Before I answer 'why' though, let's first understand 'what' we mean by knowledge management (KM). There is without a doubt a more formal answer but, essentially, I find KM a process about 'how to make your life easier at work'.
When introducing effective KM to an organisation there are always two questions: how quickly will the benefits be realised and how much resistance you will experience to the change from within the organisation (there is a great book about this, if you want to find out more1).
However, back to the original question: why is KM my favourite IT Service Management process? Increasing organisational knowledge, through effective knowledge management, has been shown to have a positive impact on an organisation’s performance2. This can be deduced straightforwardly, if you consider the main function of any business to be information processing by way of either simplifying that information, or connecting and re-processing complex information. Increasing performance is a good enough reason for most companies to do KM. But there is more - sharing knowledge and being able to access information easily enables people to get better at their jobs. This, in return, Alexander Kjerulf suggests, is linked to feeling happier at work3. And, he claims, that this also leads to better financial results.
So how to go about sharing information, and where is the information? In ITSM, information is often stored in emails, incident tickets, forums and community sites, and most importantly, as tacit knowledge, which has never been written down. Once you’ve identified the sources (both on-going and historical), start collecting, storing and sharing the information. There are a number of supporting tools available (knowledge bases, portals, etc.) that can help you with the change, but communication is key. Let everyone know about the new, or improved, initiative and make them feel engaged from the beginning.
If and when you have a knowledge management process in place, don’t throw away the hard work that's gone into it. Whatever your role is in your organisation, it is important that you keep on learning and sharing about your area of specialisation; only you know what you know.
As you commute to work tomorrow, reflect on your job and your role, and the company's key mission. What do you know that is not written down or shared? There is no downside in sharing your expertise within your work; teaching others what you know is not only beneficial to you and your colleagues but it also means that you are not irreplaceable, making it easier for you to progress within the organisation.
- Nic Beech, Robert MacIntosh. Managing Change: Enquiry and Action, Cambridge University Press, 2012.
- Richard M. Burton, Børge Obel, Gerardine DeSanctis. Organisational Design: A Step-by-Step Approach, Cambridge University Press, 2011.
- Alexander Kjerulf: Happy Hour is 9 to 5: How to Love your Job, Love your Life, and Kick Butt at Work, Pinetribe, 2013.
Dr Tuuli Sutinen
Tuuli is a Solution Consultant at Cherwell Software, with a physics PhD from Cambridge University. She is a regular speaker at IT service management conferences and events, and is also a social media officer for the BCS Service Management specialist group (@bcsSMSG). Her interests outside work include oil colour painting, nature and cycling.