The Definitive Guide to Internal Knowledge Bases
In this guide we’ll be covering exactly what internal knowledge base software is, what it’s used for, the benefits of internal knowledge base software, and tips for choosing one that’s right for your business. We’ll also provide many links to further information.
Research carried out in 2012 estimates that the average office employee invests about 20% of his or her work time into researching internal information.
This number can be interpreted in different ways, but to put it in perspective; it’s like having your employees show up only 4 out of the 5 days of the week. Or hiring five employees, but having only four available whilst the other one is constantly looking for stuff.
The fact of the matter is that, for a multitude of reasons, finding internal information still takes a significant amount of time out of our professional lives.
An internal knowledge base is a great way to make information more available to your workforce, which in turn brings an array of benefits that include less research time. It’s worth noting that knowledge bases are not a new concept. That said, entrepreneurs are starting to leverage the power of these unified data repositories to improve their company’s production across the board.
This article will discuss everything you need to know about internal knowledge bases. We’ll tell you what they are, why they are helpful, and give you tips on setting up a centralised information receptacle for your business.
Without further ado, let’s jump in.
The Power of Centralised Information
Before delving into the world of internal-facing knowledge bases, it’s important to highlight the value of information. Making internal information available and easy to access, say through a centralised library-like structure, can have a very positive effect on any organisation.
The average employee can spend close to 9 hours every week simply tracking down information, which puts a significant financial burden on your company. Besides the fact that they are not producing revenue during these hours, it may also impact other performance areas.
Longer search durations often result in increased hold times. Almost 60% of consumers are only willing to be placed on hold for 5 minutes or less before hanging up, which highlights the importance of making information easily available to your employees.
Not providing the right resources to your team can also be extremely unprofitable. Large corporations lose close to 10 billion US dollars every year because their workers are busy researching information or recreating resources that already exist but can’t be found.
Even though the loss may be smaller for startups and medium-sized companies, these ventures don’t have the same depth when it comes to financial assets.
This is where internal knowledge bases can really have a huge impact. Having a database of resources that easily accessible may help reduce research time as much as 35%, which can improve several areas of your operation.
Defining an Internal Knowledge Base
An internal knowledge base is a centralised database of company resources that serve as the first point of call for most, if not all employee inquiries.
These resources can come in different formats, but they aim to help answer any question your team members may have. This can include information on objectives, requirements, internal policies, formal procedures, new product or hardware updates, release dates, promotions, troubleshooting, company values, technical specifications, and many more.
Internal databases are usually broken down into two categories, which are:
- Human-Readable Internal Knowledge Bases: As the name indicates, these knowledge bases come in formats that can be read by humans. These are commonly used for internal and external-facing purposes and can employ AI and machine learning at different degrees.
- Machine-Readable Knowledge Bases: These knowledge bases are designed for programs and bots. Just like humans, these automated users access machine-readable knowledge bases in order to retrieve instructions and other pieces of information.
This article discusses human-readable internal knowledge bases and it will cover, among other things, common uses for these platforms.
What are Internal Knowledge Bases Used for?
Internal knowledge bases can vary in size and complexity. Some are basically large encyclopedias. Others are sophisticated problem-solving systems that employ innovative advancements like artificial intelligence.
Due to their flexibility, these platforms can be used to fulfil a number of tasks depending on the requirements of your business. Some signs that your company may benefit from an internal knowledge base include, but are not limited to:
- Having low collaboration rates
- Receiving a high volume of internal inquiries for departments like legal, financial, and HR
- Your company being in a very technical industry
- Processing a large number of customer-support inquiries regularly
- Experiencing high hold times and low customer service satisfaction scores
- Your team spending a lot of time researching information or asking peers for assistance
- Releasing products or updates that your team haven’t mastered yet
- Getting frequent requests for new materials or further training from your employees
- Noticing different methods being used to address the same issue
- There being a small group of employees that hold most of the knowledge
- Email still being the most common way your team shares internal information
- Encountering the same questions over and over again
Although all knowledge bases work as an informational resource, these internal repositories can actually fulfil different purposes simultaneously. Below, we’ve listed a few common examples of how internal knowledge bases are used today.
Legal Questions and Human Resources Inquiries
Giving your employees the ability to answer common questions on their own or instructions on how to file applications can help save your HR, financial, and legal departments a significant amount of repetitive work.
