Whether in a small organization or a sprawling enterprise, you manage a range of assets to service processes. Many service and help desks follow the detailed practices in the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL).
In this informational guide, we’ll go over the knowledge management concept and discuss service knowledge management systems (SKMS).
What Is Knowledge Management?
Before diving into SKMS, you must understand the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) framework.
Published in 2007 and updated in 2019, ITIL v4, the fourth version of the Information Technology Infrastructure Library, focuses on the ITIL Service Lifecycle. This lifecycle contains five stages: ITIL Service Strategy, ITIL Service Design, ITIL Service Transition, ITIL Service Operation, and ITIL Continual Service Improvement. ITIL v4 also shares several best practices for each stage, including knowledge management.
Listed under the ITIL Service Transition umbrella, the goal of the knowledge management process is to gather, analyze, store, and share the knowledge and information within an organization. This process involves documenting existing knowledge and making it accessible throughout the organization, reducing employees’ need to rediscover knowledge and improve efficiency.
Keeping track of and documenting everything can be challenging, as knowledge may include processes and systems, solution articles, supplier information, user behavior, organizational structure, staff skills, technician data, and analysis from reports. Plus, some of this knowledge may lack structure, making it even more challenging to locate and access. Even small organizations can have an overwhelming amount of data, knowledge, and information from various sources in which an SKMS can make all the difference.
What Is an SKMS?
Think of a service knowledge management system as your organization’s centralized repository of data, information, and knowledge. It will collect, store, update, present, and archive everything you need to successfully manage all five stages of the ITIL Service Lifecycle and deliver services.
It’s important to note an SKMS isn’t usually a stand-alone system. Instead, it’s typically created by merging databases, tools, systems, and other data sources, including your organization’s:
- Known Error Database (KEDB)
- ITIL Configuration Management System (CMS)
- Configuration Management Database (CMDB)
- Definitive media library (DML)
- Capacity Management Information Systems (CMIS)
- Continual Service Improvement (CSI) Register
- Availability Management Information Systems (AMIS)
- Supplier and Contract Management Information System (SCMIS)
- Software library
- Asset management system
- Information security policy
SKMS can also contain service portfolio data, budgets, cost allocation models, business plans, customer information, service desk metrics and KPIs, Operation Level Agreements (OLAs), Service Level Agreements (SLAs), Underpinning Contracts (UCs), applications, documentation, and more.
After collecting data from multiple sources, your SKMS will synthesize it into usable information. Then, it will engage in analytical and modeling processes to turn your data into functional knowledge and present that knowledge in a searchable format so your team members can easily find it and make more informed decisions in the future.
How Does SKMS Work?
The Service Knowledge Management System comprises four layers, each with its work area. The four layers include:
The Data and Information Layer
The Data and Information Layer collects and stores all the data. Not only is it home to several databases, such as the KEDB and CMDB, but it also contains legacy systems and audit tools and applications. The Data and Information Layer also encompasses documents, files, software asset management tools, and other tools and data sources.
The Information Integration Layer
This layer of SKMS focuses on integrating collected data into one central location for the service desk. The Information Integration Layer helps map, normalize, reconcile, and synchronize the data collected and stored in the Data and Information Layer, giving it relationship structure and context.
The Knowledge Processing Layer
The Knowledge Processing Layer uses reporting, query and analysis, business analytic processes, monitoring, and modeling to process the SKMS’ data into usable intelligence.
The Presentation Layer
The Presentation Layer presents users with the collected, analyzed, and structured knowledge in a digestible and accessible way. Presentation Layers typically have visual materials, search functions, and browsing features to help users find the knowledge they need to make better decisions faster or update existing knowledge in the system. Essentially, this layer allows authorized users to access information, so self-service portals, support views, quality management dashboards, asset, service desk, and CMDB views can all serve as Presentation Layers.
What Are the Benefits of SKMS?
