Why IT Knowledge Management Systems fail and how to fix yours


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21-Feb-2018 12:19:00

In my last piece, I talked about Problem Management and how it is often confused with Major Incident management. In fact, while the two are linked, they are very different beasts. However strong your Problem Management, you must be ready for business critical incidents.

Getting your Knowledge Management System up to scratch might seem daunting, but once you have the process underway, your time investment will be repaid tenfold. Read my tips for Knowledge Management success and get back on track today... 

Why IT Knowledge Management Systems fail and how to fix yours

Knowledge Management should improve your IT Support Team’s ability to solve problems, evolve and adapt to changes such as staff turnover. A good Knowledge Management System (KMS) avoids loss of critical knowledge when employees leave a business and enables efficient and timely sharing of knowledge across teams.

It should also and streamline processes by delivering relevant information ‘on demand’ to your IT Support staff and can even give end users helpful guidance that reduces the demands on your IT Service Desk.

Unfortunately, Knowledge Management Systems are not always as successful as we hope. Why is it that so many organisations struggle to implement and maintain a successful system for sharing and maintaining IT knowledge? Over the years, I have witnessed just about every reason for Knowledge Management success and failure and want to share the most common problems and how to fix them with you.

Why Knowledge Management Systems Fail?

Do you have an IT Knowledge Management System that is being largely ignored? Does it take too long to find the right piece of information? Do you end up with irrelevant, or even zero, results when your analysts or users are hunting for help? One of the most common problems in Knowledge Management Systems is the same as many other business databases. There is simply too much legacy information, duplication and (worst case scenario) even outright contradiction.

When it comes to creating a KMS, you will only get out what you put in, and what you put in, will at some point also need to be removed or updated. Duplicate and legacy articles can send users down a rabbit hole of dissatisfaction and wasted time, the very opposite of what your KMS was set up to achieve. Lack of direction and ownership over article creation, maintenance and reporting can effectively leave your KMS redundant.

How to achieve KMS excellence

1. Who is responsible?

If you don’t already have a Knowledge Manager among your IT experts, you need to decide who will take overall responsibility for your KMS. This could be a Team Leader or another knowledgeable team member that will oversee the processes.

2. What does a KMS Manager do?

This individual will be the KMS champion, espousing its benefits while ensuring it is, in fact, beneficial. This designated resource will make sure that articles are being created, that they are vetted before publication and that article creation targets are met. They will also manage ongoing quality management, KMS reporting and optimisation. It is not this individual’s sole responsibility to create the content but it is their responsibility to ensure it is happening.

3. Who creates the content?

In a word, everyone. Your analysts should be writing the bulk of the content while more senior team members can help by checking and verifying content accuracy. The most successful systems are backed-up with individual and team targets to produce X number of articles.

The KMS Manager should be helping to set the priorities by looking at ticket trends so that the most frequently sought information is available as soon as possible. For example, if you are rolling out any new IT implementations, this will be a priority. If you have a high frequency of a certain type of request, you can create an end-user KMS that leads them on a path to self-service, thus freeing up analysts for incidents or complex requests.

How to maintain KMS success

Having clearly defined roles for creation and management is a great starting point. In order to keep the database tidy and useful, it needs regular audits and maintenance. Each time an article is uploaded, ensure that a review date is set, which should be within one year at a minimum, but sooner if possible in order to keep up with the fast-paced world of IT.

Setting a review date that alerts the KMS manager ahead of time gives them the opportunity to task the review appropriately. The article can be updated if required, remain the same if not or if it has become completely obsolete, it should be removed entirely.

Tracking and measuring the success of each article to identify usefulness and future content priorities also have to fall under the remit of the KMS Manager. Even simple measurements such as hit rates can be informative but where possible, link articles to tickets for deeper insights.

An effective KMS is not a set and forget tool but an evolving shared brain for your IT team and users. It takes ongoing time and effort to keep it useful but the benefits of a well-maintained system make it all worthwhile and ultimately delivers a time-saving rather than a time-cost.

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Pete Canavan
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About the author

Pete Canavan

Pete Canavan is Support Services Director at Plan-Net. An accredited ITIL Service Manager, he has a proven track record in IT with special expertise in the Legal & Financial Services industries.

With two decades in the IT field, Pete has acquired extensive experience in business relationship development, service transformation, project and people management, training and client/supplier relations.

Pete's other passions, besides Plan-Net of course, are his family and football.

Email Pete: p.canavan@plan-net.co.uk

Connect with Pete Canavan on LinkedIn

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