How to: Edit company knowledge using a browser

How to: Edit company knowledge using a browser

A built-in knowledge base


Operations Manager has a great knowledge base feature built right in to the product. When you view an alert you can read 'product knowledge' and 'company knowledge' to help you understand and respond to the alert.

'Product knowledge' is supplied by the original author of the monitor or rule - such as Microsoft or the management pack vendor. 'Company knowledge' is where you can put additional information about how to respond to the alert. This might include:
    • extra information you've researched on the internet (for example, a forum post, blog or TechNet article)
    • specific guidance based on your environment (such as known fix or underlying cause)
    • anything else that will help resolve the alert the next time it happens (like who to get help from first!)


Editing knowledge the hard way


This sounds really useful - and it is - except that if you have ever tried to click the 'Edit' button on the company knowledge page you've probably encountered the following error:
Failed to launch Microsoft Word. Please make sure Microsoft Word is installed... Could not load file or assembly 'Microsoft.Office.Interop.Word'

There is some good advice on how to get this working here and if you're still getting that error with SCOM 2012 check out this common issue.

If you do get the right pre-requisites installed, you'll find that you're required to enter your company knowledge into a predefined template (the format is an XML-based schema called MAML). This is the right way to do it if you want your knowledge to be structured and well-defined so that you can automatically process and transform the knowledge at a later date (this works well for product knowledge).

But what if you want to just add a note like "See technet article KB12345" to your company knowledge? Isn't Word + Visual Studio 2005 Tools + an XML schema a bit overkill?

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Use your browser!


When you view an alert using the Squared Up browser interface, you can see both the company knowledge and product knowledge (the company knowledge comes first as it's likely to be more specific and more useful that the product knowledge).
To edit the company knowledge simply click 'edit' and an HTML editor opens up right there in your browser, just like when you write a post on an online forum. That's all there is to it - no other dependencies or plugins are required, and it works on any platform.

The company knowledge is saved as HTML, which Ops Mgr supports alongside MAML. Using HTML you get all the basic formatting options you would expect plus the ability to insert hyperlinks. Squared Up uses the SCOM SDK to save the knowledge article to a management pack in the Ops Mgr database - it works in exactly the same way as the native SCOM console. Once the knowledge is saved, it will be shown in the SCOM consoles (and in Squared Up, of course).


Which management pack should I save to?


If you use the native SCOM console to create company knowledge you'll be asked which management pack to save it to. The best practice is to "create a separate management pack for each sealed management pack you want to customize".

 
For example, an alert from a monitor or rule in the management pack:
    • Windows Server Operating System

should have company knowledge saved to a management pack named something like:
    • Windows Server Operating System - Company Knowledge or

    • Windows Server Operating System - Customizations

If you don't choose the management pack consistently then you may end up with management packs that are hard to upgrade or remove due to cross-dependencies.
 

Squared Up makes this choice less error-prone by allowing the administrator to predefine which management pack the knowledge article will be saved to. This is done by defining a format for the management pack name. For example, the administrator could define the management pack name as:

    • {AlertSourceMP} - Company Knowledge

where {AlertSourceMP} will get automatically replaced by the name of the management pack containing the monitor or rule.

This means that users creating company knowledge don't need to care about choosing the right management pack, and the administrator can be assured that knowledge articles will be created in the right place, and won't face a management pack headache later down the line.


So now everyone can edit knowledge?



Not quite. By default, only users with an Author or Administrator role can edit company knowledge. This is a shame, as it's the operators managing the alerts on a day-to-day basis who are most likely to have useful company knowledge. We have a solution for this in Squared Up, but more on that in a follow up post...

 

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