The DIKW model for Knowledge Management

Following on from last week’s article about the advantages of Knowledge Management and how to get started, let’s look at the process in more detail. When I’m running ITIL foundation courses I generally hit Knowledge Management as part of the Service Transition stage of the lifecycle towards the end of day 2. Put yourselves in the shoes of the poor delegate for a second and think after 2 solid days learning about 20 odd processes and 4 functions even the brightest person in the room is starting to get a bit tired of all the terminology. To try and fix that; here’s my handy guide to Data Information Knowledge and Wisdom aka the Dick Whittington model for Knowledge Management.



First up we have Data. No, not the character from Star Trek TNG (although – spoiler alert – I’m still heartbroken by the ending of Nemesis) but the facts and figures which relay something specific. ITIL describes data as a discrete series of facts about events. When we talk about data; it’s raw in format, not organised in any way and providing no further information regarding patterns, structure or context. Data represents singular facts or numbers but by themselves, data items have little meaning.

The key Knowledge Management activities include:

  • Capturing accurate data
  • Reviewing data and adding context so that it can be transformed into information
  • Ensuring only relevant data that adds value is being captured as lets face it, anything else is just noise.


Data becomes Information when it can be viewed in a specific context. According to ITIL, for data to become information it must be contextualised, categorised, calculated and condensed. If data is a series of facts, information is generally stored in some sort of structure for example, e-mails, documents or spreadsheets.

The key Knowledge Management process around information is managing the content in a way that adds value. In other words, ensuing information is easy to capture, query, find, reuse and re learn from experiences so we don’t keep making the same mistakes and duplication is reduced.


For information to become knowledge it must be processed organised or structured in some way, or else as being applied or put into action. Knowledge combines information with experience and can be used as a basis for decision-making or taking an action. Knowledge is made up of the experiences, ideas, insights, values and judgements of your people. When we introducing formal Knowledge Management; creating the right culture is absolutely critical so that people feel comfortable adding to Knowledge Bases and articles ensuring the right knowledge is captured. Done well, Knowledge Management will engage and up skill your people so it really is worth focusing on.


Wisdom is the trickiest stage to explain. ITIL defines wisdom as being the ultimate discernment of the material and having the application and contextual awareness to provide a strong, common sense judgement. I’ve been in IT long enough to realise that you can’t teach common sense but by having the right training and support in place goes a long way to avoid a herding cats situation.

My favourite way of explaining Wisdom to ITIL foundation delegates is this example from Irish legend Paul Howard (author of the Ross O’Carroll Kelly books)

In all seriousness though, by applying Wisdom, you have the ability to increase effectiveness. It’s the value add based on being able to improve accuracy, drive efficiency and support CSI.

So that’s the basics to the Data Information Knowledge Wisdom model, what do you think? Let us know in the comments!


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Live from Knowledge14 – ServiceNow preview Kanban visual task boards

Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco.
Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco, home of Knowledge14

I’m in sunny San Francisco, California for ServiceNow’s annual user conference; Knowledge14.

ServiceNow are expecting a mind boggling 6,000 attendees over the next few days – making it arguably the largest worldwide event in the ITSM field. Knowledge14 also includes 300 specialist breakout seminars and lab sessions and includes an expo hall of 108 ServiceNow ecosystem partners.

The gorilla in the market continues to demonstrate impressive growth with c. $650m+ goal for this year.

5 year growth trajectory
5 year growth trajectory

Eureka Preview

ServiceNow customers can expect a truckload of new products and features in Eureka, the next major release of the platform.

High Level Summary

  • Service Creator
  • Catalog Item Designer
  • Multiple Catalogs
  • Form Designer
  • Demand Management
  • Visualizations
  • Performance Analytics
  • Facilities Service Automation
  • Visual Task Boards
  • On-Call Scheduling
  • Event Management
  • Business Service Map
  • Configuration Automation

My Highlights:

Clearly lots here for customers to dig into for the next release, from my brief preview my two key highlights were:

  • Kanban tasks boards: Visual Task Boards (Think Trello or LeanKitKanban for Enterprise) Anyone benefiting from the kanban style visualisation and scrum team boards will just love this. See a screenshot and brief demo on an iPad below.
  • Germ of an idea to delivered projects: Demand Management Scorecards – Looks very cool at first glance. Good ideas can be captured, services discussed and built by non-IT users, then the business case and resources to build it can be visualized and scheduled.


Knowledge14 continues until May 1st, stay tuned for further updates.

Quick Guide to Knowledge Management Tool Selection

"Tomatoes don’t go in fruit salad"
“Tomatoes don’t go in fruit salad”

In this extended article, Barclay Rae provides an independent guide to Knowledge Management and in particular Knowledge Management tool selection.

