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IT Operational Excellence: Knowledge Management

This is part of a continuing series with Bob Anderson, IT Operational Excellence, presented by Anne Grybowski.

In our busy day to day lives, we often omit any activities that do not need immediate attention, such as getting a flu shot. We do not think about not having a flu shot until we are stuck in bed with the flu. Knowledge management can be very similar from an organizational standpoint. What we give the least attention to can have the most lasting impact. Bob Anderson reminds us to think of knowledge management like we would think of the data repository. There are elements and characterizations in knowledge that need to be grouped by type. If knowledge is treated as an accessible deliverable, everyone will know what to do, how to do it, and what the knowledge elements mean:

What are the Trouble Areas within an Application ? That is a type of knowledge. There has to be some element of a deliverable that can be handed off to someone else to take it further down the line to be completed or approved. That is knowledge. Without being able to have relevant knowledge accessible, what you have is everybody in the department – It doesn’t matter if it is accounts payable, if it is inventory, the warehouse, or application support – not knowing what to do. If everyone knows what to do, how to do it, who they communicate with, and what the outcomes are, then everyone is on the same page. That is going to reduce confusion AND same money!

The IT Operational Excellence Puzzle discussed in this series by Bob Anderson.

Critical Success Factor: Captured or Institutionalized Knowledge

Putting your knowledge into a template is the best method Anderson offers for creating and institutionalizing knowledge. Putting knowledge into knowledge templates enables the IT organization to identify key knowledge areas and the elements that make up that knowledge area. This enables all knowledge of this type to have the same basic format which enabling the gathering of knowledge systemic and repeatable.

Regarding specific work or business processes knowledge:

  • First, all process steps must be documented from beginning to end focusing on:
    • Describing the process step?
    • What purpose does this process step serve?
    • Who does it?
    • What is the outcome or deliverable – with a sample of the deliverable?
    • What business rules govern this process step?

A process template designed to capture this type of knowledge can make the gathering and storage of this knowledge much easier and consistent regardless of who documents this knowledge.

This is only one example of “Documenting Knowledge”.

Anderson also stresses that keeping KM in your head is a bad idea. Paper can be a poor choice too, for that matter, since it is so easily lost. You want KM to be electronically transferable with content that represents knowledge of various functions. Using and refining what you learned in the past will set your organization on the past to operational excellence. Remember, knowledge gaps can cause a great and costly slowdown of work.<br />
When using templates, Anderson notes that you must have specific formats appropriate for different types of knowledge. Annotated diagrams and written out information are also beneficial. You want to be able to say how the knowledge is used and who will be using it. Keep in mind that security might be needed for retrieval of certain data. Knowledge can be in several layers within a content area, so be sure you know precisely how to search for specific types of knoweledge and associated elements . To do this you must have a map to each knowledge template so that you will search the correct knowledge area within the template.

Training is crucial when implementing a new knowledge management or repository systems. Your employees need to know what data are there, and how they can use the data along with any the new tools they are given. This will ensure that your business will run smoothly by teaching people exactly what they need to access important knowledge that helps them do their jobs more quickly and efficiently. Training may also serve, as Anderson suggests, as a litmus test for the overall success of your knowledge system. In the context of an employee performing work successfully, and using available knowledge. You will easily be able to conduct quality control and quality assurance reviews of the knowledge and how often it is used. As Anderson reminds us, ignorance is more expensive than knowledge.


Robert Anderson’s Bio:

Bob Anderson has been with Computer Aid, Inc. since 1988. The majority of his 38 years of IT experience have been spent as a senior executive in large IT organizations. In addition to being published, Anderson has been the principal architect of CAI’s process management, event tracking, and resource management tool, “Tracer” and most recently created a free assessment survey to help organizations recognize where and how they can improve their operations. He has also built CAI’s Production Support & Training department. Anderson is also a decorated US Marine. He and his wife have two grown daughters and reside in Boiling Springs, PA.

About Bob Anderson

Director of Product Development & Quality Assurance for CAI, principal architect of the IT Service Management Tool: Tracer, and known author, with more than 38 years of IT experience.

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