The ability to deliver high quality IT services is dependent on those involved being able to rapidly manage the different circumstances that arise in the delivery. In turn, this is based on their ability to understand the situation, which options are available and the consequences of these options.
The overall objective of Knowledge Management is to improve the organization’s ability to deliver IT services through ensuring that the knowledge needed is relevant and available.
The purpose of Knowledge Management is to share perspectives, ideas, experience and information and ensure that it is available when needed. A well-functioning process facilitates decision-making and reduces unnecessary work rediscovering knowledge already exists within the organization.
At a fundamental level, the purpose of the Knowledge Management process is to ensure the information and documentation that is required to deliver IT services and to have control over which knowledge exists in the organization and where it is located.
Knowledge Management comprises all documentation within the IT department, all configuration items and also all knowledge, both documented and non- documented.
Furthermore, Knowledge Management should:
- Provide a storage location and procedures for management of information
- Provide information about experience and knowledge within the organization
- Improve the quality of the decision process through providing reliable information for decision makers
- Ensure that staff have access to the right information in all parts of the delivery
Value for the business
Effective Knowledge Management supplies a value to the business through:
- Transferring knowledge to the users
- Storing and disseminating intellectual capital which makes the organization less vulnerable
- Support during audits
- Providing correct information for decisions
Knowledge Management is not a process in the sense that activities can be followed from start to finish, but rather an area of responsibility with a number of procedures. However, there are seven activities or building blocks which must be managed. These activities are used to develop Knowledge Management and to subsequently regularly evaluate what is in greatest need of improvement.
The seven activities are:
- Decide on objectives for Knowledge Management
- Work on knowledge identification
- Acquire knowledge
- Develop knowledge
- Distribute knowledge
- Retain knowledge
- Measure knowledge
- Set objectives for Knowledge Management
The objective indicates the route for Knowledge Management. It determines which resources should be appointed and at which level. A well-defined and communicated objective helps to build a satisfactory culture in the organization. It is a good idea to formulate objectives at several levels:
Normative objectives – Set the objectives for the culture which should be disseminated within the organization so that it is natural to share knowledge.
Strategic objectives – Describe strategic knowledge and indicate future knowledge requirements for the organization.
Operational objectives – Break down the normative and strategic objectives into measurable operational objectives which can be used to govern the business.
- Knowledge identification
Before investing in developing knowledge, there should be control over which knowledge already exists within the organization. This is done through designing knowledge maps based on the service structure and which are subsequently filled with information.
Today there are numerous, effective system supports to develop these types of maps. However, it is not sufficient to have just one good system. Personal knowledge also needs to be identified and conveyed. One way to do this is to create knowledge groups to identify and document knowledge at the personal level.
There are easier things than getting technical analysts or developers to document their knowledge. This can be tolerably resolved through registering who knows what within the organization. The employee thus becomes ”living documentation”, to whom reference can be made in other documentation. You also obtain a good overview of which knowledge there is in the organization and if someone should end their employment, then you know immediately which knowledge needs to be replaced.
- Acquire knowledge
The immense amount of information and knowledge that is needed makes it almost impossible to develop the level internally in an organization. Instead it is necessary to purchase the knowledge externally. There are four main ways to obtain knowledge:
Knowledge from other companies – A quick way of obtaining expertise is to purchase another organization or to establish a collaboration, for example, in connection with outsourcing the IT operation.
Stakeholders – An inexpensive way is to utilize resources from the business who have the knowledge required.
Experts – Contracting in experts in the form of consultants is the most common way to purchase knowledge.
Products – In distinction from contracting in experts, products do not provide any immediate and automatic increase in knowledge. Normally, the potential can only be realized through an individual(s) being appointed to use the products. Regardless of whether the product is a method, book, course or a system, it is important that the product fits into the strategic targets that have been formulated.
- Develop knowledge
The activity comprises development of knowledge at the individual and collective levels. At the individual level it is based on the creativity and problem-solving capacity to be found in individuals. Learning through problem-solving can be facilitated with a defined working method. On the other hand, creativity can be difficult to influence. One way of doing this is to create a reward system and measurements which encourage personal initiative.
Collective learning is based on the teams and groups that are put together, and the culture that exists in the organization. When a team or a group is defined, the individuals in the group should share their knowledge with each other in order to encourage collective transfer of knowledge.
Regular forums can also be set up for knowledge transfer such as think tanks, lecture sessions and internal skills centers. Continually evaluating and reflecting on projects implemented is a good way of developing and disseminating knowledge.
- Distribute knowledge
When knowledge is made available throughout the organization, the critical question is: ”Who should have access to what information and at which level?” Not everybody needs to know everything.
Systems tools are a major part of the activity. There are currently several different collaboration platforms for knowledge dissemination. What is important is that data is only available in one original, which is subsequently published in different ways in different parts of the organization.
The collaborative parts of the tool such as direct communications and blogs can be used to provide access to personal knowledge. Technical advice, expert groups and internal media broadcasts can also be organized.
- Retain knowledge
Once the knowledge has been identified and developed, the organization must retain the knowledge. Many organizations lose knowledge during each reorganization as informal information paths are disrupted. Static allocation of duties over a long period also results in individuals losing touch with the rest of the knowledge that is within the group’s remit. To avoid loss of important knowledge and information, the organization must ensure that it continually evaluates the knowledge that exists in each grouping and ensure that it is disseminated and documented in the shared knowledge database.
