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Knowledge Management

Updated: Mar 11

Summary


Definition

Knowledge Management in ITIL 4 refers to capturing, storing, sharing, and leveraging knowledge within an organisation to improve decision-making, problem-solving, and overall efficiency.

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Purpose & Value

Key Components

Activities / Process

Integration With Other Practices

Roles & Responsibilities

Key KPIs & Metrics

Industry Tools

Key Advice

Free Tools & Templates

Knowledge Management Maturity Criteria

The following table can help you measure your organisational maturity against criteria.

Level

Maturity

Key Indicators

1

Ad-hoc

  • No formal knowledge management process is in place.

  • Reliance on individual knowledge and expertise.

  • Inconsistent knowledge-sharing practices.

2

Basic

  • Basic documentation and storage of knowledge.

  • Limited knowledge sharing among team members.

  • Inconsistent knowledge update and maintenance.

  • Informal training and learning.

3

Structured

​Well-defined knowledge management procedures.

  • Centralised and organised knowledge repository.

  • Standardised knowledge categorisation and tagging.

  • Regular knowledge review and update.

4

Managed

  • Proactive knowledge management approach.

  • Continuous improvement processes in place.

  • Regular audits of knowledge accuracy and relevance.

  • Formal training and learning programs.

  • Established performance metrics and KPIs.

5

Optimised

  • Fully integrated and optimised knowledge management.

  • Advanced analytics and automation.

  • Knowledge-driven decision-making.

  • Continuous improvement is a core value.

  • Alignment with IT and business goals.

Introduction


An image representing knowledge management

In the UK, we have a very dearly loved TV sitcom called 'Only Fools and Horses'. A street cleaner called Trigger was off to collect an award from the local council for looking after his broom of 20 years. When asked about it, he said, "This old broom has had 17 new heads and 14 new handles in its time."


The 'Ship of Theasus' thought experiment explores the same concept. If a ship slowly has its parts replaced, when does it stop being the original ship? I mention these things because it leads to the question: When is a company or an organisation the same organisation if it changes its staff?


Well, you can debate that in your own time, but I make the point to demonstrate that at some point, natural attrition leads to old staff leaving and new staff joining, but the organisation needs to continue, and what is the organisation, if not its knowledge of how to do things.


Information acts as the lifeblood of organisations, and the ability to manage, share, and utilise this invaluable asset efficiently becomes paramount not just within the closed ecosystem but over time and through change.


Among the many practices within ITIL, Knowledge Management emerges as a cornerstone, designed to ensure that valuable information and data are stored and actively shared, managed, and leveraged to drive organisational success.


Knowledge Management within ITIL v4 is not merely about collecting data; it's about transforming it into accessible wisdom that empowers decision-making and innovation.


In the context of ITIL v4, this practice is pivotal for fostering an environment where information is fluidly circulated across all levels, ensuring that every stakeholder can access the insights they need to contribute to the organisation's objectives.


The importance of Knowledge Management cannot be overstated. As organisations navigate digital transformations, mergers, and global expansions, efficiently managing knowledge assets becomes critical. It’s about capturing the tacit knowledge residing in employees' minds, converting it into explicit knowledge that can be widely shared, and employing it to solve current challenges and anticipate and innovate for the future.


“If HP knew what HP knows, we’d be three times more productive.” – Former Hewlett-Packard CEO, Lew Platt.

Definition

Knowledge management is the practice of maintaining and improving the effective, efficient, and convenient use of information and knowledge across an organization. Its purpose is to transform information and intellectual capital into persistent value for employees and service consumers.


This is achieved by establishing systematic processes for knowledge asset management, building a high interoperability knowledge environment, and empowering people to develop and share knowledge according to the organization's vision and needs. This includes utilizing modern technologies, data/information/knowledge management methods, and training approaches to build an evolutionary environment where:


  • Decision-making capabilities are improved

  • An adaptive change culture exists

  • Performance improves, supporting the organizational strategy

  • Data-driven and insight-driven approaches are used throughout the organization

The knowledge management practice contributes to every component of the ITIL service value stream. It incorporates the premises of improving absorptive capacity, managing data/information/knowledge, using the SECI model for knowledge dimensions, and focusing on knowledge assets and a multi-base environment.


