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Do You Practice Knowledge Delivery, Or Do You Hire Morons?

What is Knowledge Management?

To judge by most vendor offerings, it seems they continue to define Knowledge Management the way they have for decades: Knowledge Base Management.
Knowledge Base Management is a valuable – perhaps even essential – capability for effective Service Management, and there are some really outstanding tools available to support it. This doesn’t change the fact that, at its core, a Knowledge Base Management solution is essentially a word processor coupled to a workflow engine.
Knowledge Bases truly shine when they’re used for their intended purpose: documenting and publishing “official” solutions to well-understood problems within a defined domain.

Sometimes the simplest tools really are the most effective, but doorstops suck at driving screws.

Knowledge Management, in the ITIL ideal, takes on much wider implications.
The Knowledge Management process is responsible for managing and ensuring access to a single “Golden Source” of information, across all processes. Some would argue that the scope extends beyond that to the organization’s entire information matrix.
Given the nature and scope of Enterprise Knowledge Management, the traditional platform of choice has overwhelmingly been some form of a federated data warehouse environment.
Knowledge Management, ITIL style, requires a deep understanding of, and iron-fisted control over, the excruciatingly complex data dependencies across the vast managed information matrix – without even considering the lofty Service Knowledge Management System ideal.
Maintaining even a moderate level of control over the intricate web of data & information relationships in a large, dynamic environment is a truly challenging proposition. It’s not difficult to understand why adding a new information source to such a data warehouse environment will often take months.

Regardless where an organization lands on the spectrum between simple Knowledge Base Management and the SKMS unicorn, there is one thing all definitions of Knowledge Management have in common: Management.
While it may seem like a silly tautology on the surface, I don’t think enough people truly consider the implications of the simplest, most accurate definition of Knowledge Management: The management of knowledge.
Managing knowledge is actively capturing, building, connecting, maintaining, updating, improving and auditing information in one or more curated repositories, in pursuit of a strategic objective to inform.

For a Knowledge Management strategy to be successful at informing, it must necessarily consider how the curated information is going to be exposed, presented and consumed. One approach to this exposure/presentation/consumption challenge is Knowledge Delivery.

Another tautological definition… Knowledge Delivery is the delivery of knowledge.
It really is that simple.
Knowledge Delivery is striving to understand how, where, why and when a human being uses different information sources and other tools to perform a specific task – then applying that understanding to integrate those information sources with the tool interfaces – in pursuit of facilitating automated, context-sensitive exposure & presentation of information relevant to the task at hand.
A Knowledge Delivery solution extracts information from the UI you are working in and combines it with other contextual information about you to drive background analysis of the available information source(s) and delivers the results of that analysis back into that same UI.

Knowledge Delivery is strictly a consumption-side strategy. In other words… while a Knowledge Management solution can be a key input to a Knowledge Delivery solution, Knowledge Delivery is agnostic toward how an organization manages its knowledge.
In fact, I think the greatest value of Knowledge Delivery begins where Knowledge Management’s reach ends.

Consider, for a moment, where your organization lands on the Knowledge Management spectrum I mentioned…
A well-designed Knowledge Delivery strategy can help bridge the gap between where you would place the “You Are Here” pushpin and the SKMS. The greatest challenge of building that bridge is not one of technological constraints, nor is it a challenge of information control. The greatest challenge is one of perception and trust.

A solid Unified Information Access platform can serve as an agile, flexible, affordable alternative to the traditional data warehouse model.
UIA greatly simplifies the work of combining a Knowledge Base Management solution with organic peripheral information, machine data, transient social indicators, external information sources, monitoring tools, ticketing tools, human-generated documentation…
Without requiring Stalinesque control over a rigid data model, new sources can be added on-the-fly.
Without the need for massive ETL jobs, updates can be available in near real-time.

There is so much more I can say about the benefits of building a Knowledge Delivery solution on a UIA platform.
I mean, seriously… I could go on for hours.
During a recent UIA discussion, I said, “I don't champion UIA because I work for Attivio – I work for Attivio because I believe in UIA.” However, this isn’t intended to be a commercial, masquerading as a flimsy whitepaper, so I’ll invite you to learn more about UIA, if you’re interested, and I’ll move on...

As I mentioned, the real challenge of bridging the chasm between practical Knowledge Management and truly comprehensive Knowledge Delivery is one of perception and trust – and I challenge all ITSM leadership to carefully consider these things, with an honest answer to a deceptively simple question:
Do you hire morons?

If not, please stop treating your employees like deranged idiots who would be dangerous if you let the leash out too far.
Why do so many organizations insist on spoon-feeding a strict diet of “approved” information, which has necessarily gone through a lengthy vetting process, to people whom they apparently perceive as support staff automatons? I’ve never understood the obsession over information control – especially when considering significantly time-critical processes, like Incident Management.
I have always preferred to provide the intelligent adults in my professional organizations with a wealth of timely information that empowers them to exercise the talent they were hired to provide – and trust them to practice the discernment that got them the job.

If you do hire morons, information control just isn’t going to cut it, anyway.

February 12, 2014, 11:10:07 am

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