Tips for Creating and Managing Killer Knowledge Base
What is an Internal Knowledge Base
An internal knowledge base is a centralized content management system about a specific product or topic; it can be fully automated or maintained by a particular employee. Companies run it for many reasons:
- Give the quickest solutions to the most frequent problems.
- Teaching new employees. The point is highly relevant for companies with a narrowly focused area of activity which implies massive studying.
- Sharing the experience. To fix the situation when there is only one knowledge keeper and all the issues are confined to him.
Problems and Solutions
The main goal is to keep information close at hand and convenient to extract anytime.
So you created a knowledge base, documented all the processes, and taught your staff to work with it. Everything workes well, seemed convenient and loved by the colleagues, but some time later it gets abandoned. What can go wrong?
The reasons why does the knowledge base is forgotten are
- outdated information, so it has no searched info,
- proper information is hard to find.
Both of the problems appear with the growing number of articles. If the knowledge base has poor search and structuring tools (a software issue) and no proper managing (a human issue), then it becomes useless in a short time.
How to Fix the Software Issue
Concentrate on choosing the proper knowledge base software. It is possible to switch to another tool later, but the process is rather long and complicated.
What features pay attention at:
- Choose the software with a powerful search. At the very beginning, when you have just a few articles, it does not seem significant but becomes critical when the number of articles expands.
- Pay attention to structuring features the software offers. Nesting levels, tags, clear hierarchy make the navigation easier.
- Check the access management. The ability to manage editing permissions allows to share the confidential info with relevant members only, and preserve the essential content from an accidental deleting.
- Convenient visual editor. The office workers can deal with a WYSIWYG editor, so using it causes no problems. The markdown support is optional, but it can be a plus for technically advanced audience.
- History mode. It allows tracking changes done by your teammates (and identify the editor as well). Plus, it provides switching back to the previous history version.
How to Fix the Human issue
Knowledge bases face two human-sourced disasters:
- No one is adding information.
- Everyone is adding information and creating a mess.
The first one happens when all the communication is held directly between the employees, the information gets stuck in emails, messengers, and trackers. After the task is finished, no one cares about writing the experience down. One more example. The entire project concept was recorded, but the differences between the documented info and the real affairs grow day by day. After the project is over, updating the info becomes an unnecessarily time-consuming task.
The second problem happens if every employee is documenting the experience down. To each place possible, despite the existing structure. Out-of-dated parts are lost or implemented into new ones, turning into a tangle of new and expired articles that are impossible to divide.
The solution is to assign one person responsible. Or, probably, one responsible person in each department if the organization is big or diversified.
Tips for Creating a Killer Knowledge Base
Choose software with a powerful search and clear structure. These are cornerstone features.
Assign a particular person to add the content.
Define the audience by
a) type of readers: customers, exact team or department, all company staff;
b) professional level: general, knowledgeable, or experts;
Think about the structure. Messy knowledge base works for small projects but will not work for a big one. Here are the structure principals:
a) by business processes it covers,
b) by departments info belongs to.
Choose the proper format. It can be pictured as
c) tool description.
Give intuitive titles to the articles. For example, “Returns” is a weak title, while “How to return the item you ordered” is much more intuitive.
Build templates to standardize the articles.
Create only one article per a particular topic.
Set up regular content reviews.
Instead of Сonclusion
The main reason why knowledge bases become useless is the lack of motivation to fill them regularly and efficiently. Using the right software, proper format, and assigning a responsible person removes these problems. The efforts spent on maintaining internal knowledge base always pays off by saving time for other employees.