Purpose & Value

Purpose

The core purpose of Knowledge Management within ITIL 4 is to ensure that valuable information and knowledge are systematically collected, analysed, stored, shared, and utilised.


This concerted effort adds immense value to an organisation by:


  • Enhancing Efficiency: Streamlining access to relevant knowledge reduces the time and resources spent on rediscovering or duplicating information, thereby improving operational efficiency.

  • Improving Service Quality: With comprehensive knowledge, organisations can deliver higher-quality services more aligned with customer needs and expectations.

  • Facilitating Innovation: By fostering an environment where knowledge is freely shared and built upon, Knowledge Management paves the way for innovation within IT service management and delivery, enabling the development of new and improved services.

The strategic integration of Knowledge Management into the fabric of ITIL 4 practices signifies its pivotal role in achieving service excellence and operational agility. By prioritising the effective use of knowledge, organisations can navigate the complexities of the digital age, making informed decisions that drive growth and success.


Value

The value of Knowledge Management is multifaceted, offering significant benefits such as:

  • Reduced Redundancy and Rework: By making past experiences and solutions readily available, organisations can avoid repeating past mistakes and reinventing solutions, saving time and resources.

  • Enhanced Competitive Advantage: Knowledge is a critical differentiator in today's market. Effective Knowledge Management can lead to superior service delivery, customer satisfaction, and agility in adapting to market changes.

  • Cultural Transformation: Promoting a culture of knowledge sharing and continuous learning can transform the organisational ethos, fostering a more collaborative and innovative work environment.

“Developing a knowledge-sharing culture is a consequence of knowledge management, not a prerequisite.” – Carla O’Dell, renowned author and President of APQC (American Productivity & Quality Center)

Key Components

The DIKW (Data, Information, Knowledge, Wisdom) Pyramid


The DIKW pyramid illustrates a hierarchy where data is the raw material that becomes information when processed and contextualised. Information, when further analysed and applied, becomes knowledge. Wisdom, at the top of the pyramid, is derived from accumulated knowledge and provides the insight to make sound decisions.


  • Data - The raw facts and figures without context.

  • Information -  Data that has been given meaning through interpretation.

  • Knowledge -  The application of information and data, combined with experience and insights, to make informed decisions.

  • Wisdom - This is derived from knowledge and allows you to take action. Knowledge is to know that a tomato is a fruit, but wisdom is to keep it out of a fruit salad.


These are often combined in the term 'DIKW' (pronounced just as you'd read it).


The DIKW Pyramid Model
The DIKW Pyramid Model

Understanding the relationship between these components is crucial for effective Knowledge Management. It involves not only the collection of data and information but also the cultivation of an environment where knowledge is continuously created, shared, and applied.

This model represents the hierarchical relationship between data, information, knowledge, and wisdom, with each level adding more context, understanding, and value.


Knowledge Articles

Knowledge articles are the cornerstone of effective knowledge management practices within ITIL 4. These articles are meticulously crafted documents that capture, distil, and disseminate critical information across an organisation, enabling IT to support teams and end-users to resolve issues more efficiently and enhance decision-making processes.


At their core, knowledge articles are designed to provide a structured approach to sharing vital information. They include solutions to common problems, step-by-step how-to guides, FAQs, and troubleshooting instructions. The primary purpose of these articles is to ensure that valuable knowledge, once identified, is made accessible to all relevant stakeholders, thereby reducing the need for individuals to "reinvent the wheel" and promoting a more efficient resolution of incidents and problems.


Types of Knowledge Articles


  • Solution Articles: Provide answers to known problems, helping quickly address user issues without extensive support.

