Understanding the difference between Configuration Items and Knowledge Articles

In IT Service Management (ITSM) terms, Configuration Items (CIs) and Knowledge Articles both play crucial roles, but they also serve distinct purposes.

Understanding the difference between these two elements, and when to use each is essential, and will help you harness the full potential of your ITSM processes.

In this blog post, we will explore the key differences between CIs and Knowledge Articles, and the value each brings to your business.

Knowledge Articles: Empowering Self-Service and Efficiency

Knowledge Articles are documentation or resources that provide information, guidance, and solutions to common issues and questions.

They are valuable assets for promoting self-service and ensuring that employees and customers can find answers independently.

When documenting BAU processes, they also serve as a powerful way to ensure your teams provide the same level of support to each customer.

When to use Knowledge Articles

Incident Resolution: Providing step-by-step solutions to common incidents, empowering your support teams and end-users to resolve issues efficiently.

Request Fulfillment: Standardise and streamline request fulfillment processes, ensuring that requests are handled consistently and promptly.

Training and Onboarding: Expedite the training process for new staff, allowing them to quickly get up to speed, reducing the burden on experienced employees.

Self-Service Portals: Enabling users to find answers to their questions without having to contact support.

Problem Management: Provide insights and workarounds for known problems, speeding up problem resolution.

Benefits of Knowledge Articles

Efficiency: Knowledge Articles save both your support teams and end-users time and effort. They facilitate quick issue resolution and reduce the number of repetitive inquiries.

Improved User Experience: By providing readily available information at any hour, you enhance the user experience and reduce frustration, resulting in higher satisfaction.

Continuous Improvement: Knowledge Articles can be updated and refined as new solutions are discovered. This promotes a culture of continuous improvement in your IT service delivery.

Configuration Items (CIs): The Backbone of ITSM

Configuration Items (CIs) are the building blocks of IT infrastructure and services.

These are elements within your IT environment that are managed and tracked to ensure stability, availability, and compliance.

CIs can include hardware, software, business services, documentation, and more. They are central to maintaining the integrity and reliability of your IT offerings.

When to Use Configuration Items

Inventory Management: CIs are indispensable for tracking hardware assets, such as servers, workstations, and networking equipment. They ensure you have an accurate record of your assets, their configurations, and their relationships.

Change Management: CIs are critical for managing changes in your IT environment. They help you assess the impact of proposed changes, plan for necessary updates, and minimize disruptions.

Incident and Problem Management: CIs provide a reference point for understanding the affected components and their interdependencies. By recording CIs against your Incidents and Problems you can track which CIs are performing well and which are not.

Compliance and Auditing: Documenting the configuration of your IT assets aids in audits and ensures that your business adheres to any required regulations and standards.

Service Level Management: CIs are essential for tracking the performance of services and understanding the underlying components. This is vital for maintaining service level agreements (SLAs).

Benefits of Configuration Items

Whole-of-Business Ownership: CIs encourage a holistic approach to IT management. By defining and documenting these items, all stakeholders become aware of their role in maintaining IT assets. This promotes a sense of ownership and responsibility throughout the business.

Integration into BAU Procedures: When CIs are updated as part of standard procedures, the IT environment remains accurate and up-to-date, reducing risks associated with outdated or misconfigured components.

Change Control: By associating CIs with change management, you establish a process for assessing, approving, and implementing changes. This leads to more controlled and predictable IT operations.

Practical application

A student lab within a Higher Education setting is a prime example of when Knowledge Articles and Configuration Items (CIs) should be used in IT Service Management (ITSM).

Here’s an explanation of how and when to use CIs in the context of a student computer lab:

Configuration Items (CIs) for a Student Lab

Inventory Management: The entire setup of the student lab, including hardware, software, network configurations, and any specialised equipment, can be managed as a CI. Each individual piece of equipment, such as computers, projectors, and servers, would also be tracked as separate child CIs.

Change Management: When hardware or software is added, upgraded, or replaced, these changes should be documented and managed as CIs. For example, if you upgrade the Operating System on the lab computers, this should be recorded as a change to the corresponding CIs.

Incident and Problem Management: If a lab computer experiences issues, the CI information helps support staff quickly identify the location, environment, software and other variables, reducing the overall time taken to resolve the issue.

Service Level Management: By documenting the lab’s configuration as CIs, you can better track the performance of lab services and understand how changes or incidents affect service levels.

Knowledge Articles for a Student Lab

Incident Resolution: Step-by-step guides for common lab-related issues. For example, you can create Knowledge Articles to help students troubleshoot common computer problems or explain how to use specific lab software.

Request Fulfillment: If students frequently request specific lab equipment or software installations, you can create Knowledge Articles that outline the procedure for making these requests, expediting the fulfillment process.

Training and Onboarding: Introduce new students to lab procedures and expectations, including lab safety guidelines, lab rules, and how to access lab resources.

Self-Service Portals: Enable students to find answers to common questions and issues without contacting lab administrators or IT support.

Problem Management: When recurring problems are identified within a lab, you can create Knowledge Articles that provide workarounds or solutions to these problems.


CIs provide the backbone of IT infrastructure management, promoting whole-of-business ownership and integration into BAU procedures.

Knowledge Articles, on the other hand, empower self-service and improve efficiency.

Understanding the differences between the two and knowing when to use each is key to optimising your ITSM processes.

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Trevor Petrie - Knowledge Management Specialist

Written by Trevor Petrie

Trevor Petrie is a Knowledge Management Specialist, Accredited Lean Practitioner and Certified ServiceNow Administrator. Connect on LinkedIn or view Trevor's ServiceNow Resume.