Troubleshooting is among the most frequent customer inquiries in technical and SaaS companies. Easy access to troubleshooting instructions will help improve the quality and speed of your service, thus enhancing customer experience.
Step-by-Step Guides and FAQs
A large percentage of end-users are not tech-savvy. Having intricate step-by-step guides, FAQs, and even terminology definitions will help usher your customers through the different features your product has to offer.
Information About New Products, Upcoming Launches, and Promotions
New products, promotions, and upcoming releases tend to create a buzz. A knowledge base can help ensure your team has the details of all of these available whenever they need them. Plus, you’ll make sure your clients receive uniform information each time they call in because your team will be singing off the same hymn sheet, regardless of their shift or department.
Summaries of Training Materials
Not all of your employees may have a smooth onboarding process or new product training experience. By giving them additional resources you can help polish their skills and cultivate their ability to become great at their job.
A Creatives Hub
Your marketing, sales, management, and design teams can all use an internal knowledge base as a creative hub that helps them find and organise their resources, brainstorm ideas, and develop their projects.
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The Benefits of Internal Knowledge Bases
The main benefit of implementing an internal knowledge base is that you’re furnishing your team with a brand new set of sparkling tools.
Resources stored by an internal-facing knowledge base can include materials such as technical information, discount codes, and even links to internal forms that can be submitted without any assistance.
In other words, deploying a knowledge base for your employees may potentially result in a series of different advantages. These include:
Improve Internal Communications
Efficient knowledge bases will allow collaborations in different ways. For example, they can allow communication via chats, comments, forums, discussion rooms, and other methods.
Besides encouraging your team to maintain open communication lines, many commercial knowledge bases can also be integrated to other platforms for easy collaboration. What’s more, the best platform will send notifications via your team’s preferred communication channel so they never skip a beat.
Having information readily available usually results in faster service and a knowledgeable team. Both of these elements influence the way your business operates both internally and externally. As a result, deploying an internal knowledge base can boost productivity across different sectors.
At the same time, a swift team that always seems to have solutions at hand will make you an authority in your industry!
Deliver Superior Customer Service
Maintaining great customer service standards is critical to the success of any company. Besides keeping your client base coming back for more, it will earn your company a good reputation.
A lot of entrepreneurs also overlook the fact that customers appreciate being treated well, which could veer them to spending more money on your products.
According to a survey conducted in 2017, 15% of people in the UK report the will to spend more money on a company that offers great customer service, which translates to higher profit margins.
Higher Retention Rates
The key to keeping any company afloat is, well, making it profitable. When you mention increasing revenue, most owners and marketers will immediately suggest an aggressive marketing campaign. Or maybe different sales strategies.
The bottom line is that keeping your current clients can be a lot more profitable than converting new prospects. Some estimates suggest that it’s five times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to keep one of your existing clients.
An internal knowledge base can be used as a great retention tool because it can give your team the information they need to keep clients happy. Besides walkthroughs and technical details, a knowledge base can also feature different retention resources like discount codes or effective rebuttals.
Smoother On-Boarding and Internal Transitions
Training your new employees adequately is pivotal to the success of your operation. New team members need to be brought up to speed quickly so they can start engaging in revenue-generating tasks. Likewise, employees receiving training for novel products or about to take on different responsibilities need the right coaching to flourish in their new roles.
You can lay the groundwork and cultivate a quick learning environment by giving your team the safety net of an internal knowledge base. Serving as their first point of call, your team can have immediate access to all previous training materials in case they need to review an old lesson.
Some knowledge bases even allow your employees to take internal educational courses that help establish a smooth transition and upskilling opportunities even after they enter production.
How to Set Up an Internal Knowledge Base
Right! Now that we’ve covered the basics of internal-facing knowledge bases, it’s time to dive a bit deeper.
Setting up a centralised collection of resources may sound relatively easy, but it can become a complex process. There are dozens of sources you need to take into consideration and hundreds of pieces to sieve through.
And, before you even start to compile content, you have to look at areas of improvement and elements that could benefit your company.
All businesses have unique requirements so the definition of a perfect knowledge base will depend on your company’s requisites. That said, reliable internal information databases tend to share similar qualities. Below are some tips on creating an awesome internal knowledge base for your business.