  • How-To Guides: Step-by-step instructions aimed at helping users perform specific tasks or resolve issues independently.

  • FAQs: Address common questions, offering quick and straightforward answers to support user needs and reduce support requests.


Recommendations for creating effective knowledge articles


  • Select Simple Titles Using Target Keywords: Keep your article titles straightforward and use relevant keywords. Clear titles help users quickly identify whether the article addresses their specific query.

  • Have One Article per Specific Topic: Avoid redundancy by having only one article for a particular topic. Multiple articles on the same subject can confuse users and make maintenance challenging.

  • Categorise Articles Logically: Organise your knowledge base by categorising articles into relevant sections. Logical categorisation improves navigation and helps users find what they need efficiently.

  • Use Anchor Links in Lengthy Articles: For longer articles, consider using anchor links to allow users to jump directly to relevant sections. This enhances readability and user experience.

  • Make Content Easy to Skim: Use headings, bullet points, and concise paragraphs. Users often scan articles, so make it easy for them to find the information they seek.

  • Provide Links to Related Articles and Resources: Cross-link related articles within your knowledge base. This helps users explore related topics and find comprehensive solutions.

  • Stick with Simple Article Titles: Avoid overly complex or cryptic titles. A clear title sets expectations and encourages users to click and read further.

  • Use Images to Save Time and Create Clarity: Visual aids like screenshots or diagrams can enhance understanding and guide users through processes.


Further reading;


Knowledge Sharing Platforms


So what's out there?


Well, it'll change as quickly as I can write it. AI is moving faster than anyone can keep up with. Technologies like ChatGPT and Bard are changing daily and are already incredibly valuable tools for assisting analysts with knowledge and troubleshooting suggestions.


However, I focus here on tools that capture human knowledge, specifically within the team, and allow others to utilise it.


There are plenty of knowledge management tools and solutions that can help. I'm going to summarise just three. This is not an endorsement because everyone needs to evaluate and see what fits their scenario.


Remember, there are software comparison sites, as outlined in the section on selecting and evaluating an ITSM tool. These can be used to get a sense of the market. Sadly, there isn't a Gartner Magic Quadrant report for Knowledge Management, as the features aren't standardised enough to allow for it.


H

Activities /Process Stages

While ITIL does outline best practices and principles for knowledge management, it does not rigidly prescribe specific steps or activities. Instead, it provides a framework organisations can adapt and tailor to their needs and circumstances.


1. Knowledge Capture

Effective knowledge management's heart lies in capturing insights from various sources. Whether learning from past incidents, dissecting complex problems, or leveraging the expertise of seasoned professionals, organisations must adopt robust mechanisms to capture and document this invaluable knowledge.


Incident Management

When incidents occur, they provide valuable insights into system weaknesses, user pain points, and potential solutions. By diligently documenting the details of each incident—such as symptoms, root causes, and resolutions—organisations can build a repository of actionable knowledge that aids in future troubleshooting and problem-solving.


Problem Management

Unlike incidents, problems are recurring issues requiring a more in-depth analysis to identify underlying causes and implement permanent solutions. Through rigorous problem management practices, organisations can capture the specific details of each problem and the investigative steps taken, lessons learned, and preventive measures deployed.


Change Management

IT systems and infrastructure changes can have far-reaching consequences, both intended and unintended. Capturing knowledge during the change management process involves documenting change requests, implementation plans, rollback procedures, and post-implementation reviews. This knowledge facilitates smooth transitions and serves as a valuable resource for future change initiatives.


Knowledge from Experts

In addition to formal processes such as incident, problem, and change management, organisations often possess a wealth of tacit knowledge residing within the minds of their employees. Harnessing this expertise requires allowing experts to share their insights, experiences, and best practices. Through informal mentoring, knowledge-sharing sessions, or collaborative platforms, capturing knowledge from experts is essential for enriching the organisational knowledge base.