- Measure knowledge
The most difficult aspect of Knowledge Management is evaluating knowledge in individuals. In distinction from many other areas, there are no ready-made tool boxes with numerical values that can be used. Even if they did exist, the interesting numerical values are difficult to use and they are often perceived as expensive and disruptive for the individual, for example a test to measure knowledge.
Despite this, measurement of knowledge in an organization represents a major value for the business as large investments are put into elements such as training initiatives each year. It is thus important to purchase the right knowledge.
The methods for measurement of knowledge should reflect the normative, strategic and operational objectives previously addressed. If the objectives are concrete, they are easier to measure. Great responsibility rests on the managers to conduct an active dialogue with the staff regarding their knowledge, experience and personal qualities. Continually evaluating and measuring training activities that have been implemented is a simple way of keeping documentation of the knowledge level updated.
The DIKW model is usually used to describe the levels of information and the relationship between Data, Information, Knowledge and Wisdom. One of the objectives of the Knowledge Management process is to present knowledge as a basis for decisions.
Data – A collection of isolated facts about incidents. It might be issues in a system, an incident in an application or an alarm from the monitoring system. Most organizations keep large amounts of data in different databases.
Information – Data put in a context. Answers questions such as who, what, where and how many. A report which shows a large number of incidents during January is an example of information.
Knowledge – Information supplemented with experiences, ideas, insights, valuations and assessments from individuals. People acquire knowledge both from their own and their colleagues’ expertise, as well as from analysis of information. New knowledge is created through compiling it. For example, comparing the report of incidents during January with other months of the year and adding information about other related events during January gives us the capacity to evaluate the information and create knowledge about the incidents in January.
Wisdom – Knowledge used to provide data for decisions based on facts and common sense.
This information model can assist in ensuring that data and reports are formulated at the right level. Data is often already at different levels within the IT organization and the level of information can be facilitated through automatic generation of reports in most systems. However, the level of knowledge needs human involvement, and a procedure for how this should be implemented and who has responsibility should also be created.
Configuration Management Database (CMDB)
A configuration Management database is a source with information about all configuration items that are required to deliver IT services and also which relationships these have to each other. Constructing a configuration database is the most difficult and demanding aspect of Knowledge Management.
Configuration items are the parts over which we need to have control within the IT organization in order to deliver IT services. It might be anything from a server or a piece of software to a contract or piece of a documentation which describes the configuration of a system.
To facilitate the management of these configuration items, we divide them into different types:
- IT service
- Supporting service
Using the same structure and level as in Service Catalogue Management simplifies both its management and the staff’s ability to relate to the structure.
The aim of the configuration database is that we should rapidly gain access to the information we need about the parts included in the IT environment and also how these are configured and which connection they have to each other. There are currently a number of automatic systems for compiling information about the IT environment. The danger of this is that it is easy to drown in information and it is difficult to sort and see connections. It is therefore easier to start with the overall service structure and then build downwards through IT services, supporting services, products and components as described in the chapter concerning Service Catalogue Management.
In this way we obtain a structure on which to base our work, which makes it easier to gain control of all information and its connections.
Construction of the configuration database takes place through the following steps:
- Create a service structure to build on (see Service Catalogue Management)
- Break down the products in the service structure to component level
- Introduce system support that can handle both components of different types and their relationships if not already in the ticket management system
- Register data in the system and start with a complete delivery from agreement down to the components to check whether the structure works
- Decide structure at strategic level within the IT organization
- Add remaining data
- Appoint administrator responsible for both structure and content
- Establish procedures to keep the information correct
Once this simple configuration database is functioning and used in the organization, additional types, attributes and versions for the configuration item can be entered.
Knowledge Management needs tools. There are currently numerous tools available on the market. Regardless of tool, there are a few things to think about:
- Try not to collect all data in one place. Instead put energy into linking together the relevant sources of information so that the information is searchable and can be accessed from a common central system
- Ensure that data only has one original and that the original is administered
- As far as possible, try to construct the same structure as in the different data sources in order to facilitate the relationship between them
- Have the most secure source govern changes. For example, the payroll system can be the trigger to close the accounts of individuals who has stop working in the organization
- Construct procedures and systems which keep information alive. Static documents quickly become obsolete
- Put time and energy into search ability. The staff want to have access to information when they need it so it must be simple to find
This is how Knowledge Management can be measured:
- Number of issues resolved in first line support
- Number of training activities implemented
- Proportion of the IT organization that has had an inventory of knowledge
- Number of known errors resolved
- Number of times information read by staff
- Proportion of the IT environment that is in the configuration database
Knowledge Management involves a lot of politics and requires support from the executive management to function. Well-functioning information and knowledge management restructures the knowledge map and makes it available for everybody within the organization. The process means that internal decision makers and experts lose their knowledge advantage, which can be an instrument in the internal political struggle.
For this reason, Knowledge Management has natural enemies in all organizations. This means that decisions have to be taken and support enlisted in the top management within the IT organization for Knowledge Management to succeed.
The following activities need particular attention when implementing Knowledge Management:
- Justify the investment that is required to build an adequate service structure
- Motivate all stakeholders and get them to understand the value of Knowledge Management
- Appoint individuals responsible for different types of documentation
Measure and follow up the initiatives on an ongoing basis