have not yet been made available in tangible form for each type of incident, they could fairly easily be captured and documented for use in a Knowledge Management System.

Tacit -The ability to explain how to restore service when a complex WAN environment is in use and is held together by a complex combination of equipment, duct tape and voodoo, requires all sorts of knowledge that is not always known explicitly, even by expert practitioners and that knowledge can be very difficult to transfer to users.

So, how do you begin to capture knowledge, and what are the challenges that organization’s face when starting out with a Knowledge Management initiative?  You first have to define your process for capturing knowledge first and answer the following questions within your organization:

Knowledge Sources

You know you have it somewhere, but where is it?

How do you get that knowledge out of peoples heads and into a KMS (or Knowledge Management System) for use by those who could benefit

Some knowledge may be impossible to transfer, but you need to at least identify the pieces of Knowledge you can capture and the pieces you can’t

Creating New Knowledge

Your organization is constantly introducing new hardware, software, and processes into the environment. How do you keep your knowledge management system up-to-date with the latest information about those new items?

Who is allowed to add new knowledge? You need to think about what security needs to be in place around who should be able to add, edit or delete knowledge.

Who approves a new piece of knowledge as fit-for-use? Do you need an automated approval process for new knowledge?

Who should be notified when new knowledge is added to the KMS?

Does the new knowledge require a Subject Matter Expert to review the content before it is published for public consumption?

Keeping Only Relevant Knowledge

All knowledge becomes stale after a certain period of time. Just because you cleared the hurdle of populating your KMS, checking the data for accuracy and making it available to users, does not mean your work is done.

Your environment changes over time, and some of your knowledge will no longer be relevant. Do you purge that knowledge or just retire it and make it unavailable to be searched. If you keep usage metrics on your knowledge, you may just want to retire the knowledge instead of deleting it from the KMS so you don’t loose those statistics.

How will you capture new knowledge?

Make your staff responsible for entering new knowledge. This is a great way to get the KMS populated with knowledge that is timely and valuable.

You can also get creative and make knowledge entry part of their quarterly MBO’s .Make them responsible for entering ‘X’ number of quality articles per month and make them responsible for reviewing ‘X’ number or other peoples submitted articles per month

Measuring Success

Make sure you can measure the usage of your knowledge. If you don’t track those metrics, how do you know all the work you put in populating your KMS has been worth the time and effort?

These are just a few examples of what knowledge is, how you might find it, and what you might do with it. Look for our upcoming white paper on how to leverage the knowledge in your organization.


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