Corporate Wiki vs Knowledge Base: What’s the Difference?

A corporate wiki (or company wiki) is a type of knowledge management software: an updatable source of internal company information. A company wiki is a central database full of content specific to your business that can be created or edited by your team members. Company wikis are used by employees to collaboratively create and share company knowledge. A wiki can have many contributors and store extensive amounts of information. A knowledge base, on the other hand, is a self-serve library of important information about your business and its products, services, and processes. It can be internal-only or accessible to customers, but content is produced and edited only by selected authors.
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What is a corporate wiki?

If you’re familiar with how Wikipedia works (open to new content and editing from everyone), you get the basics of what a corporate wiki is — except instead of allowing anyone to access and edit it, only people from the company can. A company wiki is a central database where a community of employees can contribute or edit content related to company processes, projects, products, and services. The idea behind a company utilizing wiki software is to provide a space for experts on various subjects – from client information, to specific training processes, to past and current pricing models – to regularly add to and update information so it is easily searchable by other employees. This reduces the time team members spend searching or shoulder tapping to find the answers to their questions.

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Benefits of corporate wikis

A corporate wiki allows employees to share, update, and search information quickly and easily for the benefit of the whole business. When individuals contribute their expertise on a specific topic, that knowledge is available for the next person who needs it, without a time-consuming search. Other benefits include:

  • Preserved knowledge The more knowledge your employees have, the more effectively they can serve customers and perform their job roles. Having a reference point in a company wiki for a particular customer problem, process question, or pricing detail can save employees a lot of time and frustration. 
  • A centralized search point Important company information is inherently scattered throughout manuals, websites, handbooks, emails, recorded conversations, and even the minds of your employees. A company wiki can bring all that knowledge together into one searchable location.

  • A time-saver — Streamlining information and having a single source of truth can not only empower employees to act autonomously, but it can help them save time. Instead of having to go through various channels and ask multiple employees about what is your company’s official policy when a general or specific problem arises, a company wiki can collect the answers to common questions and allow your team to swiftly proceed with confidence.

  • Eliminate confusion As your company evolves, a well-maintained company wiki helps to eliminate confusion about older versions of documents that may be obsolete. Growing enterprises often change the way they do things or accumulate more knowledge in specific areas. Using a company wiki as a single source of truth can help ensure that your team has access to the most accurate, up-to-date information on a given topic at any point in time.

  • Increased collaboration A company wiki encourages team members to share what they have learned with the intention of making your business better. Employees may be inspired to contribute toward this shared success, and individuals contributing potentially linked content may become collaborators on future projects.
  • Linked resources The ability to link user-generated content within the company wiki provides additional depth for the searcher. They can learn more about a specific subject or verify information discussed in more than one area.

Challenges of traditional corporate wikis

To create an effective company wiki, team buy-in is necessary. Why? Because you need regular contributors to add enough useful information to the centralized repository and people to update and edit the content when it needs a refresh. Some challenges companies may encounter to this buy-in with traditional wikis are:

  • The extra work factor Employees are expected to contribute knowledge to the wiki, even though it is not part of their core job role. Creating or editing content for a wiki takes time, so an employee may be reluctant to use their valuable time for this purpose. Communicating from the start that a strong, functioning company wiki will ultimately save everyone time, and that a little work now will reduce the amount of work needed later, is key. 
  • Too much oversight While leaders should keep an eye on the overall quality of the company wiki, the idea is that it is supposed to be collaborative. If a leader is telling employees exactly what they can or cannot contribute or edit, the purpose of an internal wiki is lost.
  • Navigation problems — Some company wikis, especially those that rely on older software, are too complex and not intuitive for user searches. Newer software and collaborative input into your organization strategy can help.
  • Outside of workflows — Traditional wikis typically exist outside of your everyday workflow. That means adding another web application that takes you outside of where you’re working. Content management systems that lack integrations with your existing apps will damage your teams productivity. Access to real-time knowledge on the fly is essential, especially for modern customer support and sales teams. 
  • Lack of analytics Traditional company wikis typically don’t offer much insight as to how employees are consuming content. This results in content gaps. A knowledge base with a built in analytics tool allows you to understand what it is that your team members are frequently searching for. By uncovering these unanswered questions you can strengthen your internal knowledge sharing and cover up those content gaps.

What is a knowledge base?

A knowledge base is an online repository of information that your team can access at-will to learn more about your company’s offerings, policies, services, and more. Usually located online, a knowledge base helps a company effectively collect, organize, and retrieve information for internal use – or for use by customers or the general public. Company knowledge base software helps companies with customer self-service, so employees can spend less time answering standard questions and more time on complex issues. 

There are several types of knowledge bases. An internal knowledge base allows employees to capture and share mission-critical information, important trainings, detailed products FAQs, onboarding procedures for new employees, and more. Learn more about knowledge bases with our reference guide.

what is a knowledge base

Benefits of knowledge bases

Modern knowledge base software offers some significant benefits for employees — and your overall business — versus a company wiki. 

  • A fast and reliable search function Knowledge base software often offers more advanced document search engine and linking capabilities compared to a company wiki.
  • User-friendly editing tools — Knowledge base software lets users update content without using special markup language. Your content oversight team will benefit from this type of curation and customization control. Additionally, when your team members are able to edit content, they’ll have the ability to make it more digestible and user-friendly. 
  • The ability to define roles and permissions With a knowledge base, you can set permissions to allow specific people to create and edit specified types and topics of content. This enhances content quality and makes verification easier. It also allows users to trust that the information they find is up to date and accurate. 
  • Analytics integration Get a better idea of your most popular and helpful content and visibility into where users navigate next. The analytics built into the knowledge base can give you insights as to where you need more content and intuitive links. 
  • Integration with workflows — Traditional wikis typically exist outside of your everyday workflow. Content management systems that lack integrations with your existing apps will damage your teams productivity. Access to real-time knowledge on the fly is essential, especially for modern customer support and sales teams. A strong knowledge base should bring you the information you need where you already are.
  • Content-review and verification — The functionality of the knowledge base software supports automated identification of duplicate, outdated, or contradicting content, so users can more easily delete or amend that content and provide an optimized search experience. 

Challenges of knowledge bases

While there are many benefits to a knowledge base versus a company wiki, establishing a knowledge base will have challenges that can be resolved with insightful implementation planning:

  • Employee buy-in – Will employees perceive your new knowledge base as just the next new protocol in a long line of here-today-gone-tomorrow initiatives? Will they resent the replacement for their own ways of finding and sharing information? Your knowledge base implementation plan should include ways you will set expectations for use of the knowledge base, training all employees in its use, and rewarding positive behavior.
  • Platform security – Your knowledge base is just that – yours. Secure permissions must be established so that knowledge is shared with appropriate employees and not your competition.
  • Knowledge accuracy – Be sure your knowledge base has built-in rules to moderate and validate all content as well as flag content for updating.