For a concept that dates back to the beginning of time, knowledge management
suffers from an identity crisis. Some users lump knowledge management in
with its younger, somewhat distant cousins, content management and document
management. Others define knowledge management by taking a cue from Supreme
Court Justice Potter Stewart’s famous definition of obscenity: “I know it
when I see it.”
In reality, knowledge management goes back as far as human memory. It
evolved onto stone tablets, books, file cabinets and sticky notes. But
knowledge management in the IT world has always suffered from a lack of
context, a lack of a problem that KM is clearly designed to fix. Service
management may be the answer.
“The service management framework lives and and breathes with knowledge,”
said Michael McGaughey, Service Management Framework Architect at TXU, the
leading energy retailer in Texas, which serves five million customers in
North America and Australia. “There’s a lot of knowledge used across the
McGaughey is tasked with designing and implementing a framework based on
ITIL, the IT Infrastructure Library, which documents the implementation of a
framework for IT service management. ITIL itself makes service management
and knowledge management perfectly complementary concepts. Different aspects
of service management generate knowledge, depend on knowledge and use
knowledge, but ITIL does not give specific instructions on how to store or
manage the knowledge — only how to use it. That’s where knowledge
management comes in.
Knowledge management is not a separate process, but is used alongside
service management, according to McGaughey. And while there is nearly an
infinite amount of knowledge management applications available from software
vendors, as well as home-grown solutions, each IT department will have to
deal with managing knowledge in a service management environment in its own
McGaughey suggests there are four questions that are key to developing a
knowledge management concept for an IT service management framework:
“One of the great myths of knowledge management is that it’s a technology
solution,” McGaughey said. “It’s not.” This, of course, presents a different
problem. “IT people are keen on implementing a piece of technology to solve
a problem,” he said.
Even to those well-versed in ITIL and service management, knowledge
management lies beyond the scope of ITIL because each organization has
unique needs and issues.
Making Other Processes Better
Knowledge management as an IT concept has a lot to gain from working within
an IT service management framework. One of the factors that led to the
development of its identity crisis is that knowledge management offers very
little in the way of a value proposition by itself. The value it offers is
in making other processes better.
The principles and concepts of knowledge management can be used to share and
transfer knowledge from the different “silos” of a service management
framework, such as capacity management, problem management and incident
management. It allows information to be shared, stored and used by each
process in a service management environment.
In some ways knowledge management and service management can be considered a
“chicken and egg”-type problem. The two concepts can rely on each other so
heavily it’s difficult to tell which one came first. In reality, they are
different processes that can help each other.
“One of the knocks on knowledge management is that it doesn’t have a
context,” McGaughey said. “Service management gives it one.”