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Archive for July, 2013

How Do You Capture Tribal Knowledge?

Thursday, July 25th, 2013

In the previous installment in this blog series, I wrote about how peer review and social collaboration can help you increase trust in your IT information. And in the blog prior to that, I wrote about how ITinvolve can help you create a “million dollar” view of all your systems-based IT knowledge.

In our experience, this will get you about 70% of the way there in documenting your key IT knowledge. However, there is still another 30% of your collective IT knowledge out there. In fact, it probably walks out the door every day (and hopefully comes back the next day.) Of course I am talking about the knowledge and experience that only your IT staff possesses and that’s trapped in their heads and not documented anywhere.

This “tribal” knowledge is often difficult or simply impossible to discover using automated discovery tools and your staff is often so busy that they just don’t have the time to document it. Worse yet, even if they did have the time, you probably don’t have systems that could easily accommodate it and the ability to make it available for use by other staff members. Whether we are talking about start up and shut down parameters for a specific server, performance-tuning settings that diverge from standard build specs, relationships between infrastructure components that aren’t discoverable, etc. this tribal knowledge is often the most critical to ensuring stable operations and mitigating risks when making changes.

Consider the example of the performance tuning settings mentioned above. Let’s say an engineer was working on an emergency change to address performance issues for an application running on a particular server. He or she may have modified several or even dozens of settings such as disabling logging or increase the threads for a process to improve the performance. Now let’s say one or more of these changes is a divergence from the standard build. More than likely your engineer made these changes hastily because of the performance issues, and so it may not have been handled through your change management process but rather treated simply as incident resolution.

Now, let’s say this engineer leaves, gets a job in a new team, or simply forgets them. No one will know about these key setting changes and why they were done. They won’t be taken into consideration when planning changes for that server, and they might even get overwritten by a new engineer because an audit identifies they are out of compliance with the standard and put you right back in the performance dog house again!

ITinvolve makes it easy for your IT teams to quickly and easily capture this hidden tribal knowledge, helping you create a truly comprehensive view of your collective systems-based and human knowledge. What’s more, by following objects other users can be notified when new information and knowledge is added, and can collaborate with one another if there are questions or if they have something new to contribute such as a key setting that they may have added and not documented. Watch this short video to see and learn more about how it’s done.

In our next blog entry in this series, I will share how you can create a personalized view of the objects in ITinvolve that are more relevant to your role, a patent-pending concept we call Perspectives.

Matt Selheimer
VP, Marketing

Do You Trust Your IT Information?

Monday, July 8th, 2013

In our last blog post I discussed how ITinvolve Knowledge Collaborator helps you bring your IT data and information together (either physically by importing it or logically by pointing to it) so you can have a “million dollar” view of all your existing data and information in one place. And I also described how ITinvolve organizes your data and information in the context of what you are managing so it’s easy to find and use, whether it’s an application, a server, a database, a policy, a network device, or any other aspect of your IT environment.

So now that you’ve got it all in one place, you are likely to find that some of the data and information is out-of-date, inconsistent, and even inaccurate. It’s like having that house with a “million dollar” view but the kitchen is outdated and needs renovating, the hot water comes out of the cold side of the tap in the bathroom, and the last number on the street address at the curb has worn off so your friends have trouble finding it.

For example, you might have application architecture document that was written for a major release a year ago, but wasn’t updated when changes were introduced in the middleware layer recently. You may have loaded a security policy document from a SharePoint site that was created after your last audit, but you’re not sure if anyone has reviewed it since. There may also be some inconsistencies across your various data sources that need to be rationalized, such as different information about the email systems that support your marketing application coming from multiple discovery tools.

All of this leads to a lack of trust in your IT data and information, and that’s also why it’s so difficult to try to cobble together these pieces of IT knowledge in real-time when you are under pressure to make a decision or take an action. The good news is that ITinvolve Knowledge Collaborator was designed to help you solve this challenge too.

Every object in ITinvolve can be followed – just like you might follow someone on popular social media applications. By following an object, you will automatically be notified as new data and information are added for the objects that matter to you based on your role. This includes updates from data and information being imported or federated from your systems-based sources as well as updates that are being made directly to objects by other people in IT.

We help you solve the trust problem through crowd sourcing and peer review by relevant experts. Here’s how it works. As you start bringing together that “million dollar” view, each object’s followers will be notified that new data and information is being added. For example, they will be notified that new information has been added from discovery tools, and those with expertise about that object will be notified to review and update it now. (Instead of waiting to validate information when something has gone wrong and you are under pressure to fix it right away). You can also invite other users and experts to join the conversation and provide their expertise. Then, when anyone comments or makes an update, the rest of those following get notified of that too, which keeps everyone informed and provides additional opportunity for folks to get engaged on the review at hand.

ITinvolve also maintains a running record of these collaborations so that other users can understand why, how, and by whom the information has been updated. Using this method, teams are empowered through “organic” social collaboration to engage with one another, thereby benefiting the entire organization with a trusted and up to date version of the truth about the object. (Additionally, you can assign permissions so the actual final update to the object can only be made by the assigned object owner.)

Check out this quick video that shows how “organic” knowledge collaboration works.

If you’re not convinced your folks will join in using the above method, you can also assign and coordinate reviews of knowledge using Scenarios in ITinvolve. In this way, the system will assign actions to all relevant experts to weigh in with their opinion on the knowledge being reviewed and the owner of the object can synthesize those inputs to update the knowledge in question.

The transparency and collaborative aspects of either approach will increase your organization’s confidence level so that your IT data and information will be 100% trusted by everyone all the time.

In the next blog entry, I’ll explain how ITinvolve Knowledge Collaborator helps you crowd source data and information that aren’t stored in any of your existing sources but only reside in the heads of your IT staff – what’s often referred to as tribal knowledge.

Matt Selheimer
VP, Marketing

Ten Things July 4th and Knowledge Collaboration Have in Common

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

In the spirit of this holiday week in the US, we got to thinking about all the parallels between July 4th and Knowledge Collaboration. Hopefully this list will provide a few chuckles and maybe a few a-ha insights on the meaning and value of Knowledge Collaboration too.

  1. Power to the People (it all starts here for July 4th and Knowledge Collaboration)
  2. Community Spirit (socially engaging with friends around the barbeque pit and colleagues in the activity stream)
  3. Inspiring New Approaches (think about the courage it took to undertake the “grand experiment” of founding the US and what we can/should do today by trusting in the value of collaborating with our peers)
  4. Celebrating Freedom (from tyranny and from stifling processes)
  5. Watching the Fireworks (hearing the “oohs and aahs” as colors streak across the sky and all your IT knowledge is presented visually in front of your eyes)
  6. Appreciating the Wisdom of Others (whether it’s the opening lines of the Declaration of Independence or the tribal IT wisdom of your colleagues)
  7. Time to Reflect (a day off from work to reflect, and less time spent at work fire-fighting so you have more time to get proactive)
  8. Concerts (a great performance harmonizes everything from a barber shop quartet to a string orchestra just like Knowledge Collaboration can do for change, incident, problem, and other IT management processes)
  9. Parades (an endless stream of floats, bands, and people carrying flags to celebrate the day, and an “all-hands parade” of teams and individuals being  celebrated for solving issues and executing complex projects through collaboration)
  10. They’re both hot right now! (need we say more?)


Happy 4th of July,


Matt Selheimer
VP of Marketing