Knowledge Management can be many things – from simple useable checklists to complex context-sensitive and case-based toolsets.

Some of the most effective knowledge solutions can be very basic, like lists of contact details, account numbers or simple spreadsheets.

The key to success is in getting people to use these sources and continuing to use them (and find them useful).

Good practical design is key to building tools that provide information and knowledge quickly, intuitively and appropriately – and that are regularly and continuously used.

For IT Support in particular this means:

  1. Getting the right level of information – accurate, up to date, relevant, useable
  2. To the right person – being aware of the support model and the levels of knowledge held at different support levels
  3. In a language and format that is appropriate for them – technical or not, plus summary or detailed, as required for the relevant support level and skillset
  4. Quickly and when and where they need it – Without need for long searches or trawling through long lists of options, delivered at the point of service or action as required.
  5. Context is everything – too technical or not technical enough, out of date, inappropriate, complex, slow – tools must be able to understand and deliver on these within a clearly context, otherwise the ‘knowledge is useless or even dangerous.

So, what is Knowledge Management?

This is the process or discipline that ensures that teams have relevant information to hand, to assist in having a clear understanding of a situation. Knowledge Management is the process that manages the capability to provide that information, based on accurate and relevant data. If the information is available at the right place and time, then those people accessing it can make more informed decisions and also speed up the support and resolution process – i.e. by reducing the need to escalate.

What Does Knowledge Management mean in ITSM?

Knowledge management is not just about getting information fast when trying to solve incidents, although this is a good practical starting point for many organisations. Data gathering, solution design, process design, knowledge transfer are all key elements – across all of IT and beyond. Knowledge should be able to be applied at all parts of the service ‘supply chain’ to ensure that this is built in a robust, complete and effective way. ‘Knowledge Management’ can be Data, Information, Knowledge or Wisdom (see list below) – all differing levels of content or applied and documented understanding that provides value in terms of improvements in service quality and efficiency.

  • DATA – Ten tomatoes
  • INFORMATION – He bought ten tomatoes
  • KNOWLEDGE – A tomato is a fruit
  • WISDOM – Tomatoes don’t go in fruit salad

Tools capture, store and make that information available, and relevant. Getting the right information to the right person – at the right level when they need it – is the goal. The easiest elements to identify and apply ‘knowledge articles’ to are Incidents, Problems and Service Requests. This should also be extended to Changes, Releases, CIs, Services, offerings, processes and workflows – all aspects of service delivery, where information and knowledge is needed. Key elements for tools should be in the ability to easily create, approve, review, update store and make available knowledge articles – i.e. secure curation. In addition the integration of these knowledge functions to other areas of ITSM should be seamless. Integration and alignment with other internal and external sources of knowledge is also useful, as is any formal approach or verification around approved techniques for KM – e.g. like KCS (Knowledge Centred Support). Like many aspects of ITSM technology and practice (and software in general) the value and success of this rests as much with the approach and focus around implementation, culture and governance, as it does with functionality. Vendors need therefore to possess understanding, skills and expertise in implementing these solutions and be geared up to pass on these skills to clients for successful implementation.

Knowledge Management Functionality

Knowledge Creation – systems should have the facility to easily create ‘knowledge articles’ (KAs). These can be original records (i.e. specific work instructions or content), and/or packages of content including documents. Linking – Content can be intelligently and seamlessly linked to external sources – tech manuals, wikis etc. Knowledge Curation – there should be definable process workflows to control the lifecycle of KAs as follows:

  1. Creation of record – ad hoc or as part of a defied process (e.g. release, change)
  2. Approval of record – functional escalation to pre-defined approver or approver group
  3. Publishing/Release of record
  4. Presentation of record – use of KA as designed and required
  5. Review/update of record
  6. Removal / archiving of record
  7. Tracking and assessment of use of record

Knowledge Sharing – promotion of process and information across systems and channels as required. Presentation of KAs:

  1. To multiple staff levels by login
  2. Presentation from searches (queries/predictive) on key classifications – type, impact, product, service, symptom, error message etc.
  3. Presentation of options based on case-based search criteria and probability
  4. Presentation as integral components of ITSM processes:
    • i.     Incident Management – issue resolution, triage
    • ii.     Service Desk – work instructions, manuals, fault fixing
    • iii.     Problem Management – known error records
    • iv.     Change Management – procedures and guidance
    • v.     Configuration Management – procedure and guidance
    • vi.     Services and Service offerings – Procedure and guidance
    • vii.     Request Fulfilment – Procedure and guidance
    • viii.     Release and Deployment Management – Procedure and guidance
    • ix.     Transition – Testing & Verification – testing notes guidance
    • x.     Service Introduction – support notes and guidance
  5. Vendors should show innovation through integration and interaction with new products and areas of technology – e.g. integration with Knowledge lockers like Evernote, Onenote, etc
  6. Self-help access to users via self-service portals – providing user friendly versions of internal KAs
  7. Crowdsourcing – links to Incident and Problem Management processes for access to outstanding issues and inputs to create known error records

Knowledge Development – ability to update and improve knowledge articles and also to assess the value of usage as input to predicting new records or record types Intelligence – Systems should show innovation by learning from existing records – types, content and usage – and prompting to create new KAs.

