Questions are often raised about which methodology should we follow, X or Y or Z?  My answer is all of them, or at least bits of them!  There is no one source of truth, and no methodology is likely to answer all your issues, or be the best way of doing something for your organisation. The answer is to consider them all, and pick the most appropriate aspects of each.  ITIL, which emphasizes that it is non-prescriptive, never says you must do what it says.  It talks about adopting ITIL, but adapting it to meet your needs.  I would extend that to also looking at other methodologies, and taking the best of all of them.  Consider them, learn from them, and use what will work for you, modified as needed.

With respect to Knowledge Management I have often had people saying “ITIL is best” or “KCS is best”.  I say, “KCS is complementary to ITIL”. There are significant differences however.  ITIL is a very broad IT Service Management methodology.  KCS is more focused on the capture and reuse of knowledge in service management, but not just in IT.  ITIL’s Knowledge Management ‘practice’ is only one of 34 ITIL 4 practices.  It is very much wider in scope but does not go as deep as KCS.

Knowledge about IT Services vs. knowledge to solve customer issues

ITIL’s Knowledge Management Practice must have a defined scope but, potentially, encompasses all the knowledge about Services across the organisation. This, of course, covers a very wide area and may be stored in many forms and presented in different ways. This may include contracts and agreements, design documentation, practices, processes and procedures, operational information, support information – you name it! The focus is on ensuring such knowledge is in the right place, available to appropriate people, has clear ownership, is maintained, and retains its integrity. All good but not very specific.

KCS focuses on knowledge about customer issues, and goes more deeply into the way it that knowledge might be structured, captured and maintained in ‘Knowledge Articles’. ITIL has a similar concept, addressed primarily under the headings of its Incident Management (IM) and Problem Management (PM) practices.

ITIL’s solution

ITIL’s IM practice is focused on restoring service as soon as possible after a failure.  PM is focused on finding and eliminating the root cause of Incidents or, at least, finding better work-arounds.  The knowledge about how incidents can be resolved is held in what ITIL calls Known Error records (KEs) which are, of course, only part of the knowledge about Services. KEs are heavily used by IM, however ITIL says they should be created and updated by Problem Management. That presupposes that someone considers an Incident to be important enough to raise a Problem. If not, Incidents for which there is no KE should be matched against other Incident records.

KCS’s solution

In KCS, the Solve Loop is the request-response workflow, whereas the Evolve Loop reflects on and learns from tasks performed in the Solve loop.  Sound similar? If you like, IM does the ‘Solve Loop’, PM does the ‘Evolve Loop’ or at least the KCS Content Health practice.  There are differences though!

Capturing knowledge in the workflow

I like the KCS approach which says articles/KEs should be ‘captured in the workflow’ if there is no existing article/KE, and improved through use. When I have implemented ITIL aligned Incident Management processes I have always allowed IM to create KEs in ‘Draft’ (‘Not Validated’?) state. Effectively I was leveraging both ITIL and KCS.  Incidentally, I started doing this before I had even heard of KCS, but now would include KCS’s flag-it-or-fix-it and licensing model as well.

Is it just about Incidents?

Of course KCS’s Knowledge Articles are not just about Incidents and how to resolve them. They may also describe how to fulfill Service Requests (SRs). ITIL talks about Standard Changes as a category of SR, and says that these require a detailed procedure or work-instruction describing how the request should be fulfilled. Why not store these in the same database as the KEs?

Both KCS and ITIL talk a lot about measurements and metrics, and KCS has some great additional thoughts in this area, e.g. putting targets on outcomes, not activities. Also, its advice about the Article Quality Index (AQI) and Process Integration Indicators (PII) adds greatly.

In conclusion:

So should we focus on one and only one methodology?  NO!  Methodologies are not a one-stop-shop. We should always be open to different ideas. “Adopt and adapt.”

Do entrepreneurs become successful by doing things the way everyone else does?  No, they try to find a better way of doing it.  But do they ignore current best practice?  No way! There are more failed entrepreneurs than successful ones.  Ignoring best practice frequently results in repeating the mistakes that others have made.  Successful entrepreneurs carefully consider current best practice before deciding what is best for them, and their adaptations often contribute to the evolution of best practice methodologies.

Brian McKenna
Certified KCS and ITIL Trainer


Knowledge-Centered Service (KCS®) is a registered Trademark of the Consortium for Service Innovation™.

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