Step 1: Conduct research to determine knowledge base need
Understanding the utility of a knowledge base is one thing. Deciding on the purpose your knowledge base will fill for your organization is another.
The first step in setting up a knowledge base is to determine the need your knowledge base will fulfill. Think about your audience. Do you want your knowledge base to support your employees, your customers, or both? Once you know which audience(s) you want your knowledge base(s) to serve, research where the biggest gaps in knowledge exist.
- What questions or topics do your employees or customers ask most often?
- What department is overwhelmed by requests for information on a consistent basis?
- What is your current response rate to employee and client questions and is that response rate getting longer?
- Is productivity within your organization falling because information can’t efficiently be shared?
- What serious gaps would exist if certain company employees left the organization and took their knowledge with them?
The answers to those questions will help you understand if you do need a knowledge base and to begin thinking about how it should be structured.
Step 2: Determine type of knowledge base
Once you know that you need a knowledge base, you must determine what type of knowledge base would best serve your needs. There are six common types of knowledge bases. To decide on the type of knowledge base you may want to create, think about the audience the knowledge base will serve, how accessible you want the knowledge base to be to the general public, and whether you will host the knowledge base on your company server or rely on a provider to host it.
Step 3: Develop knowledge base structure
Organization is a key component in creating an organizational structure for a knowledge base. You want all users to be able to quickly and easily find what they are looking for. Developing your knowledge base structure at the beginning of your process will not only help you organize your content as your knowledge base grows, but will inform navigation design and help make it more intuitive for users..
There are a number of different ways you can choose to organize your knowledge base:
- User Type or Role: When you have different users or customer types, organizing your knowledge base by role is effective. Your users would be able to quickly tap into the knowledge that would be specific to them. For example, an HR knowledge base could be organized by breaking out specific information about your company with designated sections aimed at contractors, full-time employees, and part-time employees.
- Activity: If your audiences who will use the knowledge base need specific information about actions to take, organizing your knowledge base by activity works well. For example, a knowledge base for a large travel agency may be organized by activities like planning your trip, booking tickets, and contacting an agent.
- Stage/ Experience of User: When you organize by stage or the experience of the user, the user of your knowledge base is quickly able to match their needs with your information. For example, a knowledge base for an online service may be organized by stages like getting started, upgrading service, and user tutorials.
- Product Type: You could also organize your knowledge base by product type. For example, a furniture business may organize its knowledge base by living room furniture, bedroom furniture, kids’ furniture, and office furniture.
Your knowledge base will constantly change as your content expands, is edited, or archived. That’s why it is important to make your categories broad enough to encompass an array of content that can be subcategorized by topic or theme.
Step 4: Establish SMEs to create content
Your knowledge base requires a constant inflow of interesting and engaging content that specifically meets the needs of your audiences. Subject matter experts (SMEs) and a designated editor (or two) should be responsible for developing the content to ensure the quality, accuracy, and efficacy of all content in your knowledge base that’s distributed to your employees and / or clients. Here’s how that process could work:
- The knowledge base manager determines the content necessary for each category. The manager outlines the purpose of each piece of content, the primary messaging, keywords, and the call to action for each article. They also set the deadlines and are responsible for assigning content development to SMEs.
- SMEs are responsible for using their specialized knowledge to create content that follows the directions outlined by the knowledge base manager. SMEs also review edited content for accuracy.
- Editors review the content provided by SMEs and correct for spelling, grammar, style, and readability.
Because you will likely have more than one SME writing content for your knowledge base, you will need a style guide to make sure your content is consistent in look, tone, and feel regardless of who is writing or editing that content. Your marketing or communications department likely has a style guide that includes guidelines for punctuation, brand style, formatting, and more. See how a knowledge manager can help create and enforce guidelines.
Step 5: Write knowledge resources
You want to be sure your content is easy to understand and that your SMEs provide that content in an efficient manner. To do both, provide them with writing directions that cover these basics:
- Clarity: Use action-based headlines to help your audience know at-a-glance what the content will explain. Explain all jargon or technical terms in clear language.
- Readability: Readers prefer content that provides information at-a-glance. That means paragraphs should be short and blocks of text should be broken up with headings, subheadings, bullets or numbered lists where applicable.
- Engagement: Include images, charts, infographics, or videos within content or as stand-alone content to increase engagement.
- Utility: Be sure to link to related articles within your knowledge base. This will help your audience easily find other resources that fully answer their questions.
- Value: Every piece of content in your knowledge base should offer a valuable solution or insight.
Step 6: Upload resources to shared platform
A shared knowledge base platform is a software system that makes it easy for information to flow from your knowledge base to those who need it. The shared platform you choose will include the tools that extend the functionality of your knowledge base. For example, the shared platform software could include search tools, file sharing, analytics and reporting, a user feedback system, and more. The shared platform you choose should also be able to scale with the growth of your knowledge base.
Step 7: Update content often
Updating content will be a regular activity in order to keep your knowledge base relevant and useful. Rely on your knowledge base software system’s built-in analytics to help. The data you review will help you better understand:
- The type of information people are accessing
- How search traffic on once-popular articles changes
- When an article was first published and updated
Plan to have your SMEs review all content (on a rolling basis) throughout the year in order to update, optimize, or retire content as necessary. In addition, you should plan to update relevant content any time your company policies, products, or changes to your services. Guru's verification engine ensures your knowledge is always up-to-date.
Find out what type of knowledge base is right for your team
A knowledge base is a great way to organize internal information to facilitate collaboration across your company. A well-maintained knowledge base can also help to provide customers with quick access to answers they need about your products or services. Guru can help you determine what type of knowledge base is best for your needs. Get started today with Guru for free, and harness the power of integrated knowledge management for your business.