2. Knowledge Sharing

Knowledge, when hoarded, loses its potency. I've certainly watched team members hoard knowledge and use it to boost the value of themselves and their teams.


Hence, fostering a culture of sharing is paramount. By establishing platforms for collaboration, conducting knowledge-sharing sessions, and nurturing communities of practice, organisations can unlock the collective intelligence of their workforce.


  • Establish collaboration platforms (like Slack and Teams) to ask questions and share ideas across teams, locations and timezones.

  • Conduct knowledge-sharing sessions where staff share their learnings over a coffee and a chat. Make them reasonably relaxed and informal, or they'll die off quickly.

  • Establish communities of practice, such as informal groups with common interests or expertise, as areas to share information and ideas.

  • Encourage mentoring and coaching.

  • Recognising & rewarding knowledge sharing.


3. Knowledge Validation

In an era plagued by misinformation, validating the accuracy and relevance of knowledge becomes non-negotiable. Implementing stringent validation processes and consulting subject matter experts ensures that the knowledge repository remains a reliable source of truth.


  • Establish a review process for published information so that a second pair of eyes validates any articles before they are committed to the knowledge base.

  • Consult with Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to check the validity of the knowledge or to create it for you.

  • Validate through experience and testing. Nothing quickly confirms an instruction than giving it a trial in the real world by someone independent.


4. Knowledge Storage

Imagine a library where books are strewn haphazardly—finding the correct information would be akin to finding a needle in a haystack. Similarly, organising knowledge in a structured and easily accessible manner is imperative. By leveraging knowledge management systems and employing effective tagging and categorisation strategies, organisations can ensure that valuable insights are just a click away.


Ensure there is structure categorisation - a clear and intuitive hierarchy structure for storing knowledge that allows the user to drill into it instinctively. Creating one big pot and throwing documents and articles into it quickly overwhelms everyone trying to find something.


Use tagging & metadata - the more information you add about the the information you've collected, the easier it will be for searching. Tags, snippets, descriptions, and keywords all help.


Make sure it is accessible - There can be a tendency for some to restrict knowledge, which is fine if you know why you are doing it. Honestly, there is greater value in the transparency and availability of knowledge, coupled with careful permissions on the applications themselves.


Don't create multiple knowledgebases - If every team uses a different tool, you'll end up with lots of knowledge desperately managed with different levels of maturity and difficult for people to access. Don't allow 2nd-line and 3rd-line support teams to start creating separate knowledge bases unless there is a solid reason.


Don't keep creating new knowledgebases - I've witnessed a tendency over the years for people to say, 'Well, this KB is a mess, and the documents are out of date, so we better create a new one!' The new one is set up, but the old knowledge isn't transferred, and you end up again with multiple knowledge bases.


5. Knowledge Maintenance

Like a well-tended garden, knowledge requires regular nurturing and maintenance. Instituting processes for periodic review, updating outdated information, and retiring obsolete content ensures that the knowledge repository remains a vibrant and reliable resource.


Ensure that you have;


  • Regular review and audits of the knowledge. Don't let it go stale, as it will erode confidence in the KB.

  • Have a process retirement and archiving of content so it's available if needed but not muddying the waters.

  • Explore continuous improvement initiatives to reflect on your knowledge practices and see where there are opportunities for improvement.

6. Knowledge Measurement

Lastly, measuring the effectiveness of knowledge management initiatives is imperative for continuous improvement. Tracking metrics such as knowledge usage, user satisfaction, and business impact provides valuable insights into the efficacy of knowledge management efforts. In any process, what gets measured gets managed.


Knowledge measurement encompasses the processes and metrics used to assess knowledge management initiatives' effectiveness, efficiency, and impact, ensuring that knowledge assets contribute value to the organisation's strategic objectives and business outcomes.


I'll explore more in the KPIs section, but consider the following;


  • Usage Metrics

  • Track page views, downloads, search queries, and time spent on pages.

