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ITIL 3: executive validation for KM

Service Transition provides a basic architecture that is simple enough on paper, but vast in its implications.

  • At the bottom, data flows in from numerous unstructured sources, as well as structured databases, the CMDB (itself a large, federated database pulling content from multiple sources) and a variety of applications from across the enterprise.
  • In the information integration layer, all of those data streams are subjected to mapping, normalization, reconciliation, synchronization, mining and the like, to become intelligible components of the SKMS.
  • In the knowledge processing layer, data from the SKMS are processed into usable intelligence through query and analysis, reporting, monitoring, business analytic processes (e.g., forecasting, budgeting and planning) and modeling.
  • The presentation layer provides multiple views into the end results of knowledge processing—a general, portal view, as well as specific dashboards for business functions such as governance, quality management, asset and configuration management, and the service desk. A customer view, for self-service, also is proposed.

Given the sprawling nature of ITIL, it is difficult to conceive of one system that supports the entire framework, but vendors have developed broad IT service management platforms and have ITIL thought leaders on their payrolls. BMC Software, HP and CA generally are thought to have the broadest ITSM platforms. Other notable players include IBM, Compuware, Axios Systems, Infra, Lontra and FrontRange.

In a white paper for its Vantage platform, Compuware describes the SKMS "as a system … that integrates data from multiple sources including service desk data, change data, CMS, CMDB, release data, applications, user experience metrics, the critical business services and the IT service components that support them and any other relevant data including from mainframe." Vantage funnels data from those multiple sources, in effect federating the systems in a middle architectural layer Compuware calls the service model, and presenting the results in a dashboard featuring reports and graphical monitors.

Presumably, other vendor-generated conceptions for the SKMS will emerge in coming months.

Current picture

For those of us who have been watching the gradual adoption of KM as a core service desk practice over the last two decades, ITIL 3 may represent the first real executive level validation for knowledge as a strategic asset.

Then again, it may not.

Many organizations have experienced measurable success in KM—but generally in low-risk, tactical implementations in the service desk. The SKMS envisioned in ITIL 3 is KM at its grandest, and its riskiest. A full build-out will require a larger commitment of resources than would be involved in building a problem resolution knowledgebase. It also will entail an extensive executive sponsorship commitment, over a long period of time.

In organizations committed to ITIL, Version 3 clearly is an opportunity to get KM onto executive radar screens, perhaps for the first time. Managers who have attempted to promote KM adoption may see this as a golden moment to advance a personal objective, and they may be right.

But one piece of objective counsel in KM adoption does not change as a result of ITIL 3.

The framework calls for a strategic vision for enterprise knowledge. But the best roadmap for success in knowledge management will get the adopter there in small increments. An effective KM adoption is a big win, and the way to win big is by repeatedly winning small.

In other words, have a master plan for eventual development of a comprehensive SKMS, but leverage tactical returns on productivity gains in incident and problem management to build confidence in KM as a general practice. Extend what is learned to support processes like change and release management.

Then start asking "what if" questions: What if we took the tools and processes we used in knowledge-enabling problem management, and used them to help users understand what services we provide and how to get the most out of them? What if we applied those tools to external customer questions about our products? What if we offered that kind of knowledge to people who haven’t become customers yet?

This approach reduces the risk of the initiative, as well as the rate at which costs are incurred, increasing the likelihood of long-term commitment on the part of executive sponsors and rank and file beneficiaries.

ITIL 2 Processes
Service Support Processes

  • Service desk
  • Incident management
  • Problem management
  • Configuration management
  • Change management
  • Release management

Service Delivery Processes

  • Service level management
  • Financial management
  • Capacity management
  • Availability management
  • Security management
  • IT service continuity management

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