Doing more with less. You have heard this phrase and many of us live it. Each year service desks are asked to satisfy higher demands without rapidly expanding their organizations. I have met very few service desk managers that claim to have enough people to exceed their service level targets while managing all the projects and operational tasks on their plates. So how do you satisfy your customers, your employees and the needs of your organization? You begin by learning from the experiences of others.
Establish the Right Framework
Service desks no longer just hire cheap staff to answer phones, create tickets, and route inquiries to skill technicians, engineers, and developers. Each organization develops the service management strategy that best meets the needs of their organization. This strategy includes hiring the right People, defining the right Processes, and selecting the Technology to enable the processes.
Service management organizations must hire and train the right people. Hiring mangers value candidates that have the appropriate certifications. Some organizations now require their staff to earn specific certifications before they can be promoted, receive a performance increase, or to even complete a new hire probationary period. The common certifications include both technical skills, process knowledge, and customer service skills. These include certifications like:
- CompTIA A+
- Microsoft Certified Professional
- ITIL Foundation
- HDI Support Center Analyst
- KCS Fundamentals
Your service management strategy must define the processes that the people will follow to deliver the most effective and efficient services. There are several frameworks and methodologies that provide best practices that have delivered proven results. The most widely adopted framework worldwide is unarguably ITIL. The HDI 2017 Technical Practices & Salary Report found that 72% of organizations currently use or plan to use ITIL in their strategy, followed by Knowledge Centered Service (KCS) with 60%. The right strategy is rarely based on only one framework, but rather defined based on learnings from multiple sources, such as:
- Knowledge-Centered Service (KCS)
- HDI Support Center Standard
- Microsoft Operations Framework (MOF)
- Six Sigma
Once you define your strategy and your desired processes, then it is time to select the right technology to enable them. This will likely require multiple solution providers given the broad scope of service management. Service management suites and integrated systems provide the strongest foundations for success when compared to a collection of disconnected applications. It is often the integration that provides additional value and ease of use to support staff.
Then Came Knowledge
The People-Process-Technology approach has been around since the early days of technology. Some have referred to it as the three legs of the stool. Prior to technology, the management methods focused on People and Process. The time has come for this approach to evolve once again. We need to replace the three-legged stool with a sturdier four-legged chair. It is time to recognized Knowledge as a requirement in the framework.
Prior to the inclusion of knowledge, support professionals asked their peers for help when they did not personally have the answer. This engaged multiple resources to resolve issues. Tickets took more time to investigate, diagnose and resolve. Often the organization was repeatedly resolving the same issues and producing different resolutions. If ten people called the service desk asking the same question, they could have received ten different answers. Tickets were routinely escalated to support partners and the organization suffered from low first contact resolution as well as low first level resolution. Thus, the help desk was known as the helpless desk. That begin to change with the introduction of knowledge.
While tribal knowledge has always been around, it was in the heads of the people. If the people were not around or left the job, the knowledge was no longer available. Knowledge had to become explicitly recorded in a knowledge base for easy access and sharing. The formal practices of knowledge management are relatively young compared to service management. As a result, it is not as well understood and adopted.
- ITIL research and development began in the 1980’s and was first published in 1989.
- KCS research and development began in 1992 by the Consortium for Service Innovation.
- HDI and the Consortium for Service Innovation introduced KCS training in 2003.
- ITIL added Knowledge Management in 2007. For 16 years, knowledge was not included in this framework.
- The first KCS certification was introduced in 2007.
- The KCS Academy launched in 2010 to provide resources, training, and certifications for the industry.
Initially, a knowledge base was considered an optional resource. If you had an idea for a knowledge document, you would submit it to the dedicated knowledge team. Knowledge engineers would develop, validate and verify the correctness of the knowledge. After which it was then published to the service desk with the goal of improving first level resolution and first contact resolution. This was an early shift-left strategy to shift work away the costly level two resources. The shift-left strategy expanded to include a self-service strategy that allowed customers access to appropriate knowledge. The early goal of this strategy was to reduce call volume to the service desk. Today knowledge is required and integrated into multiple service management processes. And self-service is a strategic to improving customer success and the customer experience.
KCS Changed the Knowledge Management Approach
The knowledge engineering method was widely followed by early knowledge management adopters, including the major technology vendors that included Microsoft, HP, Oracle, 3Com, Novell, and Sun Systems. But success was still eluding them. These vendors and others came together to form the Consortium for Service Innovation in 1992. Their goal was and is to explore innovations in service management. One of the early initiatives that bared fruit was the exploration of knowledge management. Members tried new ideas and learned through their experiences. Some things worked, and some ideas did not. The collection of these experiences was captured and evolved into the methodology now known as Knowledge Centered Service or KCS.
