Better problem solving with knowledge management

Produce knowledge articles more efficiently, work with them more effectively, and ultimately improve employee and customer satisfaction.

Discover 4 healthy habits for superior IT support

Optimally capture knowledge for better problem-solving in the future.
Structuring the collected knowledge for easy retrieval.
Seek to understand what you already know in order to share with others and reuse when the same problem arises again.
Review, improve, and use knowledge to drive better problem solving

Receive a free copy of our white paper

BETTER PROBLEM SOLVING WITH  
KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT  
by Aprill Allen (aka @knowledgebird)  
BETTER PROBLEM SOLVING WITH KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT  
2
The keys to a long and productive life are a healthy diet and exercise,  
according to all the research done by health and zen professionals. We  
can accept that; it seems logical. Yet, if you’re anything like me, you’ll still  
reach for the less healthy option to eat, because it’s easier. Our approach to  
knowledge management in ITSM mirrors our unhealthy lifestyle choices. We  
all know better knowledge management would make us more productive,  
but putting off writing a knowledge article, for example, is a bit like grabbing  
one more donut instead of spending time cutting up a big salad for lunch.  
But, knowledge helps us make decisions and get things done, so wouldn’t it  
be great if you could access the collective knowledge of your whole team, or  
indeed, your whole organization?  
Knowledge: What Is It and How Do  
We Manage It?  
The good news is that you’re probably already doing some level of  
knowledge management; it’s just that you may not be thinking of it in that  
way, and therefore, you might not be exploiting those knowledge assets  
as much as you could be. I’ve already mentioned that knowledge helps us  
make decisions and take actions. It’s the know-how and know-what-to-  
do. Knowledge management relies on organizations systematically using  
collective knowledge to achieve business outcomes.  
There are lots of practices we can use in the workplace to capture and  
discover organizational knowledge. Here are just a few that you might find  
useful to your support team:  
Mentoring is an effective way to transfer tacit knowledge. It’s ideal for  
those who need to learn skills that aren’t available in formal training  
courses.  
Peer assists are similar to mentoring, but are short-term and common  
in project handover situations or new hire training.  
Site visits provide teams with a different perspective. Having your team  
spend time in another department strengthens their empathy for the  
customer and their understanding of that team’s business needs and  
experiences.  
Communities of practice (CoP) is a group of people that interact  
over a common interest or skill, voluntarily sharing their knowledge and  
developing their own in return. It can exist within the organization or  
traverse practitioners across multiple businesses and boundaries.  
BETTER PROBLEM SOLVING WITH KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT  
3
Expertise location refers to a system designed to help you find who  
you need when you need them. It could be as simple as a complete  
Active Directory profile or an enterprise social tool.  
KCS Is Knowledge Management with  
Support in Mind  
Support teams at the service desk and IT are terrific places within an  
organization to start getting healthier, because they are answering the same  
SM  
called Knowledge Centered Support (KCS ) to promote the reuse of  
knowledge, so support operations can be more efficient and effective. KCS  
was built on the principle that support teams answer the same 20% of  
questions 80% of the time.  
KCS moves knowledge from being a proactive, just-in-case activity  
performed by one person or a team of documentation writers, to a reactive,  
just-in-time activity that becomes the way we get our work done. Using  
KCS, knowledge assets are created as by-products of the ordinary support  
workflow. Knowledge articles are available for reuse immediately, and are  
validated and reviewed on-demand as we interact with them.  
Contrast that with the traditional approach to knowledge where there is a  
dedicated person or team writing and reviewing articles before anyone can  
access them in the knowledge base. A support analyst submits a request  
for a document to the docs team and it gets added to the queue; the  
time needed for new or updated articles takes longer; and, even though a  
solution exists within the organization’s collective intelligence, no one can  
use it, because they can’t find it. Or, alternatively—and what I so frequently  
see—there’s a customer-facing FAQ, but no working knowledge base for  
service desk analysts to use and maintain. Adopting KCS practices will  
help your team to produce knowledge articles more efficiently, work  
with them more effectively, and ultimately improve employee and  
customer satisfaction.  
In this white paper, I will explain how you can incorporate the foundational  
KCS practices into your IT support workflow.  
BETTER PROBLEM SOLVING WITH KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT  
4
Four Healthy Habits  
KCS is a large methodology, with many moving parts, but even the leanest  
version of it will bring benefits to your support team and reduced resolution  
times for your colleagues and customers. With just four healthy habits baked  
into everyday workflows, support teams will notice at least one improvement  
early on—a reduction in the effort spent on reworking problems that have  
been solved before.  
1. Capture  
Knowledge capture happens as part of problem solving.  
Capture the customer’s context. Describe the problem in the words  
the customer would use.  
Use complete thoughts, not complete sentences. Capture the  
knowledge at the speed of conversation, at the point of interaction.  
If you wait until later, you’ll lose some of that customer’s context and  
you’re likely to inject your own. You’ll already have the customer’s  
context if they’ve submitted their problem through the service desk  
tool, but if you’re logging a service call via phone or in person, writing  
in point form is encouraged.  
Search terms are candidate knowledge. When you analyze the  
search results of your knowledge base, you might find that people  
have been keying in a phrase that isn’t returning results, but you have  
an idea of what it may be. Create an article with that keyphrase as the  
issue description. The next time someone searches for it, that article will  
turn up and the article will be reviewed on the spot, at the time of need.  
2. Structure  
A simple knowledge article template will help analysts note down  
