Knowledge that doesn’t serve is knowledge wasted. And for knowledge gained from experience and research to be useful, IT enterprises must organize, manage and offer it in the best way. Fortunately, the best way isn’t a Herculean task when you employ simple tricks to build a profound knowledge base (KB). A sound knowledge base eliminates the need to rediscover or reformulate knowledge and improves the support process. With that in mind, consider these tips to help build a successful knowledge base.
1. Collect Information to Build Your KB
The most important part of knowledge management is building knowledge itself. The first step is to identify prospective areas from which knowledge can be derived and extract information. Resolutions for common issues can serve as templates if they are added to the KB as knowledge items. Converting tacit knowledge to explicit knowledge is essential for a successful knowledge-management system, but the conversion requires collaborative efforts with careful investigation and input from experienced technicians. Also, to achieve a comprehensive KB, encourage your IT technicians to move resolutions directly to the KB. A good IT help-desk application will allow the creation of knowledge articles right from ticket resolution. This capability reduces the percentage of repeat incidents and keeps the KB up to date.
2. Categorize to Identify, Retrieve and Use Knowledge
Organizing and categorizing existing data can be challenging, especially when handling large KBs with wide scopes. But it’s important to group knowledge items and place them under relevant topics so that information isn’t lost in a pool of data. You can organize knowledge in different ways, depending on what best suits your organization. Grouping can be based on document type, such as guidelines or bug fixes, or on the subject matter, such as hardware issues or software updates. Creating logical hierarchies will ease user navigation. The hierarchy should begin with broad topics and move to categories and subcategories.
3. Implement a Knowledge-Approval Process
Creating well-structured information that’s relevant to the user is crucial. The quality of the content should be peer reviewed by subject-matter experts for accuracy and relevance. Ultimately, information can’t be published as knowledge without a proper knowledge-approval process. The generated content must go through peer review and be improved. Along those lines, you can configure an automatic approval workflow that prevents a solution from being published without peer approval. Create a unique knowledge-manager role with permissions to approve solutions. Also, configure an automatic trigger to notify approvers on submission of a solution to ease the approval process. Approval processes eliminate ambiguity, making knowledge items more accurate and minimizing any reopening of closed tickets. For instance, there may be multiple solutions to troubleshoot a printer issue (network issue, hardware issue and so on). But the approval committee should be able to select the appropriate solution.
4. Choose Your Audience for Each Solution
Not every piece of information in the KB is relevant to all users. By choosing the right audience for a knowledge item, you can eliminate clutter in the end users’ self-service portal. For technicians, create specific roles and groups based on their field of expertise and share only relevant topics. For example, finance documents are always confidential and therefore should be accessible only to related users. Along the same lines, documents on registry settings or swapping hardware parts are only relevant to IT experts in the field and can be restricted from end users. Ensure, however, that your technicians have full access to the KB, especially when the services are integrated in the help-desk application.
5. Prompt End Users Effectively With Relevant Knowledge Items
No matter how elaborate the KB, it will be ineffective if it’s out of reach. Making the KB easily accessible to end users in the self-service portal will help them identify solutions without assistance from a technician, reducing the number of incidents. You can do so in the following ways:
- When the end user logs into the application, the recently viewed or used solutions are listed.
- When an end user tries to log a ticket, relevant knowledge articles are suggested on the basis of keywords.
- In the self-service portal, end users have easy access to the KB articles that are visible to them.
- Relevant KB articles are automatically emailed to the end user in response notifications (as auto suggestions) when the ticket is logged.
Likewise, the sooner an IT technician can get to a resolution in the KB, the easier it will be to reduce the mean time to resolve incidents and improve first-call resolution rates. This goal is achievable by adding keywords and tags to solutions to make items easily searchable.
6. Widen the KB’s Horizon
A well-built KB shouldn’t be limited to storing resolutions for incidents. Use it as a repository of important checklists that keep a particular service up and running. Commonly used information, such as checklists on regular server housekeeping tasks or changes that require restarting the server, will keep technicians from missing crucial steps in change implementation. The KB should also save important workflows in IT services, training material for technicians, user guides and even FAQs. Doing so, in turn, helps reduce incident-response time and will help technicians keep up with SLAs.
7. Establish a Knowledge-Management Team
When creating a knowledge-management (KM) system, a knowledge-management team certainly has advantages. A major advantage is the added ownership and accountability in the KM process. You can create a user group of technicians who are well trained in the proposed KM model for your organization. This team should supervise the approval process. It should also be able to streamline KM workflows, identify possible extension areas and be responsible for collecting information from resources. The whole KM process is cyclical, and the KM team should oversee it. This approach will help avoid chaotic roles and missed information.
8. Evaluate Your KB’s Performance
Constantly monitoring the efficiency of your KM system with relevant metrics will help you evaluate its performance. The following often used metrics help identify a KM’s strengths and weaknesses.
- Customer surveys on the quality and accessibility of the KB content
- Identifying zero click-throughs where KM content exists
- Evaluation of knowledge gaps (where KM content doesn’t exist)
Reports from your help-desk application on ticket response and resolution times, as well as reopen rates, show you the statistics you need to improve your knowledge-management system.
After you’ve built your knowledge base and have a good knowledge-management system—whether it’s just a few tweaks to an existing knowledge base or a brand new one running—sit back and reap the benefits.
About the Author
LeAnn Smiles is a product analyst for ServiceDesk Plus at ManageEngine, a division of Zoho Corporation. She writes strategic IT service-management-related content, including blogs and white papers. For more information on ManageEngine, the real-time IT-management company, visit www.manageengine.com; follow the company blog at http://blogs.manageengine.com, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ManageEngine and on Twitter (@ManageEngine).