  • Analyse usage patterns to identify high-value content and user preferences.

  • User Satisfaction Surveys

  • Gather feedback on usability, relevance, and effectiveness of knowledge assets.

  • Align knowledge management practices with user needs and expectations.

  • Impact on Service Delivery

  • Assess incident resolution times, problem-solving rates, and customer satisfaction scores.

  • Demonstrate the positive impact of knowledge management on service quality and efficiency.

  • Knowledge Contribution and Collaboration

  • Measure contributions to knowledge repositories, peer reviews, and knowledge-sharing sessions.

  • Incentivise active participation and engagement in knowledge management activities.

  • Knowledge Quality and Accuracy

  • Monitor content accuracy rates, validation completion rates, and error rates.

  • Maintain high content quality standards to enhance the knowledge repository's reliability.

  • Return on Investment (ROI) Analysis

  • Evaluate the financial impact and cost-effectiveness of knowledge management initiatives.

  • Quantify tangible benefits such as cost savings, productivity gains, and revenue growth.


Integration with Other Practices

Here's how Knowledge Management integrates and supports some of the other key practices within the ITIL framework;

ITIL v4 Practice

Description

Integration with Knowledge Management

Incident Management

Resolving incidents to restore regular service operations as quickly as possible.

Knowledge management captures insights from resolved incidents, documenting solutions and best practices for future reference and troubleshooting.

Problem Management

Identifying and addressing the root causes of recurring incidents to prevent future occurrences.

Knowledge management stores insights from problem investigations, documenting root cause analyses and known error resolutions for proactive problem-solving.

Change Management

Managing changes to IT systems and services in a controlled and systematic manner.

Knowledge management captures information about implemented changes, documenting change plans, outcomes, and lessons learned for future change activities.

Service Desk

Providing a single point of contact for users to report incidents, request services, and seek assistance.

Knowledge management supports service desk operations by providing access to relevant knowledge articles and solutions for incident resolution.

Service Request Management

Handling user requests for standard services in a structured and efficient manner.

Knowledge management supports service request management by providing access to self-service options and knowledge articles for resolving common user requests.

Roles & Responsibilities

Role

Responsibilities

Knowledge Manager

  • Develop and implement knowledge management strategies and policies.

  • Define standards and processes for capturing, storing, and retrieving knowledge.

  • Oversee the creation, maintenance, and retirement of knowledge assets.

  • Ensure that knowledge management practices align with organisational goals and objectives.

  • Monitor and measure the effectiveness of knowledge management initiatives.

  • Provide training and support to employees on knowledge management tools and processes.

Knowledge Analyst/Coordinator

  • Facilitate the capture and documentation of knowledge from various sources.

  • Organise and categorise knowledge assets in the central repository.

  • Ensure that knowledge is accurate, relevant, and up-to-date through validation and verification.

  • Assist users in retrieving relevant knowledge and resolving knowledge-related issues.

  • Analyse usage metrics and user feedback to identify areas for improvement.

Subject Matter Expert (SME)

  • Contribute expertise and insights to the knowledge management process.

  • Review and validate knowledge assets within their area of expertise.

  • Provide guidance and support to colleagues on complex issues and best practices.

  • Participate in knowledge-sharing activities such as training sessions and communities of practice.

Service Desk Analyst

  • Use knowledge management tools and resources to resolve incidents and fulfil service requests.

  • Document solutions and workarounds for common issues and user requests.

  • Identify and escalate unresolved issues or gaps in knowledge to the knowledge management team.

  • Provide feedback on the effectiveness and usability of knowledge management tools and processes.

End Users

  • Contribute to the knowledge base by documenting solutions to common issues and best practices.

  • Use knowledge management tools and resources to self-serve and resolve simple queries or issues.

  • Provide feedback on the relevance and usefulness of knowledge assets.

KPIs & Metrics

Knowledge Capture and Creation

KPI/Metric

Description

Method of Calculation

Number of knowledge articles created

Measures the volume of new knowledge assets generated within a specific period.

