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Knowledge Management Is Not Just About Document Repositories

By | July 23, 2014 in Service Desk

Knowledge Management Is Not Just About Document Repositories

When I ask people how they acquire the knowledge they need to do their jobs they describe a huge variety of approaches that work for them, including working with other people, attending training, reading books and blogs, watching videos, trial and error, being mentored and more.

When I ask IT management what tools and techniques they use in their knowledge management programs they often just describe tools that are used for managing and sharing documents. If our knowledge management efforts are focussed on this very limited view then we will never equip our people with the knowledge they need to be effective and efficient.

If we remember that knowledge only has value when it is available to someone, either because they remember it or because they are guided towards it at the time they need it, then that can help us to understand what knowledge management needs to achieve. It’s much more than just storing documents in a repository.

When you create a knowledge management programme, you should focus on achievable outcomes that will generate some short term value that you can then build on. Don’t start with an enormous over-arching programme that will take years to implement and even longer to create value. It’s good to think about the entire scope of where you may want to be in the long term, but make sure that you have manageable steps to get there and that each step has measureable ROI.

One place that many organizations start to implement knowledge management is at the service desk. If your service desk people have the right knowledge then they can work more efficiently, and they can also deliver more value to your users. This great combination of improved efficiency and greater quality is a common result of good knowledge management.

So what is needed to improve the knowledge of your service desk people? Maybe you could start by talking to them. Understand what they find difficult, what kinds of mistakes they make, what knowledge they think would be useful to them. Make sure you think about things beyond technical knowledge. What do they know about how the business works and what the users do? Is this enough to help them communicate well? Research how other organizations do knowledge management, at a minimum you should investigate

Think about all the different tools and techniques you could use to help your people develop the knowledge they need. Some of the things that you might consider include:

  • A known error database integrated with your service desk tool
  • A document repository such as SharePoint
  • Face-to-face or online training
  • Webinars, podcast, YouTube videos and other on-demand media
  • Forums and social media that can be used to ask and answer questions – in-house or external
  • Mentoring or coaching
  • Directory of subject matter experts to enable people to find someone that can help when needed
  • Newsletters, emails and other mass communication channels
  • Access to “sandpit” environments where they can experiment with the software and hardware that the users have – this is especially useful if there is a planned change so they can familiarize themselves before the users get new or updated applications

Once you have understood what knowledge is needed you should be able to identify one or more of the above tools and techniques to make this knowledge available when and where it is needed. Remember that different people learn in different ways and you shouldn’t force everyone to use the same approach.

It is important to think about how you can measure the effectiveness of your knowledge management efforts, and how you can use these measurements to facilitate continual improvement of knowledge management – both the process and the actual content. Then when you have created effective knowledge management for your service desk you can identify the next area of IT that could benefit from this approach.

Image credit

Stuart Rance

About Stuart Rance

Stuart is an ITSM and security consultant, working with clients all round the world. He is one of the authors of ITIL 4, as well as an author of ITIL Practitioner, ITIL Service Transition, and Resilia: Cyber Resilience Best Practice. He is also a trainer, teaching standard and custom courses in ITSM and information security management, and an examiner helping to create ITIL and other exams. Now that his children have all left home, he has plenty of time on his hands for contributing to our blog - lucky us!

2 thoughts on “Knowledge Management Is Not Just About Document Repositories”

  1. Avatar Doug Melville

    One of the more interesting aspects of effective knowledge management is knowing where it is located, and the techniques we use to discover knowledge organisationally. So as an interesting exercise, map where the oficial structures overlay the actual work knoweldge hierarchy, ask people where they go to find out how to do their job, who they depend on. Map against a trust network and see where you stand.


    1. Stuart Rance Stuart Rance

      That is an interesting approach Doug, and I’m sure it would be effective. Many organizations who just want to get started might find this a bit too hard, but they can still make some gradual improvements.


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