Knowledge is power - and the fact that knowledge within a company should not be lost, if possible, is a known fact. Arguably, every organization strives to develop strategies to effectively preserve knowledge, process it, and make it usable for the future.
This is especially true for ITSM teams. After all, IT Service Management is all about ensuring IT teams’ tasks and activities are standardized, reproducible services. It is incredibly important to be able to fall back on established solutions again and again, so that a team does not have to start from scratch repeatedly. Once acquired, knowledge should not have to be reacquired somewhere else. Transparent and accessible data, information, and knowledge are crucial prerequisites for efficient processes.
The ITSM framework, ITIL, describes knowledge management as a practice for developing, mapping, and making usable unstructured knowledge, regardless of whether it is formal and documented or informal and tactical. The goal is clear: to provide the team and its stakeholders with the right information, in the right format, at the right level, and at the right time.
This requires a knowledge acquisition process. The challenge lies in structuring and distributing unstructured knowledge within the team and company, making it permanently actionable.
The challenges in knowledge management
As mentioned above, companies around the world are now well aware of the need to manage knowledge systematically. However, as we all know, theory and practice often differ. The biggest hurdles standing in the way of structured knowledge management are:
- Compartmentalized, non-integrated information silos
- Insufficient knowledge sharing
- Cultural barriers and hierarchical structures
- Lack of methods and tools to centralize and make knowledge findable
- Availability of methods and tools, but underutilization due to poor user acceptance (e.g., due to restrictions or usability issues)
How can organizations, especially ITSM teams - that develop, deploy and deliver services within these organizations, address these challenges? An abbreviated answer to this complex question is: It takes the right tools, the appropriate processes, and a culture of empowerment and transparency.
Wikis are the key
User-friendly wiki software, such as Confluence by Atlassian, has long been a reliable solution for centralizing and documenting information, processes, and findings. It allows teams to build an organic, cross-team knowledge base, ensuring that stored information is well-structured within the appropriate context and can be operationalized using metadata.
Confluence serves as a powerful tool for ITSM teams, providing sustainable support for systematic knowledge management. Moreover, its availability in the Cloud makes it easier than ever for teams to implement an effective wiki solution. This technical-organizational prerequisite is essential for teams committed to digitally mapping and sharing information and knowledge effectively.
Effective knowledge management needs cultural prerequisites
While the technical solution is one side of the coin, the other side is organizational culture, which must create the conditions for transparent and open information sharing across the entire organization. Knowledge management is not solely the responsibility of individual teams, as it can lead to silo formation. Instead, it should be a cross-team and cross-departmental concern.
In the long run, compartmentalized organizational units are not conducive to effective knowledge management. Individual teams are a starting point, but the ultimate goal is to establish a comprehensive, organization-wide knowledge management framework. Information flows and processes in modern organizations are complex and often transcend team boundaries. IT Service Management, for instance, extends beyond IT teams and increasingly involves development and business teams, each maintaining their own service desks to cater to specific target groups and customers.
While many organizations recognized long ago that empowerment, trust, transparency and a constructive culture of error are valuable achievements, other companies only took the first steps down this path in response to the pandemic. After all, it turns out that even "latecomers" are maintaining some key changes, continuing to give their teams more freedom in the post-pandemic period, and reinforcing values such as trust and openness.
This is of central importance for effective knowledge management which impacts the entire organization. Knowledge primarily resides in the minds of individuals, and it's essential for the organization to promote and facilitate knowledge sharing among its members.
In this regard, an ITSM team (or any team already accustomed to using wikis, regularly documenting information, and cultivating an open culture of internal sharing) can play a significant role. When successful pilot teams demonstrate the benefits of knowledge management and use practical examples to convey these advantages to other parts of the company, it serves as a powerful signal and role model for broader adoption.
ITSM practices and knowledge management
The ITSM team won't need to search far to find scenarios and use cases where structured knowledge management proves its value. In examples like the following, systematic knowledge management truly shines:
Knowledge management as a prerequisite for many ITIL practices
Knowledge management is a crucial prerequisite for many ITIL practices, impacting nearly all ITSM functions from change management to configuration management to continuous service improvement. Executing effective and efficient ITIL practices is impossible without teams being able to systematically gather, prepare, provide, and share information to meet their specific requirements.
Basis for improvements
Only through complete and comprehensive documentation can organizations identify process bottlenecks, resource gaps, and areas where customer service expectations may not be fully met. Knowledge management is, therefore, a prerequisite for assessing and optimizing services and their underlying processes.
Incidents and knowledge management
In the complex, modern IT landscape dominated by microservices, incidents can't always be prevented. What truly matters is how the team handles and responds to them. Access to clear process descriptions and recommended actions not only saves time and reduces stress but also minimizes costs when facing critical situations. Detailed post-mortem documentation, accompanied by corresponding learnings, offers valuable insights for resolving future incidents more effectively and efficiently while effectively eliminating identified weaknesses.
Onboarding in ITSM teams
In every ITSM team, numerous technical and collaborative processes exist, underscoring the importance of efficiently providing new team members with the information they need to quickly contribute effectively. With the right tool like Confluence and an established documentation culture within the team, what may be a stressful onboarding experience can become a pleasant and efficient process. As the saying goes, 'You don't have to know everything; you just have to know where it is.' That, in itself, is perfectly sufficient for a solid start.
Self-service via knowledge portals for customers
Modern service desk software, like Jira Service Management, offers the capability to integrate a knowledge base, often based on a publicly accessible Confluence instance. This integration is a vital use case in ITSM teams, as we've thoroughly detailed in our article, 'Integrating Confluence into Jira Service Management: How ITSM Teams Efficiently Handle Service Desk Requests.' Such a knowledge base serves the critical purpose of providing customers with relevant information before they submit a request, thereby conserving ITSM team capacity. While compiling, preparing, and constantly updating this knowledge base requires effort, the initial investment pays off as more customers become self-sufficient with pertinent information, reducing the need to open tickets and easing the burden on the ITSM team.
Centralized knowledge and Service Request Management
Effective knowledge management ensures that the team doesn't need to reinvent the wheel with every customer issue. While the world of work is complex, and resolving customer problems can be time-consuming, habitualizing the documentation of approaches and resolutions in ticket handling can yield substantial benefits for both the ITSM team and the customer. When similar cases arise in the future, the groundwork has already been laid, making processing more efficient. If needed, tools like AutoPage for Jira, which automate the documentation of Jira content in Confluence, can provide valuable support in this regard.
A long-term investment
These are just a few examples showcasing the value of comprehensive knowledge management. Structured knowledge is indispensable in many other ITSM areas, ranging from problem management to the development and maintenance of the service catalog to change management.
There's no doubt that knowledge management entails ongoing effort and self-imposed responsibilities. Documenting new information and regularly updating existing records can be time-consuming, and proficiency in tools like Confluence is essential for those involved. However, in the medium and long term, the benefits it brings to the team, its efficiency, and the quality of its services are exceedingly valuable.
Would you like our team to offer insights into key ITSM use cases and practices through a personalized demonstration? Or are you intrigued by the transition towards a streamlined, professional IT Service Management approach? Feel free to reach out to us!