Evaluate Your Current Performance
Besides figuring out what features you need, evaluating your current performance will verify the need for an internal knowledge base. You’ll identify areas of improvement, which can help push your knowledge base in the right direction.
You’ll want to thoroughly analyse all of your company’s processes. From recruiting right down to order processing, all areas of your business may be improved by an internal knowledge base.
Set up an Internal Knowledge Base Team
Internal knowledge bases are not one-time projects but ongoing endeavours. Set up a model where your database is updated regularly, preferably by a consistent team that will set and follow the necessary guidelines.
Your dedicated team will be in charge of writing articles, coordinating the development of additional content, updating your knowledge base, and conducting all related research. This includes employee and customer surveys as well as any other creative methods you deem suitable.
Determine the Style and Content Guidelines
Standardisation is a key part of the success of your internal knowledge base. Presenting content in different styles will deter your employees from recurring to your database. This is mainly because they have to search all over the page for information every time they open a new post.
Presenting all of your pages in a similar, systematic manner will simplify the task at hand. Choosing a simple layout with a good use of white space will instinctively tell them where to look.
At the same time, you’ll reduce labour for your content development team because they can create a large set of editable templates that can then be stored in the knowledge base itself.
Decide What Information Will Be Prioritised
This point will vary tremendously depending on the size and age of your organisation. Small startups that have just landed their first sales usually have a finite amount of information which simplifies the process.
Stable small and medium-sized companies that offer several products usually have a lot more internal data. In these cases, you can start by looking at the most common inquiries or internal discussion topics and work from there.
You can also conduct creative research like polls or checking the most popular keywords in your company email box. This will give you insights on the first topics you want to develop and help you establish an order for the creation funnel.
Find a Reliable Internal Knowledge Base Provider
Internal knowledge bases are part of a larger business structure, but they should not be half-heartedly put together or bundled with another platform.
Internal repositories that are bundled with other platforms have obvious limitations like a weak search engine or lack of analytics features. Having an unreliable knowledge base often results in poor user experience, so your workforce will never exploit its full potential.
An internal knowledge base should be a standalone tool that can independently be used to optimise, organise, or retrieve information.
That said, this software also plays a key role in your company’s overall knowledge management ecosystem. Find a provider that allows easy integration with your other business tools and the flexibility to meet your other demands.
Define a Flexible Base Structure
In addition to developing a set of guidelines for the content, you also have to define the structure of the actual knowledge base. This is extremely important, especially because it can improve the efficiency of your knowledge base search engine.
Remember that you’ll be updating content on regular basis, so you’ll also want to find a flexible platform that allows easy restructuring.
Try to break down your centralised information repository into broad categories and narrow them by using subsections. For instance, you can start with a broad group like Technical Support, then go into specifications like Troubleshooting, Ticketing, and Escalating.
Establish a Project Calendar
Lastly, start working out the creation and implementation of content. The best way to do so is by establishing a calendar for your internal knowledge base and treating it like an additional project.
You should determine the initial launch date, assign team members with their responsibilities, and collaborate with them to figure out the updating frequency. Also, make the right preparations like informing the rest of your employees about the work in progress and providing adequate training.
Tips for Optimising Your Internal Knowledge Base
Optimising your internal knowledge base will help keep the content fresh and up to date. And, as long as you update it frequently, your employees will see it as a reliable source.
Below, we’ve compiled some quick tips on optimising your internal knowledge base after its initial launch.
Perfect the User Experience
Use a combination of employee surveys and digital statistics to help find ways to hone the user experience.
Deploy a More Efficient Search Engine
Search engine technology is constantly evolving, so make sure you have a potent browser powering your internal knowledge base.
Rewrite or Optimise Old Content
The drill is similar to SEO optimisation. If you find tags or keywords that are getting a lot of searches, but the current posts don’t seem to meet the demand, think about rewriting or recreating the content.
Make All Types of Resources Accessible Through Your Knowledge Base
Internal knowledge bases cultivate an environment of shared information and transparency. You can use this to your advantage and make it a dissemination channel for all types of resources and announcements.
Collect Feedback from Employees and Your Clients
You can always find new areas of improvement by constantly collecting feedback from your employees and your clients. This practice can help develop new topics and discover opportunities for future improvements.
