Elevate the intranet
8 min read
16 September 2020

Creating an online knowledge base

Kelly van der Horst

One of the key objectives of an intranet or a digital workspace is to provide information and content that can help employees carry out their roles and get things done. Ensuring that this "corporate knowledge" is easily available for employees to view is important. Ideally, employees want a place to go where they can easily find information that they know is up-to-date and accurate, and that tells them how to complete tasks and overcome issues, or provides information they need to convey to others. This drives efficiency, minimizes risk and empowers employees to take action and make decisions.

In this article, we explore ways to provide this corporate knowledge base through your digital workspace. We also cover how to build a knowledge base.

What is a corporate knowledge base?

You can consider a corporate knowledge base to be a collection of critical information that organisations need to make available to employees, in order to support a self-service approach to completing tasks and processes. Instead of having to ask a colleague, ring up a helpdesk or locate an expert, employees can refer to content themselves to find an answer on how to do something or to get a piece of information they need.

There are also different types of knowledge bases, depending on the information they contain. For example, there may be an internal knowledge base covering common IT tasks, or a customer service knowledge base with information about products and services.

Why is a corporate knowledge base important?

A corporate knowledge base and all its relevant content are critical for a number of reasons:

  • It supports efficiency and removes frustration for employees by helping them to get everyday tasks done.
  • It drives employee self-service, taking the pressure off busy IT and HR helpdesks and support teams, again underpinning efficiency.
  • It supports very important organisational processes such as customer support and service.
  • It minimises risks by ensuring employees act on accurate and up-to-date information and knowledge, rather than using out-of-date information.
  • It empowers employees to do the best job that they can and carry out their role, rather than undermining their ability with inaccurate or missing procedural information.
  • It helps to reduce training costs or helps to embed learnings made through training.
  • It gives employees confidence.

More specifically, certain types of knowledge bases can be very important. For example, a customer service knowledge base used in a contact centre can:

  • Help speed up the first response rates for call resolution.
  • Drive better customer service and reduce the number of complaints.
  • Reduce the time spent by customers on calls.
  • Increase efficiencies through the call centre.
  • Upskill customer service agents with better product and service knowledge.

What is the typical format of a corporate knowledge base?

Typically, an online knowledge base is provided in different ways, but five typical formats are:

  1. A central library with policies, procedures and forms that are up to date, and are typically documents. For example, this is where a staff handbook might appear.
  2. A 'How do I' knowledge base which is typically easy-to-find pages that provide task and process information with relevant links that provides information such as 'How do I book travel'.
  3. A Frequently Asked Questions area, that covers key questions, for example relating to IT or HR support, and encourages self-service
  4. More of a classic, searchable knowledge base with a dedicated search, for example containing information about products and services that helps support customer service agents working in a contact centre.
  5. An organisational wiki where anybody can add knowledge on different topics, although here the content is not always verified for accuracy or optimised for findability.

In practice, a corporate knowledge base may effectively be spread across these different formats.

Knowledge base pages vs documentation

When considering the format for a corporate knowledge base, an issue which some teams encounter is whether to use documents or pages to disseminate critical information. Typically, too much corporate knowledge tends to live in documents such as the Employee Handbook. While documents can be useful to access within a Policies & Procedures library, they are not usually the most efficient way to make corporate knowledge available.

When information is displayed inside documents it can be very hard to find. For example, a customer service agent who needs to find details about a particular service very quickly to help a customer who is waiting on a call does not want to be looking through a hundred documents.

Pro tip: In Workspace 365, use the global search function for this, which helps you to search through information within documents as well.

Usually, it is best to display information in pages rather than documents; pages can be more easily scanned by readers and can also be made more granular to be picked up through searches. It is also possible for a page to link through to a more detailed document if a person requires more information.

What are the key approaches in providing a corporate knowledge base?

When providing a corporate knowledge base, it is important to follow various different approaches, including:

  • Making sure content is up-to-date, accurate and relevant.
  • Have 'one source of truth' for corporate knowledge to ensure there is no duplication of content as this is difficult to manage and is at risk of one version becoming out of date.
  • Providing clear ownership of content with a named person responsible for keeping each item up to date.
  • Ensuring the information is easy to access for everybody who needs it.
  • Bringing information together into one central place, regardless of who the owner of that content is.
  • Allowing search to pick up the content so it can be discovered.
  • Driving content management processes to help keep the knowledge base up to date, for example through regular reviews by content owners.
  • Making sure content is easy to read and using sensible layouts and formatting to help employees find the information they need efficiently.
  • Promoting the use of knowledge bases so that employees are aware of them and also trust the content they are using.

For example, here at Workspace 365, we follow these principles in managing our Customer Support Portal which is an important knowledge base about the Workspace 365 platform.

How can I build a corporate knowledge base?

To create a corporate knowledge base, you need to follow a number of steps.

1. Decide on the scope and purpose

You need to know what you are going to be creating, who the audience is and the value that it is going to be delivering. Who needs to access the information and how is it going to be used? Realistically, it is likely you may be working on a knowledge base focusing on a particular topic, perhaps IT or HR information, or relating to products and services.

2. Work out your stakeholders and content owners

If you know the scope of your knowledge base, you need to identify the key stakeholders you will be working with and also the specific content owners who will be responsible for creating content and keeping it up to date.

3. Decide on your format or formats

What is the best format for your knowledge base? This may depend on the content that you are accessing, how it is going to be searched, the platforms that you have available and so on. Your knowledge base potentially could sit in multiple different platforms including a SharePoint library, an intranet, software like Service Now, a wiki like Confluence, a call centre platform and so on.

4. Derive content standards and guidelines

Based on the format of the knowledge base, the needs of your audience and the type of content you are working with, partner with your content owners to define a set of content standards and guidelines that can then be used to help form the content for your knowledge base.

5. Help your content owners prepare the content

Now work with your content owners to prepare the content and load it into your knowledge base. Some content owners will need more help than others!

6. Optimise the experience

Once you have set the knowledge base up you are very likely to need to make improvements based on user feedback.

7. Introduce content management processes and continual improvement

Once the knowledge base is in use, seek regular user feedback both on the whole knowledge base but also specifically on content so it continually improves. Set up regular author reviews, feedback processes and metrics to support continuous improvement.

How can I use Workspace 365 to support a knowledge base?

One of the issues with knowledge bases is that you want one source of truth for your knowledge, but then this 'knowledge' can be distributed through multiple systems making it harder for users to access it.

You can use the power of Workspace 365 to bring trusted 'knowledge' content from disparate systems into one place, providing a highly convenient place to establish a corporate knowledge base aimed at all employees or a particular group such as call centre staff. Try a demo!

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