A great knowledge base is a foundation for great work efficiency. There are a number of common knowledge base tools – like SharePoint, Confluence, and ZenDesk – that offer clean, robust features which are critical for effective knowledge management. Leverage these features alongside some simple best practices to increase employee productivity and reduce overhead costs.
What is a Knowledge Base?
A knowledge base is, very simply, a collection of useful information and documentation. As Xorbix has covered in the past, lacking or incorrect documentation is one of the fundamental pain points for IT projects!
While the term “knowledge base” is common in IT circles, it doesn’t necessarily refer to a database or IT software solution. Knowledge bases come in all shapes and sizes: the My Documents folder, a heavy three-ring binder, your Outlook inbox; all of these are common sources of knowledge! However, everyone would agree that some knowledge base solutions are better than others.
A thoughtful and well-maintained knowledge base is critical for reaping the benefits of knowledge management. The IT solutions mentioned above have numerous advantages over unwieldy binders and unorganized filing cabinets. A good knowledge base solution allows information to be easily collected, shared, and searched with minimal overhead. Most importantly, a good knowledge base solution is something that your employees will actually use! Below are just a few tips to help improve your company’s knowledge base and elevate your knowledge management practices.
Write Knowledge Base Content for Everyone
An important benefit of knowledge management is increased collaboration among co-workers. This means your knowledge base content needs to be written for a wide audience. Use simple language and, when needed, define the business vocabulary. Explain your acronyms and initialisms! Ideally, a reader should have a complete understanding of the material without any need for outside help.
A knowledge base that fails to follow this principle loses value. Especially confusing material may require additional readings or will require explanation from the author. In the worst-case scenario, information, which is too technical, may be completely useless! While there is absolutely a place for specialized and technical knowledge, writing for a wide audience is a good rule of thumb.
Create Quality Standards for Knowledge Base Content
Without guidance and oversight a knowledge base can quickly lose cohesion. Low-fidelity, outdated, or disorganized content will not help your employees. Rather, establish some general standards for creating knowledge base content and enforce an approval process.
Your knowledge base standards should emphasize the simplicity, usability, and accuracy of the content. Develop basic templates for your articles, which use short paragraphs, bulleted lists, pictures, and other tools that maximize readability. Ensure that jargon is minimized, content is hyperlinked to other useful resources, and that the author or other subject-matter experts are identified. Most importantly, make sure the information is accurate and up-to-date! A clear approval workflow for your knowledge base – whether by a chosen owner or a dedicated team – grants ownership and a minimal level of quality.
Require Regular Knowledge Base Audits
While knowledge base software offers tremendous advantages over paper-based documentation, it still requires maintenance. Assign your knowledge base team the responsibility of performing regular reviews and audits of knowledge base content. This is another method to prune outdated, inaccurate, or confusing material from your system.
Most importantly, set aside opportunities to discuss both the knowledge base tool and the company’s knowledge management practices. These opportunities for self-reflection are also valuable opportunities for improvement. Evaluate the effectiveness of your knowledge base and solicit feedback from users to identify new pain points. This process of continuous learning and refinement is critical; the finest knowledge base solution cannot replace that “culture of learning” which differentiates successful enterprise.
Your Knowledge Base: Where to Go Next
There may be incredible opportunities to improve your company’s knowledge base. Contact Xorbix to talk about your existing knowledge management capabilities and brainstorm new opportunities to develop a culture of learning for your business.