The main benefit of having a functioning SKMS is that it ties together the data, information, and knowledge required to deliver a service. It will enable your team to share and access reliable information when needed more efficiently. Without an SKMS, an employee might need to hunt down the one person on the team familiar with the specific process to get an answer or spend their time and energy engaging in knowledge rediscovery. An SKMS would allow this employee to quickly and independently find and access the information they need. With the help of an SKMS, your employees can develop insights, spot connections, make more informed and strategic decisions, manage infrastructure and services, and provide better customer service.
An SKMS can also:
- Improve employee training: Historically, employee training programs involved days of formal training meetings. However, if your organization has an SKMS, your new hires can access your organization’s best practices and processes from day one, so they won’t need to spend as much time in formal training sessions. They’ll be able to start contributing to your organization sooner and with increased confidence.
- Boost employee collaboration: Since an SKMS offers all employees a shared knowledge base and a formalized way to share information, teams can more easily collaborate. There will be fewer inconsistencies, and everyone will work off the same information.
- Help your organization retain knowledge: When employees leave, they often take valuable knowledge with them — especially if they’re in a specialized field or have years of experience. If your organization has an SKMS, you’ll be able to document their processes and thoughts so those left behind won’t have a massive knowledge gap.
- Cut costs: If your SKMS has a self-service portal, your customers will be able to find service information on their own, meaning you won’t need to dedicate as many employees to assist customers. Self-help user portals can also help you scale your customer service efforts.
- Reduce errors and save time: Giving your employees access to information and decision-making processes can ensure they avoid redundancies and repeating mistakes. With the help of an SKMS, your employees can more confidently execute tasks, make the right decisions more often, and save time.
- Boost customer satisfaction: When your employees are better trained and more efficient and knowledgeable, they can provide better support and have lower mean-time-to-resolutions, so it’s not surprising that having an SKMS can increase customer satisfaction. Plus, customers can even solve problems on their own with the help of a knowledge base!
What Are the Challenges to SKMS Implementation?
SKMS has a lot to offer but implementing an SKMS won’t necessarily be easy. Your organization may run into trouble when it comes to synchronizing data. After all, there are several different formats for storing data, and chances are your business units use several formats or structures to store data. You may encounter unstructured data or have workers who keep track of processes mentally. If this is the case, you’ll need to employ many methods and tools, document this data, and get your SKMS up and running at the beginning.
You’ll also need to carefully craft guidelines for organizing your resources and develop a review system. Neglecting to review data before it enters your SKMS can leave you with inaccurate, irrelevant, or poorly formatted data and materials, which can make finding high-quality resources unnecessarily tedious in the future.
Finally, you’ll need to convince and train your team to use the SKMS. Some might feel overwhelmed, while others insist they already know how to do everything. Others might want to use and update the SKMS but ultimately revert to old habits. Once you’ve overcome these barriers, you and your colleagues can access all available information from across your organization. Can we find in offerings of business software vendors tools with similar functionality to SKMS and integrate knowledge base with ticket management functions to improve support departments? Let’s see what SolarWinds® Web Help Desk® software offers in this area.
An affordable yet robust ticket and asset management software, Web Help Desk centralizes and automates ticketing management tasks. With Web Help Desk help, you can keep track of tasks and previous asset service requests throughout your organization and link incident tickets to specific problems or IT assets (relational ticketing). Web Help Desk can automatically discover, track, and report on hardware and software assets throughout your organization.
In addition to being a robust knowledge base for employees in your organization, Web Help Desk is helpful for customers. The Web Help Desk portal can automatically show customers relevant articles related to their service requests, empowering customers to take action, reducing the number of incoming customer support requests, and saving you time and money. Not only can your users submit incident or service requests through the portal, but they can also check the status of their requests.[video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wz1Pf72gsCw]
SolarWinds Web Help Desk is more than just a tool for building internal and external knowledge bases. SolarWinds Web Help Desk:
- Is equipped with SLA management and help desk reporting capabilities
- Can be integrated with operations management (ITOM) tools, enabling you to convert network alerts into tickets and unify your IT management and support
- Can convert service requests and alerts into tickets
- Can automatically assign, route, and escalate tickets
- And more