Building out a Knowledge Base with a SharePoint Wiki

Wiki pages are a more dynamic type of knowledge base due to their collaborative nature and with SharePoint you can build your own.

By Cathy Dew

Decentralizing your content creation can help you cast a wider net for your Knowledge base

By this point, your SharePoint Knowledge Base is probably starting to look pretty robust. If you have been following our blog series about building a knowledge base, then you have so far learned how to add FAQ pages, training videos, and cheat sheets to your SharePoint site. All these resources are created and curated by administrators, which means that you will need to assign editors to each resource to keep them maintained and up to date. But what if you could have a site where your various users could add and edit information and knowledge at will? Therein lies the beauty of the SharePoint wiki.

What Is a Wiki?

When we hear the word, “wiki,” most of us think of Wikipedia, the internet’s largest interconnected encyclopedia resource. In reality, a wiki is just a website where the content can be edited, restructured, and expanded by its users. Wikipedia is a collaborative effort, where different users can add new pages or edit existing ones whenever they wish to do so. Of course, there is a level of oversight at Wikipedia to ensure that the information added is 1) verified by external sources and 2) relevant to the Wikipedia resource. However, the simple fact is that every page you read on Wikipedia has been written by multiple users.

The collaborative nature of wiki pages makes them more dynamic than the other types of knowledge base resources we have discussed. There are certainly benefits to FAQs, training videos, and cheat sheets, but you must set aside time and personnel to create the content and edit it. With wikis, you can harness the knowledge of all your employees, trusting your internal teams to build out and refine the knowledge base as needed. Of course, you will need to institute training procedures, culture changes, and incentives to encourage wiki updates and preserve the quality of the resource. With these factors in place, though, there is no reason that a wiki can’t become the core of your SharePoint Knowledge Base.

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Building a SharePoint Wiki

How can you get started building your SharePoint wiki? Within SharePoint, wikis are a base content type of library. Depending on the kind of Wiki you want to build, you have a few options. Say you want a wiki resource that will be relevant to your entire workforce, regardless of department or team. In this scenario, you would likely build a centralized “Enterprise Wiki” site collection to meet your needs. If you would prefer to create more niche-based wikis for individual departments or parts of your business, meanwhile, you could build out multiple Wiki Libraries situated in those target site collections or sub-sites.

In fact, team sites in SharePoint actually are wikis. Because these pages are so easy to edit and are relatively freeform, they are ideal for many of the collaborative functions that teams need. Perhaps you want to create a training resource specific to a single team in your organization. With a wiki, you can have the existing members of the group build the page together, adding long-form written content, screenshots, training videos, or info graphs. Said another way, a wiki is the perfect place to combine all the other knowledge center resources we’ve already discussed in this blog series. You can then link different pages together, creating an interconnected web of resources that new members of your teams can use to learn the ropes of various software programs, client profiles, and company processes.

A SharePoint wiki can also be the perfect place to build out more ephemeral content. For instance, if your team is brainstorming a list of project ideas, a wiki page where team members can put their ideas is a terrific way to start.

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A SharePoint wiki can also be the perfect place to build out more ephemeral content.

Because of the ad-hoc nature of the editing process when working with Wikis make sure you have versioning turned on for the Wiki Library to capture changes and have the ability to roll back to a previous version, if necessary. Some SharePoint Administrators also like to lock down the Wiki Editing process by setting up Editor versus Visitor roles in order to “promote” and “demote” the ability to edit the Wiki.

Controlling the editing permissions defeats the significant benefit of SharePoint wikis, which is the decentralizing of the creation of content for your SharePoint Knowledge Base. By leveraging the expertise of your individual employees, you can create a more nuanced and multifaceted knowledge resource. With that said, you probably still won’t want your wiki pages to be free-for-all areas. Having an editor or two to oversee each wiki will preserve the quality, accuracy, and structure of the content without putting the burden on your administrators.

Get Started with Your Wikis

Incorporating wikis into your SharePoint Knowledge Base will only improve the sharing of vital information throughout your organization. If you are interested in building SharePoint wikis or adding communities to your network but aren’t sure where to start, we can help. We are your premiere San Francisco Bay Area SharePoint consultants. Go online to schedule a free consultation with our team or call 510-652-7700 today.

Cathy Dew
Cathy Dew – CEO + Information Architect
Cathy focuses the company on our mission – Real results. Every time. Information architect and strategist, Cathy is passionate about making software work well – the function, the feel, the result.
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