IT Service Management and Semaphore

on: May 31, 2016, by: Ann Kelly

Guest blogger Paula Smith, Information Management & ECM Evangelist with Rowan IKM, shares her thoughts on the information challenges in the IT Service Management industry and how Semaphore works with organizations to successfully address these issues.

Over the last couple of months, I have spent quite a bit of time talking to engineers, scientists and those in the IT Service Management arena about how we can a) find and b) make use of, the knowledge and experience that walks around our office building, which we have invested heavily in. That sounds like a reasonable question right?

Recognizing that the knowledge needs to be captured first before it can be used (and that in itself can sometimes be difficult), we focussed our conversations on how technology can support our team. So I thought it would be useful to look at a recurring scenario and share with you some of the common issues and potential solutions to solving the challenge. We’d love to hear your thoughts on this.
Hurrah I hear you say? The knowledge base is a critical component of any ITSM environment, and is designed to provide support staff with a fast and easy way to find solutions and diagnostic information in order to support the user community. Given that most organisations have a target for resolving issues at first contact of 65 and 85%, you can see why being able to put your hand on relevant, up to date information related to an issue is so important! Why then are so few organisations using the knowledge base they have in their Service Management Tools? Let’s take a look.

The IT Service Management Knowledge Base

Common Issues:

“I can’t find anything in here, but I know it’s happened before”

A common complaint from those on the front line of support environments.Issues are commonly reported by one user, and can recur.For the team on the service desk (Level 1 Support) they can become frustrated in not having information at their fingertips, so instead of being able to share the existing knowledge with the customer and move the process along (or ideally close it), the call is transferred to another agent.
As a former Level 1 helpdesk agent, I know how hard it is to take a user’s description of a problem and triage that properly – but it can be supported far better by simply having information that is well structured and made available in a timely fashion.

  • This can be frustrating for the helpdesk agent as they want to give the information and they know that it exists somewhere
  • It can also decrease the satisfaction rating as the call is held open longer than it would need to be if the information could be found
  • Call closure targets can be missed
  • The workload of the Level 2 support team can be unnecessarily increased, taking them away from more value adding tasks.

ITSM solutions have improved a lot over the years, and the addition of Knowledge base functionality is an excellent improvement, but only if it is used. And here comes problem number 2.

“I want to write an article so we can reduce the calls but it takes too long to add all the categories and tags; why is it so hard!”

Writing a knowledge base article is an investment made by your support team, yet asking them to apply the appropriate category tags to the article, so that others in the organization can then find it is a burden, one they simply can’t afford in their target-driven world. For example; a typical article related to a web-based CRM solution may need to be described by:
Given the available tools and technologies in the marketplace today, none of that should need to be added manually; imagine the difference you could make if you could automatically harvest the necessary keywords so that the writer of the technical article could spend their time delivering a high quality product and then getting back to the next call. Which leads us nicely to a common complaint from our users.

  • Application Name (module, version, and what happens when the vendor ‘rebrands’)
  • Internal Brand Name (full name, abbreviation, historical name etc)
  • Web browser and version (IE 11 or Internet Explorer 11 – which do you use)
  • Release Number
  • Functionality affected
  • Business Unit affected
  • Geographic location the article applies to
  • Etc. etc. etc.

“They’ve told me that we are in a self-service environment now, but when I search for help in the knowledgebase it’s all so technical, I get lost and I don’t know what information is useful”

Most articles are written, by technical staff for technical staff. But as we move into a self-service industry we need to design our help and support systems to service not only our view of the world, our way of thinking and of describing issues but also for our users – from the non-technical to the expert. Allowing the user to add their own descriptive tags so that they can find information isn’t necessarily a bad idea and can help the support team better understand how users think of problems; feeding that back into helpdesk decision trees and FAQs. Continuous Improvement anyone?
Yes there really is one. First and foremost we need to have the knowledge base articles written. And that is a task for skilled technicians with the appropriate domain expertise. Once they are written here’s what Smartlogic’s Semaphore can do for you:
Looking at the client results shown above, you can understand why I get excited about the possibility of the Content Intelligence that Smartlogic delivers. And it’s not because it’s new or because I have a vested interest in the company, its due to the opportunity to transform business processes and make the Terabytes and Petabytes of information work for us and our customers.


  • Auto classification of content with no additional user involvement, making information available virtually immediately.
  • Specialist feedback able to be analyzed and relevant facts extracted. This can then be associated with an original process/procedure, leading to quality improvements.
  • Enriched search experience; making the tags automatically applied to content to build topic maps; faceted search and a ‘find the expert’ function to allow people to be found not just documents.
  • Interactive topic map that can guide users to the right resource for their needs
  • Increase customer opportunities for self-help and an increase in customer satisfaction as information is found and calls can be closed at the first point of contact.
  • Provide a more complete picture of ‘issues’ particularly around ISSP reviews as service desk calls are more accurately described and categorised.

Customer results:

  • 60% time saving for engineers in the field when searching in SharePoint for the right technical documentation. Client: Applied Materials
  • 5000% improvement in information throughput and use leading to greater revenues. Client: An OEM auto repair information organization.
  • Capture of expert knowledge from the dawn of the Space Age, encoding it for future engineers to use and expand upon. Client: NASA
  • Using the auto classified information to provide faceted search and topic maps to researchers. Clients: Merck, Pfizer
  • New ‘news’ items and video classified in under 400 milliseconds, reducing the manual effort required to bring news to the public. Client: a media and broadcasting company
  • All systems use consistent metadata to describe media assets, allowing a complete picture of asset utilization.Client: a media and broadcasting company
  • Over 50% improvement in efficiency and speed of onboarding compared to best manual practice, at significantly reduced error rates. Client: KPMG