Count the number of new knowledge articles created.

Knowledge coverage ratio

Indicates the percentage of documented knowledge relative to the total knowledge required.

(Number of documented knowledge articles / Total knowledge required) * 100%

Time to create knowledge

Measures the average time taken to capture and document new knowledge assets.

The sum of time taken to create each knowledge asset / Number of knowledge assets created.

Knowledge Quality and Accuracy

KPI/Metric

Description

Method of Calculation

Content accuracy rate

Measures the percentage of knowledge assets verified to be accurate and reliable.

(Number of accurate knowledge assets / Total number of knowledge assets) * 100%

Knowledge validation completion rate

Indicates the percentage of knowledge assets that have undergone validation or peer review.

(Number of validated knowledge assets / Total number of knowledge assets) * 100%

Error rate

Measures the frequency of errors or inaccuracies identified in knowledge assets.

(Number of errors in knowledge assets / Total number of knowledge assets) * 100%

Knowledge Accessibility and Usability

KPI/Metric

Description

Method of Calculation

Search relevance

Measures the effectiveness of search algorithms in retrieving relevant knowledge results.

(Number of relevant search results / Total number of search queries) * 100%

User satisfaction with knowledge

Indicates user satisfaction levels with the ease of accessing and using knowledge resources.

Survey responses indicate satisfaction with knowledge accessibility and usability.

Average time to retrieve knowledge

Measures the time taken for users to find and access relevant knowledge assets.

The sum of time taken to retrieve knowledge assets / Number of knowledge asset retrievals.

Knowledge Sharing and Collaboration

KPI/Metric

Description

Method of Calculation

Number of knowledge-sharing sessions

Measures the frequency of knowledge-sharing events or sessions conducted within the organisation.

Count the number of knowledge-sharing sessions conducted.

Participation rate in knowledge-sharing activities

Indicates the level of engagement and participation in knowledge-sharing initiatives.

(Number of participants in knowledge-sharing activities / Total number of eligible participants) * 100%

Number of contributions per user

Measures the frequency of individual contributions to the knowledge repository.

Count the number of contributions made by each user.

Knowledge Utilisation and Impact

KPI/Metric

Description

Method of Calculation

Usage metrics (page views, downloads, etc.)

Tracks the usage and consumption of knowledge assets by users.

Collect usage data from knowledge management system logs.

Incident resolution time

Measures the time taken to resolve incidents with the assistance of knowledge resources.

Calculate the difference between incident creation time and resolution time.

Reduction in repeat incidents

Indicates the effectiveness of knowledge management in reducing the recurrence of similar incidents.

Compare the number of repeat incidents before and after implementing knowledge management.

Knowledge Maintenance and Governance

KPI/Metric

Description

Method of Calculation

Knowledge review cycle time

Measures the frequency and efficiency of reviewing and updating knowledge assets.

Calculate the average time taken to complete a knowledge review cycle.

Compliance with knowledge management policies

Indicates adherence to established standards and processes for managing knowledge.

Percentage of knowledge assets compliant with policies.

Knowledge retirement rate

Measures the frequency of retiring obsolete knowledge assets from the repository.

Count the number of knowledge assets retired.



Industry Tools

Knowledge Repositories


Confluence

Over and over, people have raved about their love for Confluence to me. It's great, but it will only be as good as the knowledge put into it. I believe the old saying is 'garbage in, garbage out'. So, it won't fix everything for you, but I like it. If you've not seen it, it's basically like a Wiki site, but there is much more to it.


Confluence is good for organising and centralising information. For example, you can effortlessly search for articles, and it's pretty simple for people to add articles themselves. In addition, there are excellent features like team co-editing, commenting, and tracking changes.


It also integrates with other Atlassian products, such as Jira, so you can link workflows in Jira Service Management with articles in Confluence, which can be pretty slick.