Choosing the Best Internal Knowledge Base
There are dozens of companies that provide knowledge base capacities. Many of these are bundled with flagship products, like Zendesk’s knowledge base, for instance. But, choosing a standalone internal knowledge base tends to provide the best results as far as user experience and overall quality.
Even though it may not be the case for all, bundled knowledge bases tend to present fundamental flaws or limitations that spring from unsuitable designs.
Standalone internal knowledge bases, on the other hand, serve a series of specialised purposes. Therefore, their developers focus on perfecting the capacities and features that help solve these issues.
A Comparison of Paid and Free Internal Knowledge Bases
Startups and small companies are no strangers to financial constraints, which may skew them towards free internal knowledge bases.
Like most other business software, free knowledge base technology usually comes with certain drawbacks when compared to their paid counterparts. These may include a cap on the number of users that can access the database or a sparse set of features.
In some cases, internal knowledge bases are used as a lead strategy to get companies to sign up for a provider’s flagship product, which is usually a CRM or customer support tool.
Choosing a paid knowledge base will give you access to premium features and benefits. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t find a solid free option. That said, you’ll need to invest time in researching and reading reviews about the best free internal knowledge bases available!
Should You Use a Wiki Page as a Knowledge Base?
Wiki pages and Wiki databases are collaborative platforms where a community of users add and edit content as they see fit. While they make fantastic public collaborative encyclopedias, Wiki pages have elemental flaws that don’t make them the best choice as a business’ knowledge base.
Security is a major concern when it comes to using a Wiki page as a company’s knowledge base. Knowledge bases are meant to be comprehensive, but Wikis are accessible by people outside of the organisation. Wiki knowledge bases tend to be incomplete or may they risk sharing internal information with your clients and competitors.
Internal knowledge bases offer the ability to create and enforce a hierarchy of select users that can change and update the resources. Collaboration is key, but not all users in an internal knowledge base should be able to edit the base content in a document.
Plus, internal centralised repositories allow you to track statistic so you can deduce what content needs to be developed, which employees should join the knowledge base team, and what user interface upgrades can take place, among other improvements.
What You Need to Look for in an Internal Knowledge Base Provider
There are many companies that provide knowledge base solutions, albeit not all of them are standalone platforms. Take the time to research the different providers until you find one that fits your budget and capacity requirements.
Some elements you want to take into consideration when choosing a provider include:
The Ability to Collaborate and Interact
We’ve said it again and again, but allowing collaboration is a key part of any robust knowledge base.
A Powerful Search Engine
Your employees don’t always have time to navigate through your knowledge base. Find a platform that allows searches based on keywords and other filters.
Tags, Keywords and Other Labeling Methods
Allowing tags, keywords, and other labelling methods is a great way to make searching and structuring easier.
Multimedia and Multi-Format Libraries
Company resources can range from simple texts to videos and complex forms. Verify your internal knowledge base provider allows you to different media formats for a complete experience.
Versioning, Rollback and Other Editing Features
Some pieces of content may require curating, so having the ability to create and save different versions will help produce better content. Additionally, a great knowledge base will let you see the updates that you make to each version by highlighting them in a side-by-side view.
Updating a business’ knowledge base can also mean accidentally changing a file at the wrong time. Your internal database should also have rollback features that help you restore previous versions and other editing features to prevent loss content once and for all.
A Flexible and Intuitive Structure
Contrary to popular belief, not all office employees are good with computers. Make sure the platform you choose is intuitive and easily edited so your knowledge base team can make adjustments as soon as they get feedback.
Get the Best Internal Knowledge Base for Your Company
Finding a reliable knowledge base takes time, but it can bring tremendous benefits to your company. You should always identify the features that will help your organisation the most in order to find a provider that can meet your current and future demands.
Document360 offers a robust, standalone knowledge base that’s a great fit for companies of all sizes. Our platform was developed as a customer-facing repository, but we took the time to implement features that also make it a superb choice as an internal database.
Our development team is constantly working to enhance our features, which already include versioning, user hierarchy, rich-media support, and rollback capacities, just to name a few.
We strive to provide an intuitive, collaboration-friendly platform that’s backed by a powerful search engine in order to deliver the best internal database you can hope for. If you want to learn more about our platform, get in touch with us today and our team will be glad to help.
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