Nick Sommerfeld of Isos Technology on The BEST ITSM Show by Appfire

“What is Knowledge Management (and how do I do it)?” Find out in this episode of Appfire Presents: The Best IT Service Management Show by Appfire.

Atlassian consultant Nick Sommerfeld of Isos Technology joins Kerry O’Shea Gorgone to explain Knowledge Management: what it means in the context of IT and how it helps to free up the time IT puts into addressing common requests (even complex ones). We also get into when to create knowledge assets, and how to store them, update them, and make them findable for the service reps who need them.

To get deeper into the knowledge management topic, check out this white paper from Isos Technology: “Enterprise Service Management A New Solution for Transforming Knowledge Work and Modernizing Business Operations.”

About the guest

Nick Sommerfeld is an Atlassian consultant on the Professional Services team at Isos Technology. With over a decade of experience in the Atlassian ecosystem and a background in agile product and project management, Nick designs and delivers custom solutions for technical and business teams across midsize and enterprise organizations.

About the show

The BEST ITSM Show by Appfire brings you expert insights for IT service delivery, so your employees and customers have what they need to succeed. Get the right tech and tips for the right job at hand. Look like you’ve come from the future with all your new ITSM smarts. Every episode is a brisk 10 minutes—less time than it takes to provision a laptop or troubleshoot a tech support issue.


For your convenience, here is the transcript of this episode:

What is Knowledge Management (and how do I do it)?

Kerry:  Today we’re going to answer the question what is knowledge management and how do I do it. Here to help us answer that question is Nick Sommerfeld, Atlassian consultant at Isos Technology. Stick around for 10 minutes of ITSM awesome.

Nick, thanks for being here. First of all, what is knowledge management in the context of IT?

Nick:  Knowledge management, when you think about IT, there are a lot of repetitive requests or questions. Knowledge management helps aggregate all of that and make it a self-serve model for freeing up the time and effort that IT puts into common requests.

Kerry:  So, if you get the same requests from users of a specific app a hundred times, you figure out maybe we need a thing that we can give people that explains how to do this.

Nick:  Right. Maybe you need an article that someone can go to and self-serve and solve their own problem instead of, not wasting your time, but spending time answering the same question over and over again.

Kerry:  Does it also have some relevance to your team of people? If you’re training new people, you could be like, “Hey, guess what? You’re going to get this question probably 60 times.” 

Nick:  Absolutely. In a previous life, when I worked at an office and could get up and go bother people and ask questions, I would do that. In our more recent lifestyle and in remote work, you need a place to go. You can use chat and things like that, but you’re still at the mercy of someone answering your question. Self-serve for internal documentation or processes to follow is absolutely a great use case for it.

Kerry:  We used to call it sneaker net, like get up from your desk and go talk to someone who knows more than you do. 

Nick:  Right. Find anyone who can give you an answer was my motto. 

Kerry:  Knowledge management then is pretty broad. We’re talking in terms of help desks and self-service things. What other kinds of knowledge might you need to manage for internal and external audiences?

Nick:  It can be as simple as a common practice of how do I reset my password. It can be more technical, though, in terms of troubleshooting techniques or processes to follow to do things. If your VPN is not working, as an example. You can go bug someone, or you can write an article that is self-serve that guides folks through steps of first troubleshooting their issue, then it leads them maybe to put in an IT request.

Kerry:  Do you have some kind of triage that you use to figure out when it’s worth it to create the asset or is almost anything worth creating a knowledge asset for?

Nick:  Almost anything that is repetitive. Maybe it’s not the best to call it this, but anything that annoys you. If there is something that you do not like to keep repeating yourself about, that’s a great use case for a knowledge base. 

It doesn’t even have to deal with an action, it can just be information. Your knowledge base is going to be based on keywords. As long as your information in an article is respective of the types of words that people would type in when they’re searching for things or about to submit a request, it’s going to be useful.

Kerry:  How sophisticated can you actually get? You mentioned somebody typing in a request. Can it detect it and be like, “Hey, maybe you could use this article on how to do what that is.”

Nick:  Absolutely. And it goes both ways, from the person submitting the request to maybe the IT person fulfilling the request, if it does happen to get created. If I were to start typing in VPN, I’m getting ready to say my VPN is not working, VPN could be the keyword that is used to service up a few articles and say are these articles helpful for you and do they solve your problem. 

