A support organization’s success is fully dependent on the actionable knowledge available to their team. Much of that knowledge comes directly from the experience and background of the support team members. But the days have long since passed when it was reasonable to expect the support team to have direct knowledge of the ever-expanding combination of devices, tools and systems used by the folks that they support. This has nothing to do with the quality or capability of the support staff – the scope of information is just too great.
Today’s support professionals rely on their ability to find and leverage actionable knowledge to help augment their own direct experience to deliver successful outcomes to the business. Useful information can come from an incredibly wide variety of sources: previously submitted issues/trouble tickets, product documentation, community posts, and online data repositories. But how do you get from just searching for information based on keywords to finding actionable knowledge? This is where including some Knowledge Management practices can prove useful.
Actionable knowledge is distinguished from raw information in a couple of ways. Typically, it needs to include an appropriate context that describes the situation or symptoms to be resolved in addition to the underlying cause and a recommended approach to dealing with that situation. This same information is typically contained in a properly documented issue/problem ticket, which allows for a virtuous cycle of creation, use, and reuse of actionable knowledge.
From a support perspective, establishing the appropriate context is key to a good outcome when solving support issues. After all, having detailed instructions for setting up a VPN on a client computer has no real value unless it is the right VPN for connecting to the corporate network and will work on the supported user’s computer. Being able to rapidly establish the necessary details to solve the supported user’s issue will drive how quickly a solution is available. From a knowledge base perspective, the context can be widened to any supported user with that kind of computer wishing to connect to the corporate VPN.
By using the knowledge base in tandem with the issue, problem, and change management processes, a support team can have a low effort mechanism that enables the knowledge cycle simply by applying these practices:
- Capture the context (environment, symptoms, behavior) with every ticket
- Search the knowledge base when the context is first discovered. If a solution is found apply recommended resolution and verify. If the verification fails, mark the knowledge article for an update.
- If no solution is found, expand the search to other information sources and troubleshoot the ticket normally. When the resolution of the ticket is found, create a knowledge article based on the expanded context of the ticket.
- When changes are created, search the knowledge base for knowledge articles that should be updated to reflect the system change planned and roll out updates to the article along with the actual system change.
Actionable knowledge provides an exceptional value when also used as part of the self-help process, so knowledge articles should avoid using terminology and jargon that would be unfamiliar to the supported users.
The Intelligent Service Management (ISM) Knowledge Management function provides extensive capabilities to make it easy to transfer context information between tickets and knowledge articles in addition to providing all the necessary approval and process flows to provide for a highly consistent creation, capture, use and reuse of actionable knowledge.