Knowledgeable employees add immense value to every company. But robust knowledge is meaningless if it’s not easily accessible to team members. When everyone at your company can find and contribute to a shared knowledge base, they can all work smarter and faster. So how can you create a helpful knowledge base that’s easy to use and manage? Let’s take a look.
Laying the foundation for your knowledge base
Knowledge base management got its start in the IT field during the 1990s as a way for developers and other tech professionals to share tips. Today it’s expanded across all fields and evolved into a tool for innovation and collaboration. Knowledge management is the secret sauce for increased productivity. But, like anything else, it starts with a strong foundation.
What is a knowledge base?
In a nutshell, a knowledge base is a comprehensive information source that anyone with permission can access. People can search the knowledge base for answers to basic questions about an organization and its products or services.
Role and impact of knowledge bases for companies
Knowledge bases serve a crucial role for businesses. They allow employees and customers to quickly search for the information they need rather than calling tech support or filing a ticket. This takes the pressure off help desks and lets people get answers faster, even during non-business hours. Knowledge bases also allow for relevant information to be organized in one spot so people don’t have to dig through piles of physical or digital documents to find what they need.
Creating a knowledge base
Creating a knowledge base, or a knowledge management system, starts with identifying your audience. How tech-savvy are they? What sorts of questions are they most likely to ask? Talk to your customer service team to get their input. They know what they need from your corporate knowledge base and likely also have thoughts on what your customer service knowledge base should contain.
Planning your knowledge base structure
Next, identify your specific organizational needs. How you structure your knowledge base is up to you, but the most important thing is to keep it simple. An elaborate, multi-layered design might look good on paper, but if it isn’t easy and intuitive to use, people are less likely to use it.
Identifying content for your knowledge base
A good knowledge base contains both new content written specifically for it and existing content gathered from other places around your company’s website or files. A good knowledge base article answers a “need to know” question in a helpful but not overwhelming way.
Include a collection of frequently asked questions (FAQs) in your knowledge base. The questions and their answers should be short and to the point. But you should also include long-form pieces in the knowledge base that walk the reader through more complex challenges. For example, you might have a FAQ that answers the basic question: “How do I anchor this TV to the wall?” You could then follow it up with a long-form piece on different ways to install the TV in various room setups.
And don’t forget about multimedia. Multimedia content can make your knowledge base more engaging and easier to convey complex information.
Setting up a knowledge base platform
After deciding what you want your knowledge base to contain and its basic organizational structure, the next step is to create it.
Choosing the right knowledge base solution
There are two basic types of knowledge bases for companies: internal and external.
- Internal corporate knowledge base. A corporate knowledge base holds information relevant to—and only accessible by—the company itself, including internal processes, vendor contacts, details about benefits or your company holiday calendar.
- External customer service knowledge base. A customer service knowledge base holds information that is relevant to customers. Depending on what your company does, this could include tips for using your products, video demonstrations or operating hours and locations.
Knowledge base integration
Your knowledge base is only as good as its integration with the rest of your tools. It should be easy to access on your website, secure company cloud or internal platforms. It should draw from your existing documentation, creating an indexed and fully searchable paper trail. And it should be collaborative, allowing everyone at the company to contribute.
Knowledge base best practices and examples
Using knowledge base templates can help content creation move faster and more efficiently. You can find templates online or create your own. Just be sure to share them with everyone who might contribute content to your knowledge base. Focus on the four basic types of knowledge base articles:
- Product or service descriptions
- Customer and employee onboarding flows
- Troubleshooting documentation
Of course, many other types of content can be helpful for your knowledge base. It should be a living, customizable, constantly updated repository that meets your organization’s needs.
Success tools for knowledge base engagement
Of course, you won’t know how well your knowledge base is working unless you track usage metrics. Slack’s fully integrated knowledge management apps make it easy to determine which pages people visit and how they interact with them. But it always pays to keep the lines of communication open with your team members. Find out how they engage with your knowledge base and ask them for suggestions on improvement.