Does one type of knowledge article fit all your needs?
Do you capture all your knowledge using the same form? Or have you found value in having different forms based on the type of knowledge and its purpose?
You can create a knowledge base with one form and several knowledge management systems do just that. The form is a simple question and answer field or an issue and solution field. The Knowledge-Centered Service (KCSSM) methodology from the Consortium for Service Innovation promotes the value of structured knowledge and the need for various fields on a simple form. What the KCS Practices does not discuss in-depth are knowledge article types.
An answer to a question is a different type of knowledge than a resolution for an issue. The former is used to respond to a request for information and the latter is used to resolve an incident when something is not working as expected. While one form can work, having a few forms is often preferred. Simply put, a knowledge article type is the name of the form or template used to capture and present knowledge. Knowledge articles may have different characteristics and fields, and therefore having different templates for capturing and presenting knowledge improves the context of the knowledge. While each article type follows the basic structure as defined within the KCS methodology, there are differences. An organization may elect to use all or only some of the knowledge article types.
The Basic Structure of Knowledge Article
The basic structure of a knowledge article is defined in the KCS Practices Guide.
- Issue: The description of the issue, question, request, or the article's purpose or scope. They may include symptoms of an issue or an error message.
- Environment: The service, products, or demographics that apply to the issue. The article could apply to specific versions of a product.
- Cause: The reason the issue exists if it is known. Optionally a test for the cause can be added to verify the issue.
- Resolution: The resolution, workaround, fix, answer, procedure, or body of the article. There may be different level of resolution based on the audiences of the article, such as customer, level one, and level two.
- Metadata: The properties of the article, also known as the knowledge about the knowledge article. This includes the article ID, create date, author, last modified date, uses, views, article type, audience, knowledge state, and much more.
Knowledge Article Types
Here are seven knowledge article types that could be defined.
The issue article type is the primary type and if you can only have one article type, this is it. The issue article type is used when something is not working as expected, such as an incident. The article therefore represents a problem within the environment. This is the article type most likely to be linked to problem management when the organization desires to investigate the cause of the problem and how to eliminate it to prevent future incidents.
Questions are requests for information and are not incidents. Some organizations will have both How To and Question article types. When both exist, article authors need to be careful to identify a question like “How do I …?” as a “How to …” statement and to use the correct template. Question article types do not have causes and the template has a slightly different presentation as the key content is the Question and the Answer.
How To’s are requests for information and make up a large percentage of the contacts to the support center in many organizations. Some organizations may refer to these as tutorials, especially if they embed a video in the article. Some reasons for having a separate How To article type include presentation, there is no cause, and to classify requests for generating support metrics. How To articles are presented as statements and not questions, such as “How to rename a file” and the answers are the procedures to complete the requested how to task.
The Request article documents the specific service request, the prerequisites, the costs and billable requirements, the approval requirements, the lead time, the requirements for updating the asset management system, and the resources and procedure for fulfilling the request. This may include the tasks that must be defined and assigned to specific support teams to complete the fulfillment procedure.
A Reference article is an information resource. It may be simply a list of things, such as a phone list. It could be a policy, a contract, a brochure, a newsletter, or even a book. When these are large documents, documents maintained by other departments, or file types that cannot be embedded in the knowledge base, then the Reference article will contain an abstract or description along with a link to that document. Reference articles may be referred to in the problem-solving process, but are not used to close a ticket because there is no specific question/answer or issue/resolution documented.
Escalation articles are used to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the escalation process. They document the escalation requirements and set expectations. An Escalation article may exist for each service and product in the service catalog. The content for an Escalation article can usually be found in a standard operating procedure that supports an operational level agreement or underpinning contract.
Diagnostic article types provide guidance for the diagnostic process. A diagnostic article can aid the reader in determining the specific issue, find an appropriate Issue article, or eliminate known issues before escalating a ticket. This may be in the form of a check list or a decision tree designed to triage the issue.
This is not meant to be an exclusive list and the names can vary in different tools. If you use multiple types, the guidance from the KCS methodology is to keep it simple. That is the fewer the better, only use what your organization needs. Knowledge article types improve the context of the content. This improves the presentation of the content and the capturing of knowledge. Different knowledge types are used for different purposes. Analyzing the types of knowledge that are being used and viewed can result in process, service, and product improvements.