No single content resource can hold all knowledge needed to solve all issues. A rule of thumb when creating a KCS article is to keep it to one page and insert hyperlinks to other KCS articles, specific sections of online documents (product manuals, diagnostic guides), or bug reports as appropriate. The KCS article can act as a context-sensitive index to the other resources. This approach eliminates redundancy and the need to maintain information in several different places.
Use of links to reference documentation in KCS articles allows more experienced users to move quickly through the content and at the same time enables less experienced users to understand and implement a complex resolution.
Best practice when we have multiple data sources is to provide a unified search engine. Preferences can be set in most search tools to prioritize data sources, so that the current knowledge base and preferred secondary resources are searched first. It can also be helpful to allow the Support Analyst the option of selecting the sources they wish to search.
The ability to associate an incident with the KCS article that resolves the issue is a critical element of the KCS methodology. The data generated by the association is necessary for many of the Evolve Loop analysis activities. For example, calculating the participation rate for individuals and teams or calculating reuse and enabling the new vs. known analysis are all based on the association between incidents and articles. The association of articles to incidents is most often done by linking the article to the incident. Hence the term linking has become part of the KCS vocabulary. Organizations that cannot associate incidents with articles or link them are at a severe disadvantage.
If a KCS article with a relevant resolution is found, it should be reused and linked to the incident. The existing article should be updated (improved) with any additional symptoms or relevant environment information.
If a relevant article is not found in the knowledge base, a new article should be created. Ideally we already have a WIP article, which has the words and phrases we first used to search (searching is creating), or if the customer started the process in self-service the words and phrases they initially used to search. The WIP should also contain the notes we took during the problem-solving process. Now all we have to do is update the resolution (and the cause, if appropriate), review the environment statements for relevance, and put the WIP into an appropriate state based on our confidence in the article and our license level.
As search engine technology has improved over the past few years many organizations are now able to index and search multiple repositories with a variety of different types of content. In this environment, linking an incident to the non-knowledge base content that resolves the issue is legitimate if the following criteria are met:
The information is captured in a maintained repository or database
The specific resolution or answer (a sentence or a paragraph) is findable by the search engine
It is accessible by the audience being served (could be internal or external users)
The content is in the context of the audience that is looking for it (they can find it, using their words and phrases, and they can use and/or understand it)
When these criteria are met, the links to other types of content satisfy the fundamental goal of KCS: create findable, usable knowledge for a specific audience. So in this situation, creating a KCS article would add little or no value. Links to other types of content that satisfy the above criteria should be counted in reuse counts, participation rates and the new vs. known analysis.
Capture the resolution as provided to the customer as part of the incident
The Analyst should be able to establish a link between incidents and articles. Links should be implemented in such a way as to be available to other processes - e.g., reporting, search-ranking algorithms, and search results display. (In other words, a hyperlink embedded in a text field as part of an incident note would not satisfy this requirement.)
Analysts should be able to link and unlink articles
Many-to-many relationship between incidents and articles
The linking mechanism should allow for multiple articles to be linked to an incident. Optionally, links may be associated with a link type, for example, "resolved" vs. "referenced."
Persistent link and snapshot
Next up is the improve practice, even though we just gave an example of how capture, search, reuse and improve all play together. We are beginning to see that the Solve Loop practices are tightly related. In talking about one practice or technique we cannot avoid discussing how it is related to the others.