Knowledge base software is an ideal choice for companies seeking to present information to external audiences. You and your team can create knowledge base content while the bulk of your users have read-only access.
This feature makes knowledge bases great for:
- Building a library of resource documents for customers
- Sharing company information and updates with vendors
- Providing how-to documentation that's publicly accessible online
A knowledge base is also ideal for distributing internal documents that don't change frequently — think employee handbooks, standard operating procedures, and training manuals.
What's the Difference Between a Knowledge Base and a Wiki?
If you've been thinking about building a knowledge base for your company, you might have encountered the term "wiki." The two are similar, but not quite the same. Knowledge bases can serve a similar function to a wiki, but are a different way of presenting, editing, and controlling access to information.
Like wikis, knowledge bases are easily editable resource documents. However, unlike a wiki, a knowledge base allows owners to restrict editing access to selected individuals. Many knowledge base programs also offer in-depth usage analytics and robust searching capabilities.
How to Create a Knowledge Base
While a knowledge base is easily editable after launch, it's a good idea to appoint a project leader to determine your knowledge base's initial structure as well as what type of content to include. This person or team can also develop guidelines for using the knowledge base.
1. Define the Business Objective of the Knowledge Base
Examples of how a business might use a knowledge base include:
- Logging meeting notes for reference purposes
- Documenting essential information and steps for employee onboarding and employee training and development
- Supporting remote teams' capabilities
- Housing internal documentation such as standard operating procedures, software documentation, process documents, etc.
- Keeping a running list of communications with specific clients or vendors
- Maintaining branding and style guides used by multiple departments
Having a clear business objective for your new knowledge base will make it much easier to establish what kinds of content should be in your knowledge base as well as how to organize it.
2. Identify Content to Include and Set Guidelines
Once you've established the primary objective for your knowledge base, develop clear guidelines to outline what type of content and information it should include.
For example, if your knowledge base is to track ongoing communication, indicate how verbal and written exchanges should be recorded.
It's also a good idea to establish how you'll treat content that falls out of these guidelines. Will it be immediately removed, copied into a designated page for off-topic updates, or handled in another way?
Consider appointing a group of designated employees to act as knowledge base managers. Each employee can keep an eye on content related to their area of expertise and remove or flag content for review if it does not fit into established knowledge base content and use guidelines.
3. Creating and Updating Knowledge Base Content
How you organize your knowledge base content should support your business goals and align with the overall knowledge base function. You can typically organize knowledge base content using categories, tags, and inter-linking.
Invest in Creating Quality Content
If your employees start with a knowledge base that's an entirely blank slate, the idea of building content may be intimidating or confusing. Give your team a strong start with a core set of essential documents serving as your knowledge base's foundation.
Consider asking team leaders and subject-matter experts to create initial knowledge base resources for their departments. If writing isn't a strong point for many of your employees, it may be worthwhile to hire a professional writer who can work with your designated experts to build out initial content that sets the tone for knowledge base use going forward.
Commit to Updating Content Regularly
The frequency at which knowledge bases are updated is what sets them apart from static content like a FAQ. Because knowledge bases facilitate better knowledge sharing, it's important that your employees incorporate knowledge base article updates into their workflow.
If a knowledge base languishes without updates, it won't be a helpful tool. This is another instance where department and project managers leading by example is vital in encouraging employees to use the knowledge base actively.
4. Investigate Your Knowledge Base Software Options
There are a few different ways you can build and host a knowledge base:
Do it Yourself
If your company has a strong development team, you may opt to custom-build a knowledge base or customize open-source knowledge base software and then host on your company's servers. This option does involve a fair amount of technical know-how and is best suited for companies that have a strong development team.
Modify a Document Program
Some businesses opt to build a knowledge base using Microsoft SharePoint or Google Docs with the help of plugins. While this option can be cost-effective, it is likely to be less searchable than a dedicated knowledge base platform. It may also be more easily shared outside of your company or intended audience.
Use Knowledge Base Software
Opting for SaaS knowledge base software is the best choice for most companies. Unlike open source knowledge base software, SaaS knowledge base solutions are easy-to-use and set-up, have a low cost of ownership, and come with customer support.
5. Get Your Staff Excited to Share their Knowledge
It's important to position your knowledge base as a helpful, time-saving resource — not yet another thing or burden your employees must add to their plates.
Get project and department managers' buy-in on the knowledge base first. Show them how the knowledge base can support their teams' work and keep employees aligned. When team leaders understand the benefits of using knowledge base software as a way to share knowledge, they can get their teams trained and motivated to use the tool.
Show existing employees how they can use the knowledge base to further build their role as a subject-matter expert within the company, reduce time spent searching for documents, or feel more connected when working remotely.
Begin introducing new employees to the knowledge base on their first day. Emphasize how they can use it to learn more about their new jobs, make connections, and build their role as an expert within the company.
Try a Knowledge Base that Works for You
As a dedicated knowledge base software platform, Helpjuice lets you efficiently manage all your content — prepare multiple versions, structure it in any way you see fit, and alter access permissions right down to the individual user level. When editing, our SaaS solution fits into your existing workflow seamlessly: write directly in our rich-text editor or quickly copy text from another program. Looking for information? Quickly search everything in your Helpjuice knowledge base, even photos and PDFs.
These are just a few of the reasons why we've been consistently ranked as the #1 knowledge base software since 2011 and serve clients like Amazon, Virgin Mobile, and the WHO.
Curious if a knowledge base can serve your company better than your current knowledge sharing solution? Book a demo or get started in ten seconds flat with our fast and simple 14-day free trial.