One of the key metrics from a knowledge base is request deferment, so how many requests don’t actually get created because you’re serving up materials that answer the problem before a request or a ticket is created. Then on the other side of that, if you’re an IT person, if you’re an agent working out of a support desk or a help desk and a ticket does get created, you can surface some similar articles to agents. Maybe they’re newly onboarded, they’re still getting their feet under them, they’re not understanding how to do everything, you can serve process articles to solve a problem to agents as well.

Kerry:  I was wondering about that, because you know some people are going to be like, “I’m not reading that,” and it’s going to come through anyway.

Nick:  Right. You can then as an agent take those articles, either they help you, or maybe it does amount to a ticket being created, you can use those articles that are in your knowledge base as a response to the ticket that was submitted, “Have you seen this article? Check out this article. This should solve your problem.”

Kerry:  What about the actual steps in it? Say you’re pretty sure if they didn’t read it coming in, they’re not going to read it now, but maybe the new person you mentioned could be like, “Here’s the things that we’re going to do.”

Nick:  Right. What’s great about it is these articles, as they’re serviced up, should be and can be editable by the team that manages them. The IT team, as processes change or troubleshooting steps change, things like that, quick edits and they’re live.

Kerry:  It seems like knowledge management then touches quite a few parts of the organization. I’m thinking like corporate wiki, knowledge base for external facing stuff, probably some of your workflows and automations that you build for yourself in Jira or Confluence, or whatever, using different integrations. It’s like an octopus, it goes through the entire organization pretty much.

Nick:  It is. It’s funny, you don’t need one, but you do want to understand that the concept of a Confluence librarian is something to consider because you want to make sure your articles are clear and concise, and that they’re updated based on process changes because they can be used by all departments. If it’s an internal employee submitting an expense report and they need process on that, it can be non-IT related as well. 

Kerry:  We have many apps at Appfire, but I was just talking with someone about Comala Tech and Comala Document Management, and how that can actually send out a tickler to people who have worked on a knowledge base article to be like, “You have to update this every quarter because things get stale.” I’m thinking in your help desk department that has to be pretty critical because you don’t want to give people old information. Nothing is going to make them more angry than discovering that your help isn’t helping. 

Nick:  Right. Or the reason that you built these articles to defer requests is now a moot point because the process that it outlines is no longer valid, so you’re guiding someone to something that won’t solve their problems, so they’re going to keep bothering you.

Kerry:  Of course they are. How much can you do with the native functionality of the bigger project management things, like Jira and Confluence, and at what stage do you need to plug in some stuff to automate common responses or to trigger sending a whitepaper when somebody asks about a certain thing?

Nick:  It’s an evolution. You’re not going to know the types of requests until you’re up and running and things are coming in, especially when you switch systems. If you’re new to Jira, you want to see everything that’s coming in, the types of requests, common issues when new departments are onboarded. It’s definitely an evolution of building the articles. 

It’s not as if you need to spend or should spend three months or six months building a library of articles before you compile them into a knowledge base and make it accessible to everyone. It’s just something that you add to over time as you start to see things becoming commonplace from a request perspective that you think maybe an article will help solve. Maybe instead of getting 20 requests for the same thing every few weeks, maybe I can whittle that down to one or two or five by publishing an article.

Kerry:  What are some best practices? Do you think there should be some dedicated content people who kind of ask you to send things from your sent email or from your customer service interactions that they turn into content? How do you actually make this happen?

Nick:  I’m an advocate for someone who owns content, because I’ve seen a lot of messy Confluence spaces. When you have a lot of hands creating documents, everyone has their own style. Some people are better at spelling things than others. Some people like all caps. You want consistency, especially when you’re trying to convey a solution to someone or propose a solution to someone. They’re there for a reason, you don’t want to be annoyed by their ticket, they don’t want to be annoyed by your response that isn’t helpful or is convoluted. 

So, I’m a big advocate for it. I know it’s a little unrealistic having dedicated resources for it, but to your point, it’s something that should be if you don’t have a dedicated resource for it, maybe it’s something that you review as a team quarterly, all of you articles out there to see if anything has changed. Monthly or quarterly, whatever cadence suits you.

Kerry:  We can but ask. Would you rather answer more sophisticated and difficult challenges for people, or do you want to keep updating these things in the knowledge base? It’s your call.

Nick:  Right.

Kerry:  For more information about the topic, there is a great whitepaper available at IsosTech.com/esmwhitepaper, so go and check that out. This is The Best ITSM Show by Appfire. For more episodes of the show, you can go to Hub.Appfire.com

Nick, thank you so much for being here. Thanks, everybody, for watching. We will see you next time.

Last updated: 2022-09-30

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