By Cathy Dew
Does your company need a SharePoint Knowledge Base?
In most cases, a “Knowledge Base” is not a priority for companies using SharePoint. On the contrary, SharePoint’s most obvious primary use is document management. Countless organizations rely on SharePoint and its document libraries as a means of uploading, storing, and collaborating on documents. The existence of key features such as managed metadata and workflows only furthers SharePoint’s reputation as a place to manage documents.
However, the truth is that SharePoint is extremely versatile and can also handle a range of other applications for any given enterprise. For instance, many companies use SharePoint as a complete intranet solution, not only loading it up with documents and files, but also adding staff directories, customer relationship management tools, and other resources for employees to access and use. One resource commonly included on a company intranet is something called a SharePoint Knowledge Base.
What Is a Knowledge Base?
Say you are looking for the answer to a question in your day-to-day life. Maybe you are trying to figure out how to do something in a piece of software, or perhaps you just want to look up a piece of obscure pop culture trivia. In all likelihood, you would head to Google to find the answer. You might end up on an FAQ page or Wiki page to find the information you are seeking. These pages are examples of knowledge bases.
You can have a knowledge base within your organization, too.
At any given time, an employee might have a question about how to use proprietary software, how to accomplish a key task, or what specific processes or policies look like within the organization. While your employees will master their own everyday tasks and processes over time, they may still need help or advice when they encounter non-everyday tasks.
In this kind of scenario, there are two basic paths you can condition your employees to take. The first is to encourage them to ask questions. If the employee doesn’t know something, there’s a good chance he or she can find the answer by asking a colleague or manager. The problem with this option is that it can severely hurt the productivity of the people on your team who are constantly repeating answers to the same questions. These individuals do have the knowledge that is being requested but to share it repeatedly puts a strain on their finite number of work hours.
This point brings us to the second option: building a knowledge base.
A knowledge base Is a database of information designed to help your users find answers to commonly encountered needs. With a knowledge base, your company essentially has its own Google that users can search to find answers to their questions or challenges. The knowledge base can act as a repository of How-To’s, FAQs, and other resources meant to assist users with non-everyday tasks. You would then encourage and condition your employees to use the knowledge base to troubleshoot their issues.
Having a detailed knowledge base or Wiki for your business can be extremely helpful at numerous points throughout the employment journey. Take employee onboarding. Hiring a new person and training that employee on all the nuances of the company and their specific role takes a lot of time. Suffice to say; there is a reason that it takes new employees 1-2 years to become fully productive. The training process also puts a strain on the managers and employees entrusted with getting a new hire up to speed. A knowledge base can help reduce some of the burdens, by providing a spot for new employees to learn key processes or find answers to crucial questions. For instance, a library of video tutorials explaining the basics of key software programs can be extremely useful for training new users in unfamiliar applications.
The benefits of a knowledge base are not exclusive to new hires, either. A long-time employee recently promoted to a new job might need to bone up on processes or software related to her new responsibilities. Alternatively, an employee who only uses certain applications intermittently for the occasional project might require a refresher course when those projects come up. Uploading helpful and relevant resources to the knowledge base—whether in the form of text-based articles or guides, video tutorials, visual aids, or links to external resources—means that answers or explanations to frequent questions are only ever a few clicks away.
Knowledge Bases in SharePoint
If you are using SharePoint as an intranet solution for your business, then a knowledge base is an essential component of the design. SharePoint provides multiple ways to leverage the knowledge spread across your company and turn it into a searchable repository. By having these knowledge base resources right alongside the other functions that SharePoint might be serving for your enterprise—document management software, collaboration suite, etc.—you turn your intranet into a one-stop shop of sorts for all your employee needs.
Do note that assembling an effective SharePoint Knowledge Base will likely take some time, as well as commitment on the part of your managers and specialists.
As mentioned above, you might be able to find and link external resources for some of the FAQs in your Wiki. However, for more specialized topics that apply specifically to your organization, you will need someone on your team to write a guide, prepare a video tutorial, design an infographic resource, or otherwise create the materials for your knowledge base.
The good news is that an upfront time commitment to create the knowledge base will save your personnel time in the future. Think of it this way: say someone from your IT team must walk new employees through a software tutorial session every time someone joins your team. This process takes approximately an hour every time, which adds up over the course a year or two. The same IT person might need to take two or three hours right now to write or record a meticulous guide to help new hires through the process. However, that upfront investment in time will save the IT employee dozens or even hundreds of hours of one-on-one training in the future.
Ostensibly, this anecdote explains the reasoning for having a SharePoint Knowledge Base. You survey the knowledge across your organization, record it in some way, and then save it for the future. Now, employees (both new and old) can access and benefit from that knowledge at any time. There is no need to inconvenience the knowledge holders throughout your enterprise by having them impart their wisdom repeatedly. The result is smart knowledge sharing across your organization, without the lost productivity required for training sessions or seminars.
How to Build a SharePoint Knowledge Base
If you are interested in building a SharePoint Knowledge Base, you are in luck. SharePoint has multiple tools you can use to construct a knowledge base and design useful resources for your employees. These options include:
How you choose to design your SharePoint Knowledge Base will depend on the needs of your organization and the knowledge you need to share.
You can use some or all the features mentioned above to design your knowledge base solution. In some cases, you might have an overarching enterprise knowledge base for more general or universal information, but also have smaller, more specific knowledge bases for specific departments or company segments. In other cases, you might just have the smaller knowledge bases for different groups. You will need to decide the best way to foster the sharing of information throughout your organization and build your knowledge base accordingly.
Get Help with Your Knowledge Base Today
If you need help building a SharePoint Knowledge Base, 2Plus2 can help. In future blogs, we will explain in more detail how to design different types of knowledge bases or incorporate specific features into your intranet.
FAQs: Basic question and answer lists that employees can use to find quick answers to simpler queries.
Bots: Automated systems that use keywords and patterns to analyze user questions, parse the FAQ list, and provide answers.
Training Videos: Video resources, usually on the shorter end of the spectrum, that provide quick tutorials or how-to explanations. Longer training videos are possible as well but should be hosted on Office 365 Video rather than in SharePoint itself.
Cheat Sheets: Info-graphics or visual aids that provide useful information specific to certain programs, applications, or features.
Wikis: Content types or libraries designed to store knowledge base resources. You can have Enterprise-Wide wiki site collections or build Wiki Libraries for different sites or departments. The wiki can present text, images, videos, and more—often in article form.
Community Forums: Community segments within your SharePoint intranet where users can go to ask questions and get troubleshooting assistance. Forums can be designed using multiple different SharePoint or SharePoint-adjacent features—such as MS Teams, SharePoint Communities, and Yammer Groups.