Vendor Approach

  1. Vendors should demonstrate a clear understanding of how to approach Knowledge integration within their (and with other) products
  2. Innovation in approach and delivery are a differentiator – e.g. beyond simple functional KA creation and management
  3. Project management and tool implementation should include guidance, training, workshops etc. on strategic and technical aspects of Knowledge Management
  4. KCS accreditation and proof of capability desirable

General Knowledge Management Requirements

  1. User-configurable forms, tables, workflows
  2. Should be able to create user-defined rules for creation (e.g. mandatory fields) and lifecycle management (e.g. who, how when revised and updated.
  3. Lifecycle activity should trigger escalation processes – (e.g. automated emails/ texts to approvers, reminders etc.)
  4. Role-based security access – to allow control of access and level of information by login
  5. Ability to provide multiple levels and formats of information in KAs – i.e. bullet points for senior technical levels, scripted specific details for junior / non-technical staff.
  6. Vendors should provide expertise and guidance in the implementation of the tool and relevant processes and project requirements around Knowledge Management – e.g. with workshops and training as well as implementation consultancy.
  7. Open system for real-time integration with external ITSM.
  8. Vendors should have established proven links with other ITSM tools and modules, Incident, Problem and Change Management, CMDB and Service Catalogue.

Barclay will soon begin a competitive review of Knowledge Management technology. If you offer technology in this area and would like to participate in our next review please contact us.

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Power to the People

How Social IT Rebalances the People Process Technology Equation

A remarkable transformation is taking place in the world of information technology today. It reflects a new generation of knowledge workers utilizing social media to improve problem-solving, foster collaboration and spark innovation.

However, despite the continued reference to the traditional triad of success encompassing people, process and technology, the IT world has typically focused more on the process and technology sides rather than emphasizing the ‘people’ component.

This has been particularly true of IT products, consultants, and executives who have emphasized a command and control approach to IT that tends to downplay and minimize the people factor.

While a highly industrialized, mechanistic view of IT over the last five plus years has led to enormous gains in automation and productivity, the IT industry has now reached a point where differentiation around process and technology has become smaller and smaller. At the same time, innovations such as tablets and smartphones have introduced a new era of enterprise IT consumerization that is dramatically changing workplace habits and forms of communication and collaboration within and between organizations worldwide.

Get on board the collaboration economy!

The Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, among others, has proclaimed a paradigm shift to a new “collaboration economy” that allows people, teams and companies to effectively organize and focus their activities on creating value and driving profitability. Thus, the traditional IT emphasis on process and technology is giving way to new ways of thinking that recognize the increasing importance of the social or people component in IT in order to unlock new sources of productivity and value through greater knowledge sharing and collaboration.

The following five key behavioral attributes are necessary to increase people engagement and rebalance the IT operations equation for success:

  1. Divide and Conquer – Overcome limitations of traditional mechanistic approaches to IT information discovery and share the knowledge and expertise of IT staff across the enterprise
  2. Feed and Engage – Facilitate new ways of engagement to break down traditional barriers to communication and collaboration among IT teams and stakeholders
  3. Assign and Trust – Foster accountability for knowledge, so that individuals take on responsibilities that go beyond traditional IT processes and systems and their peers trust in the knowledge captured
  4. Make it Second Nature – Use approaches that feel natural and interact intuitively to increase adoption and value
  5. Reinforce and Reward – Compel executives and IT managers to recognize and reward collaborative behavior among IT staff and stakeholders

Behavior #1: Divide and Conquer

Most IT organizations today conduct operations with a heavy emphasis on machine-driven automated discovery and monolithic configuration management databases (CMDBs) that attempt to capture all information about the IT environment. In many cases, these tools and databases are managed by a specialized team charged with keeping information current. However, these teams often have far less institutional knowledge and expertise than others within the IT organization. Those who do have the most knowledge are either blocked from directly accessing and updating these tools and databases, or they refuse to do so because they are already comfortable with their own personal spreadsheets, wikis, and other tools.

This results in a situation where IT departments all too frequently spend limited budget dollars to staff full- time resources to establish a “single source of truth” that is, in fact, either out of date, not trusted by many in their own organization, or both.

As a consequence, IT departments either do not use these tools and databases for their intended purposes, or IT professionals are forced to rely on inaccurate information to assess issues or problems and make decisions.