The core principles of KCS include:
- Abundance – The more we share the more we learn.
- Create Value – Knowledge is the product delivered to customers and a strategic asset of the organization.
- Demand Driven – Knowledge must be captured and improved in the problem-solving process, also known as incident management and request management.
- Trust – Knowledge is the responsibility of everyone, and not a dedicated team.
In the same HDI report mentioned above, we learn of the 26 technologies that are used by support organizations, and were ranked in the report, Knowledge Management was ranked 4th when asked what technology is used or planned to be used.
- Remote Control
- Incident Management
- Knowledge Management
41% of respondents plan to add or improve Knowledge Management in 2018. Ranking it the #2 area of planned investment, behind self-help where 50% are planning an improvement investment. Since a critical component of self-help is knowledge, you can easily argue that knowledge ranks as the #1 and #2 areas of improvement for service desks within our industry.
Integrating Knowledge Beyond Tickets
Early adopters of knowledge management focused on improving incident management and request management as well as access management and event management. As the practices and processes evolved, knowledge became integrated into multiple service management processes. Some examples include:
- Service Level Management – The standard operating procedures that support operational level agreements are captured as knowledge to improve ticket escalation.
- Problem Management – Knowledge reuse enables problem detection, replacing the costly ticket analysis to identify problems. Problem management updates and shares knowledge for immediate use by support professionals.
- Change Management – Knowledge reuse can serve to justify the approval of a change request. Knowledge reuse after a change implementation can indicate a failed change.
- Testing and Validation Management – Knowledge is captured and shared prior to the release of new or updated service.
- Release and Deployment Management – Proactive knowledge sharing can reduce the impact of change on the service desk and improve the Dev-Ops relationship.
ITIL + KCS = Success
The customer, the support professional, and the organization benefit from the successful integration of KCS and ITIL.
- Increased first contact resolution
- Reduced mean time to resolve
- Reduced costly escalation
- Consistent answers
- Enables customer choice in support methods
- Identify problems which can eliminate problems and improve services
- Reduced redundant support tasks
- Increased support capacity
- Increased customer satisfaction
- Increased employee satisfaction
- Reduced cost per incident
Knowledge management is no longer an option. It is a required process for your service management strategy. Stand on the sturdier four-legged chair and not the three-legged stool. Include People-Process-Technology-Knowledge in your strategy. Learn from the experiences of others by leveraging industry frameworks and methodologies. Your successful service management strategy should be based on the best practices from ITIL and KCS.
Rick Joslin, KCS Consultant and Expert
About the Author
Rick Joslin has more than 30 years of information technology experience. He served as the executive director of certification and training with HDI for ten years, an association for technical support professionals. Rick has over 20 years of experience in knowledge management and is recognized internationally as an expert in KCS. He has spoken at conferences and events throughout the North America and keynoted at conferences on six continents, promoting the KCS methodology.
Rick was a member of the first class of KCS certified instructors in 2003 and has served on the KCS core committee with the Consortium for Service Innovation to evolve the KCS methodology. He is a contributing author to ITIL v3, the KCS methodology, and numerous HDI courses, certification standards, and certification exams. He is a co-author of the AXELOS whitepaper on the Synergies of ITIL and KCS.
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About ComAround Inc.
ComAround, the world’s only independent KCS Verified Knowledge Management tool provider, helps organizations to achieve world class customer support using intelligent knowledge powered by Microsoft technology and our expertise in knowledge management.
The ComAround Knowledge™ Integration mApp provides a seamless integration between Cherwell Service Management® and ComAround Knowledge™ through built-in interfaces which makes knowledge content available via the interaction points you already have within your support operations.
About Cherwell Software
A global leader in IT and enterprise service management, Cherwell Software empowers IT to lead through the use of powerful and intuitive technology that enables better, faster, and more affordable innovation. The Cherwell® Service Management platform is built from the ground up with a unique architecture that enables rapid time to value and infinite flexibility—at a fraction of the cost and complexity of legacy solutions.
ITIL® is a registered trademark of AXELOS Limited.
KCS® is a registered service mark of the Consortium for Service Innovation.
HDI® is a registered trademark of UBM, LLC.