You've heard it before: knowledge is power. For organizations, the collective knowledge of employees and stakeholders about products, customers, and internal business processes is one of their most essential assets. And in the world of IT, that knowledge is managed through a knowledge base.
Knowledge base software — such as the one InvGate Service Desk provides — enables companies to create, tabulate, manage, and share all their collective knowledge and use it efficiently. It becomes an essential part of a help desk's self-service capabilities since it enables company members (and sometimes even customers) to resolve their queries by themselves.
Yes, we know what you're thinking, and the answer is yes. Knowledge bases can exponentially boost an organization’s customer support efforts and its internal performance, whether the company is big or small.
So, to further understand its extent and benefits, as well as how to implement it in your company, just keep reading!
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. We can think of it as databases of interconnected and related knowledge about a specific subject. In a way, dictionaries, for example, could be considered a knowledge base.
However, when it comes to IT, 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.
Knowledge bases are, in essence, information, organization, and retrieval hubs used internally and/or externally. Furthermore, they are a central part of the knowledge management practice.
Typically, a knowledge base can provide you with:
- Company history and background
- Product or service information
- Onboarding information
- Contact information
- Technical aid
- Metrics and performance analytics
- Policies and protocols
- Workflow information
- Company strategies
- Brand guidelines
- Teams and how to articulate tasks with them
3 benefits of having a knowledge base
1. 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.
For instance, if an employee has a question in regards to a company policy, they will most likely seek the aid of a coworker. However, this comes at the cost of diverting the attention of that coworker, and consequently becoming less productive in the process. But, if an employee can find an answer to their question by just browsing an internal knowledge base, this becomes a non-issue.
2. 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 is one way to make the process 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. So, the ultimate addition to the automated workflow process appears in the form of an internal knowledge base.
With it, new employees can access the company’s knowledge base software application and search for all the data they need by themselves. Remember that the aforementioned self-service principle runs both ways: It applies to customers as well as to company employees.
3. 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.
How to create a knowledge base in 5 easy steps
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 relevant 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 will allow you to correctly outline your knowledge base and determine 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 are three knowledge base examples for you to consider:
- 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.
- Knowledge base software: InvGate Service Desk's integrated knowledge base allows you to easily manage all your knowledge bases from one platform. With this centralized approach, you'll be able to provide the whole company with better and more organized content in an easy and cost-effective way.
But as opposed to the first two options, the beauty of InvGate Service Desk is that your users don't need to proactively seek your knowledge base articles before creating a ticket (thus, depending on their memory to do so). Our ITSM tool automatically suggests helpful articles from the knowledge base in real-time (using natural language technology), as your users type in their questions.
So, you'll not only improve your knowledge management but also reduce the volume of tickets created, accelerate resolution times, and allow your help desk agents to put their time to better use.
3. Come up with a simple knowledge base structure
Since 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. Plus, doing this from the get-go also informs navigation design to make it easier for users who are using it.
Some examples of knowledge base structures are:
- 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 need to engage with your company. This could be anything from buying products to knowing how shipping works. In this case, the knowledge base would tend to those necessities 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; thus knowledge management is something that requires constant attention if you want your knowledge base to be successful on all fronts.
Be sure to maintain yours over time. Add new articles, improve old ones, and monitor statistics to understand if your users find them useful enough. And don't forget to follow knowledge base articles' best practices (and content tips) when writing!
5. Upload resources to the company’s shared platform
Shared knowledge base software platforms allow for the free flow of information and knowledge amongst users who need it. In this sense, InvGate Service Desk include extra tools such as search tools, file sharing, analytics and reporting, user feedback, and much more.
Knowledge sharing is caring, and having a knowledge management strategy in place says you care for your users, your agents, and your company.
Knowledge bases improve productivity, increase efficiency, and create a more open work culture. Plus, they show your area (and company)'s maturity. And knowledge base software makes the process so much easier!
With InvGate Service Desk, you can:
- Create your knowledge base structure in just a few clicks.
- Write knowledge base articles in no time, and add images, videos, and diverse formats to them.
- Automatically suggest articles to your users before they submit a ticket.
- Measure your articles' performance to keep improving your content.
And the best part is that you don't have to take our word for it. You can see it for yourself with our 30-day free trial (no credit card required)!
Frequently Asked Questions
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!