Knowledge Base Definition: Tips, Tricks, & Best Practices

Ezequiel Mancilla May 25, 2022
- 7 min read

You’ve heard it before: knowledge is power. For organizations, the collective knowledge of employees and stakeholders about a products, customers, and internal business processes is one of their most essential assets.  But where is that knowledge stored, and how can it be accessed? Depending on the organization, that knowledge might be documented in a number of places and formats. 

As a business, it’s crucial that this knowledge is readily available for whoever needs it. Whether it is to your customers, your employees, or both. That’s where a knowledge base comes in handy.

In the world of IT, having the right knowledge base software enables companies to create, tabulate, manage and share all their collective knowledge and use it efficiently, as well as provide a framework that allows company members (and sometimes even customers) to actively expand this knowledge base. What’s more, knowledge bases can exponentially boost an organization’s customer support efforts and its internal performance, whether the company is big or small. 

What is a knowledge base and how does it fit within service management?

In simple terms, a knowledge base is a centralized repository of information, databases of interconnected and related knowledge about a specific subject. In a way, a dictionaries, for example, could be considered a knowledge base. When it comes to IT, however, a knowledge base (or more specifically knowledge base software) is better understood as a machine-readable resource used for the distribution of information either online or with the capacity to be put online.

Often times artificial intelligence and machine learning play a big role in the tabulation process as well. Knowledge bases are, in essence, information, organization, and retrieval hubs used internally and/or externally. That’s why knowledge bases are an integral component of both knowledge management tools and knowledge management systems. 

Some examples of information you may find in a knowledge base: 

  • Guides 
  • Manuals
  • Company history and background
  • Product or service information
  • Onboarding information
  • Contact Information
  • Technical aid
  • Templates
  • Metrics and performance analytics
  • Policies and protocols
  • Workflow information
  • FAQs
  • Company strategies
  • Brand guidelines
  • Teams and how to articulate tasks with them

Benefits of implementing a knowledge base

Boost to productivity

If a company has a structured and streamlined source of internal information, an increase in overall productivity and efficiency is a natural consequence. If an employee has a question in regards to, for example, a company policy, they will most likely seek the aid of a coworker who might be able to help them. However, this comes at the cost of diverting the attention of that coworker and consequently becoming less productive in the process. If an employee can find an answer to their question by just browsing an internal knowledge base software interface,  this becomes a non-issue.

Reduced onboarding costs

Carrying out onboarding processes can be pretty costly and drawn out even in well-consolidated companies. Implementing a workflow for employee onboarding automation can certainly make this easier but even so, employees need to be constantly communicating with other employees and supervisors to gain all the necessary knowledge and start working on their tasks. The ultimate automation of this process appears in the form of an internal knowledge base.

Instead of asking for second explanations about guidelines, for instance, new employees can access the company’s knowledge base software application and search for these guidelines themselves. Remember that the aforementioned self-service principle runs both ways: It applies to customers as well as to company employees.

Improvements to communication and cooperation

As companies start scaling up, it’s common to see teams start to steadily intertwine and work together. Teams are cogs in a big engine that is the company and for those cogs to be well oiled, communication is a must. In order to maintain communication healthy, implementing a centralized repository of internal knowledge is a good call. This implementation allows for smoother operations and provides a huge boost to team synergy, as teams will start sharing information from their area of expertise among themselves, thus allowing them to also work without constant supervision. The result? Minimal managerial overhead and better outcomes for joint operations between teams. 

5-step guide to creating and maintaining a knowledge base

A 5-step guide to creating and maintaining a knowledge base

1. Research and determine the need for a knowledge base

While it’s important to understand the utility of knowledge bases, it’s even more important to actually decide what purpose your knowledge base will fill within your organization. The questions you should be asking yourself are: What need will this knowledge base fulfill? Will it be aimed at helping employees, customers, or both? Which knowledge gaps have consistently appeared through onboarding process or training? The answers to these questions will allow you to correctly outline your knowledge base and how exactly this information will be delivered. Knowledge acquisition is also key at this stage. 