relevant comments in the right places. It should show fields or  
headings for:  
Issue description/question  
Environment  
Resolution/answer  
Cause  
A consistent structure provides context to the content of the article, as  
well as improving readability, usability, promoting quality, and assisting  
with search relevancy.  
BETTER PROBLEM SOLVING WITH KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT  
5
3. Reuse  
Search early and often. As soon as you have the description of the  
issue and the environment, you have enough to search your existing  
knowledge articles.  
Seek to understand what you collectively know. Searching early  
on will show you solutions that have already been discovered, and  
may indicate that other analysts are working on a similar issue. When  
you don’t find a solution, use your problem-solving techniques as you  
normally would, and finish the article off with an explanation of what  
resolved the issue. The complete article will then exist for others to  
reuse when the same problem comes up again.  
Count the number of times articles are reused. When you find or  
create a knowledge article relevant to an incident, it must be linked to  
the incident record. That’s how you’ll know how frequently issues are  
reoccuring, which is the basis of problem management. It also means  
you’ve got a full history attached to the incident record, in case you  
need to follow up later.  
A culture of search is critical—reusing articles is what minimizes  
rework of support issues, so, even if you can’t link articles to measure  
frequency, you must embed that search behavior into the workflow.  
Searching for what we already know is one of the healthiest habits any  
organization can have.  
4. Improve  
Reviewing articles at the time of need places the ownership of the  
accuracy on the person who’s using it at the time. Therefore, ownership  
of the knowledge base is shared across the whole team or organization.  
Use it. If you find it to be incorrect or incomplete, you are responsible  
for improving it.  
Fix it. If you have the authority, fix it, if you don’t...  
Flag it, so someone else can fix it.  
Add it. If you don’t find an article to reuse, add it once you know  
the solution.  
As articles are reused over time, they become trusted and can be  
reviewed for publishing for customer access in the self-serve portal.  
As we push knowledge closer to the customer, we enable lower-cost  
support options to take place, which is referred to as shifting left.  
A shift-left strategy is where we’ll see the return on investment, but with  
KCS in place, it happens on demand, not just-in-case.  
Customers may also have an opportunity to rate the helpfulness of  
articles and that gives you an extra tool for monitoring content health.  
Keep an eye on those ratings and flag or fix articles that rate poorly.  
BETTER PROBLEM SOLVING WITH KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT  
6
Feed Your Culture  
There’s no getting around the fact that this new approach to knowledge  
requires organizational change. You will need your team to understand  
that knowledge works best as a team sport. New behaviors will need to  
be adopted, processes will need to be changed; and you’ll need to look at  
your tools in new ways, too. Come to it with creativity and commitment, and  
you’ll have a greater chance of success.  
Coming up with a communications plan is the fun part. Invite your  
knowledge advocates to join you in coming up with a theme that will  
inspire your colleagues to see knowledge sharing in a new light—one that  
will encourage everyone to contribute to a shared outcome. Slogans and  
catchphrases based on a common theme are fun ways to keep reminding  
people of knowledge activities being an important focus. Posters in the  
workplace, with infographics created from your knowledge base data or  
other knowledge management practices, are a public way of celebrating  
success and contribute to sustaining your new way of working. Displaying  
that information on your company intranet works well, too. Here’s an  
example of what that could look like:  
An example of a leaderboard displaying the authors of the most liked articles for that month.  
BETTER PROBLEM SOLVING WITH KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT  
7
Building a knowledge culture needs more than ongoing communication; it  
needs commitment at the executive level. The importance of knowledge  
sharing and its contribution to company success and innovation needs to be  
woven into the corporate stories your leadership team tell at staff meetings.  
The behavioral expectations should be set early on—during employee  
induction and training. There may come a time when you want to expand  
the knowledge management program to cover more teams and functions,  
for example human resources (who often get asked the same questions  
over and over). You may need the resources to tweak the tools you have  
and explore the ones you don’t yet have. The advocacy and governance  
that your leaders bring will keep your knowledge efforts heading in the right  
direction.  
BETTER PROBLEM SOLVING WITH KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT  
8
Conclusions  
We’ve all seen it happen: the changes we attempt to make for a healthier  
lifestyle fizzle out with a lack of commitment. But, now that you know what  
knowledge management looks like and how it helps, you should observe  
how your team members approach solving incidents and problems. Do they  
look for existing knowledge first? Do they review and update the knowledge  
they do use?  
If you can see you have work to do, start small. Focus on one team and  
work with them to grow a knowledge culture. Explain the importance of  
knowledge sharing practices to the strategic goals of the whole organization  
and how your team’s participation can help to improve their own experience  
of work.  
As an achievable step, adopt and adapt just four healthy habits—the  
foundations of Knowledge Centered Support—into your workflow and  
existing tools and aim to make those activities so automatic that they  
become the way your team solves problems. Those four healthy habits  
include:  
Capturing knowledge  
Structuring it clearly  
Searching first  
Improving at every reuse  
Train your team on what each of those habits involve and how they  
contribute to an improvement in problem solving, which will result in happier  
employees and more satisfied customers. Look for measurable outcomes  
that you can use to tell your knowledge sharing stories to the rest of your  
organization. Sharing your successes, no matter how small, keeps your own  
team motivated, captures the interest of other teams that you may be able  
to influence, and is essential for bringing executives and skeptical colleagues  
onboard.