Bob was the guy who used to handle that and he left last year
(Vocus) October 30, 2008 –-
“Knowledge is Good” – Animal House 1978. Faber College may not have had many things right but this one is spot on. Within the world of IT Operations ‘Knowledge is Good’ is one of the least looked at and valued aspects of capturing and retaining both current and past knowledge.
If someone has worked within the IT services industry for any period of time, especially in IT operations they have undoubtedly experienced numerous episodes where the response to a system problem is “Bob was the guy who used to handle that and he left last year” or “I’m not sure who built that and I don’t know where to begin”. It is likely that anyone reading this article can empathize and likely have a few stories of their own that follow the same path. Yet, if that same person has ever tried to create a proposal to develop a knowledge base or a process to capture and catalog information they’ve been met with many objections. The most common are that it “costs too much , “show me the ROI” , “we don’t have room in the budget” or “the data becomes stale the moment the project is complete”.
Proving the ROI can be difficult but if any organization has had a significant outage and can quantify any of the lost productivity/production costs related to that outage, they will be more than half way there.
Maintech has developed a Knowledge Management process and system that is cost effective and has built in workflows to help keep the information fresh. In fact, we can help build the ROI case for you.
Back at Faber College they might not want to retain some of the knowledge that the boys of Delta House were developing. But, if anyone has spent any time working in IT operations they know all too well that whatever happens in developing, implementing, managing and running systems is important information.
At Maintech we developed our system using Microsoft’s Office Sharepoint Server to help us build a knowledge base that could be used by our technicians and engineers across all of our customer accounts. As is true with most mid-size to large enterprises we already had the licenses and we repurposed an existing file server to keep our startup cost low. We wanted a system where we could store operational documents, troubleshooting methods and other key engineering and support documents that would allow us to share information with all service and support staff. The system needed to have a workflow for documents to be approved by specific staff prior to finding their way into the stream, be able to manage the current information and finally, remove those items that were no longer relevant. Such a system would provide Maintech with a learning tool for our staff, a stronger support model for our customers and a library that would help us reduce our costs and meet our Service Level; Agreements (SLA).
Collecting the data was simply a matter of defining the rules, developing the process and enforcing the requirement for all to participate. Once we got started and explained the process to our staff, the project took on a head of steam and it rolled through to our initial launch of the data. Then, we had to ensure that everyone continued to follow the procedures for updates and additions. The workflow built in helped us to ensure the quality and readiness of the data and releasing it to the field was a matter of standard procedure. Today, our technicians and engineers utilize our system to help them deliver the highest level of service to our customers each and every day.
Then, a strange thing happened. One of our customers, the data center manager for an international banking and brokerage firm based in New York, was exposed to the system through one of our engineers that was working on his issue. He asked about the system and when the technician explained how it worked and how useful it was, our client asked if Maintech could develop a knowledge based system for their internal information. The team that developed our system came to visit and listen to the customer. He explained to us that his company was experiencing difficulty in some operational areas due to the fact that they had thousands of documents on share drives, personal folders and even the good old sticky notes on individual monitors. They had no centralized version control, no way to retire old documents and no way to identify gaps in their current documentation.
Our team worked to develop a formal strategy, based on ITIL foundations, and sat down with our customer and went through the process, including costs and timeline. We discussed the use of Maintech’s technical writers to assist in the documentation development, talked about the discovery process to determine what already existed and where there were gaps, etc. We also discussed the possibility of Maintech fully managing, monitoring and maintaining the system for them either in their site or in our hosting facility.
The customer presented the proposal to his management and explained that it was a living system of knowledge that would be useful and valuable long after the initial project was completed. They agreed to move forward with Maintech and after our initial discovery phase we began the process of updating existing documents, developing new documents and ‘retiring’ outdated information. The initial product launch occurred 90 days the initiation of the project and it was a huge success. Now, many other areas within the company that want to know how they can now participate in the system with their own documentation.
Since this initial effort we have been engaged by over a dozen clients, some new logos and some existing clients to deliver similar systems for them. Clearly, “Knowledge is Good” and being able to capture it, share it and use it is even better.
For more information on how Maintech can help you with your knowledge please call Bill Rudowitz at 1-973-330-3277, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website at http://www.maintech.com.