2. Decide on the type of knowledge base you will use 

Now that you’ve outlined your needs, the next step is choosing what type of knowledge base you’ll actually need. Here’s 3 examples you might consider at this stage:

  • Shared document systems: Shared document storage is a very common solution for making information accessible to your personnel. While it does bring some challenges such as duplication, file format and accessibility to other systems, it’s the easiest to implement in terms of swiftness. Some examples of this could be local file servers, Dropbox shared folders or Google Drive. 
  • Wikis and Intranets: The best thing about this method is how easily editable and findable wikis are. Intranet tools, for example, are great for capturing internal knowledge and making it accessible to staff. 
  • Dedicated knowledge base software: Tools such as these allow users to easily manage all their knowledge bases from one platform. A great example of this is InvGate Service Desk, an ITSM software solution that includes its own specialized knowledge base functionality and allows organizations to organize and better manage knowledge bases so that they better suit not only the whole company but also specific teams. Thanks to its sleek interface and continuous support, It’s ideal for those looking to make the process of setting up a knowledge base easier, friendlier, and more cost-effective.

InvGate Service Desk includes easy knowledge base management

InvGate Service Desk also helps reduce the volume of tickets and accelerate resolution by proactively suggesting helpful articles from the knowledge base in real-time using natural language technology. Additionally, the creation and updating of existing knowledge base articles is an absolute breeze.

3. Come up with a simple knowledge base structure

Because you want to make sure your knowledge base is as organized as it can be, developing a basic structure to properly classify its contents is crucial. Additionally it’s key to point out that having a solid knowledge base software makes this process quicker. Doing this from the get go also informs navigation design so as to make it easier for users who are using it. Some examples of structures could be:

  • Organization by user type or role: This basically means that your knowledge base will be neatly divided according to what area of knowledge the user needs. You’d have a financial knowledge base, an HR knowledge base and so on. 
  • Activity: This one is aimed mainly at customers. You’d structure your knowledge base around this when you want to let customers know what actions to take if they want to engage with your company. This could be anything from buying products to knowing how the shipping works. The knowledge base would tend to those necessities, those concerned with activities customers tend to do. 
  • Product Type: Pretty self explanatory. If you’re a company that provides customers with products, a knowledge base structure could be centered around the correct tabulation and organization of these products into categories that are simple and easy to navigate

4. Have a constant inflow of content and maintain it

Information becomes outdated. So it follows that knowledge bases need to be maintained over time. The whole idea of knowledge bases is that they can be engaging for their intended audiences. SMEs are usually those responsible for ensuring quality, accuracy and efficacy of all content in display as well as how it is distributed to employees and/or customers. Knowledge management is something that requires constant attention if your knowledge base strives to be successful in all fronts.

5. Upload resources to the company’s shared platform

Shared knowledge base software platforms are systems that allow for the free flow of information and knowledge amongst users who need it. Shared platforms often include extra tools such as search tools, file sharing, analytics and reporting, user feedback systems and much more. If you are looking to expand your knowledge base with sharing capabilities, then InvGate Service Desk’s wide array of tools could be a step in the right direction, since it’s highly customizable interface and functionalities can cater to your company’s specific needs. Remember, knowledge sharing is caring! 

Frequently asked questions

What is a knowledge base? 

A knowledge base is a self-service repository or library used to store easily retrievable information about your product, service, or topic. 

What’s the difference between internal and external knowledge bases?

Internal knowledge base software supports your employees by giving them a one-stop shop where they can search for the resources they need to best do their jobs. An external knowledge base aims at serving directly your customers. It is usually public to everyone and can be easily found online.

Which are some of the best ITSM-friendly practices when dealing with knowledge bases?

There are many: best practices for building your IT help desk knowledge base. Check out this piece on the most common knowledge base mistakes that you can start looking out for right now.! 

Read other articles like this : ITSM, knowledge base, knowledge management

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