In contrast, social knowledge management gives everyone in IT a stake in contributing to and verifying the accuracy of the knowledge about the IT environment. The “burden” of maintenance doesn’t fall on any single person or team, but is the collective responsibility of everyone participating.

This is not to say there isn’t value in machine discovered knowledge. Instead, machine knowledge must be augmented by human knowledge and validated so that the organization can confidently make decisions. Stated another way, rather than trying to eliminate the human factor, as traditional approaches have done, social IT actually encourages all knowledgeable individuals to share their expertise and contribute to the knowledge pool by creating and following a new breed of “social objects” that leverage well-known principles from Wikipedia and Facebook-style news feeds.

Behavior #2: Feed and Engage

IT organizations that emphasize process and technology at the expense of people often tend to erect boundaries between individuals and teams in an effort to strictly manage operations through a hierarchical command and control structure. This approach reinforces the traditional technology silos in IT and exacerbates them by creating new process silos. For example, if the network is up and running, why should the network group worry if an application is slow? “It’s not our problem” is a typical reaction when IT behavior is siloed and not collaborative.

Social IT-based crowdsourcing and peer review of knowledge, on the other hand, taps into the human instinct to fill in the gaps of known and unknown information. Then, when confronting incidents, problems, and changes, the organization can make better decisions by better coordinating team effort where individuals contribute to issues they feel connected to and care about based on their responsibilities, their expertise, or simply their individual interests. This can be accomplished by leveraging familiar social media principles and “following” the objects IT manages (such as servers, network devices, applications, etc.) and by automatically assigning experts to collaboration activities around incidents, problems, and changes. With this approach, individuals can also be alerted and fed new information as social objects are updated leading to an organization that is continually current on the latest IT environment reality.

With such an approach, rather than hoarding knowledge for job security, individuals are encouraged to take ownership of objects in their sphere of influence and responsibility, keep those objects updated with new knowledge, create new objects when performing daily tasks, and then automatically share their activities with others who are affected by or depend on them.

Behavior #3: Assign and Trust

If the people potential of IT is to be fully realized by pooling collective knowledge and continuous engagement via social media types of communication and collaboration, then individuals must be accountable to others for their contribution and actions. In other words, you can crowd source knowledge but all knowledge is not created equal. Even though multiple individuals can contribute knowledge, a single individual or role should have sole ownership of a “social object.” In this manner, the organization can increase its trust of the knowledge about that object, or, if it is not being accurately maintained, replace the individual who is responsible.

Behavior #4: Make it Second Nature

IT organizations and bookshelves are littered with the bones of projects that have tried to enforce processes that individuals pay lip service to and then promptly ignore in their daily operational activities. What’s more, IT professionals are usually some of the busiest employees in the organization, so adding on a new set of activities can easily be met with skepticism.

The real potential and promise of social IT stems from its ability to foster ways of communicating and working that feel natural and intuitive to human beings without adding more to the plates of those who already feel overworked. The fact is, IT organizations are inherently social already. IT teams just haven’t had tools that are designed to support collaboration and the capture of knowledge.

IT teams that use email or instant messaging, conduct daily SCRUM meetings, or hold regular Change Advisory Board reviews, are ripe for the benefits of Social IT. But to leverage social IT requires products that fit naturally into the work IT professionals are already doing, and that augment existing processes and practices without being seen as another thing that must be done in the course of a day.

By taking this approach, IT organizations will find that “offline” communication methods like email and instant messaging will be used less and less in favor of the social knowledge management system. They will also find that SCRUM meetings are more productive and CAB meetings focused more on the changes that have the biggest risk.

Behavior #5: Reinforce and Reward

As human beings, we pay close attention to the kinds of behavior that are actually valued and rewarded in the workplace by management. Therefore, it’s imperative that executive and IT management understand and reward social IT activities that contribute to the knowledge and collaboration necessary to improve problem-solving and decision-making among IT staff members.

IT leadership must create a culture of collaboration that encourages and rewards individuals who participate in social IT by assuming responsibility and ownership of objects in their sphere of influence and actively contributing on a daily basis. One IT organization that I know of set a goal for getting a specific number of social objects into their knowledge management system by a certain day, and then paid a bonus to those who contributed to meeting that objective. You might consider providing incentives through bonuses like this and/or as part of annual performance reviews for those who make decisions by consulting the social IT knowledge management system.

Finally: An unprecedented opportunity to improve IT productivity

The introduction of social technologies into the IT workplace presents an unprecedented opportunity to improve productivity and even job satisfaction of IT professionals. Taking advantage of that opportunity, however, requires that IT leaders rebalance the people, process, technology equation by driving behavioral change and equipping teams with the proper tools and incentives to achieve success.

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