In the pre-internet era business world, companies kept information in file cabinets and storage rooms. Management and employees sent memos to document directives, projects outcomes, and other company information.
As internet technology spread, companies established intranets to mirror the benefits of the world wide web inside the enterprise. They began to replace reams of paper and folders with electronic files posted to the intranet and stored in local files and databases.
Social media created yet another wave of communication innovation, decentralizing how we share, distribute and collect information. Companies now realize the value of collecting and organizing customer data from social networks and customer service journeys.
Even as companies moved away from paper documentation, internal communications became more social. The volume of written emails, chats, and texts is increasing. Early intranets and corporate wikis are evolving into a more helpful resource called an internal knowledge base.
What is an Internal Knowledge Base?
An internal knowledge base hosts company documents and captures the organic nature of social conversations. Why are internal social conversations meaningful? Because accessing the information shared in social conversations saves employees a lot of time.
The Management consulting firm McKinsey reports, “When companies use social media internally, messages become content; a searchable record of knowledge can reduce, by as much as 35 percent, the time employees spend searching for company information. Additional value can be realized through faster, more efficient, more effective collaboration, both within and between enterprises.”
Legacy data, systems, processes, social messages – what exactly is an Internal Knowledge Base? The internal knowledge base is the hub for organizational systems, processes, and internal company information. Companies can also repurpose some internal information into external knowledge bases for people outside the organization.
For example, a Self-Service Feature helps customers help themselves and is available to internal and external stakeholders. The internal knowledge base also offers many Internal Help Desk benefits to employees and companies.
Benefits of Using Internal Knowledge Base Software
What are the benefits of utilizing internal knowledge base software? Firstly, it provides a centralized, searchable location for corporate policies and information. By making information more accessible and organized, an internal knowledge base also helps increase employee productivity.
Teams communicate more effectively and reduce lag time on projects because they spend less time hunting for information or waiting on responses.
Finally, a well-designed internal knowledge base creates value in a company over time by providing the foundation for scaling enterprise knowledge as a company grows.
Improve the Employee Onboarding Process
Employee onboarding is a critical stage, but it can be tedious and full of details. An internal knowledge base can include a step-by-step, employee-friendly, trackable system for adding new employees. This system creates a straightforward onboarding journey for new employees and frees HR employees to focus on high-value tasks and program development.
Productivity has been a critical metric for companies since the Industrial Revolution’s early days. Traditionally, company solutions for low productivity included increased automation and attempts to “fix” employees with low productivity.
In today’s world, where businesses run on virtual platforms, low productivity is not always the employee’s fault. The best, most engaged employees value their time. Most do not stay in a workplace where internal processes impede their best work. One survey showed that 86% of employees actively looking for new jobs said that a company’s broken processes were a factor.
As companies are scrambling to hold onto their best employees during the Great Resignation, an internal knowledge base can increase employee satisfaction by reducing internal friction in searching for information.
So how do internal knowledge bases increase productivity? Internal knowledge base software reduces the amount of time your workforce spends finding internal information.
A 2019 survey found that 49% of mid-market and corporate knowledge workers spend up to two hours daily looking for the information they need to do their jobs. Waiting on responses also creates a productivity drag. Employees spend 5.3 hours per week waiting for information. These delays negatively impact project schedules — 66% will last up to a week, and 12% a month or more.
Creating a single location for internal knowledge eliminates employees’ time tracking down files, duplicating work, and waiting on coworkers for responses and information.
More Efficient Collaboration and Communication
Internal knowledge bases include social-media-type ecosystems for internal communication to create more productive collaboration across teams. Studies show that this pays off. McKinsey reports that improved communication and collaboration through social technologies could raise the productivity of interaction workers by 20 to 25 percent. Social technologies support more dynamic communications than an email-only, shared document culture. An internal knowledge base can also give teams access to information across departments, ending the information siloes that can cause delays and blind spots in projects.
The rise of remote work creates an urgent need for internal knowledge bases. One in three companies is planning to transition to remote and hybrid work models. Having a central knowledge-sharing base is critical for remote teams’ productivity and success, especially those working across time zones and different projects.
In addition to supporting internal teams’ collaboration, an internal knowledge base also helps customer-facing teams like customer service. Customer support teams can access and add to a database of FAQs and guides stored on an internal knowledge base. Support staff can find help to specific customer issues and solve more problems in real-time.
How to Create an Internal Knowledge Base?
Creating an internal knowledge base is a project that affects every aspect of a company. It is essential to cultivate buy-in from many stakeholders. Input from different departments will help you create a plan that effectively answers the question, “What should we include in an internal knowledge base?”
Step One: Define the Purpose
The first step to creating an internal knowledge base is to get specific about the purpose and function of the internal knowledge base. Who are the stakeholders the internal knowledge base will serve, and how? What kind of information do they need to access?
The fully realized vision may look daunting as you scope out the purpose. The solution is to break down the internal knowledge base rollout as a project with different phases and pay particular attention to the foundational stage.
Now is the time to ask for buy-in from different departments and teams. People with initial resistance will be more likely to support the project later if they feel heard from the start.
Step Two: Decide on the Information Architecture
From a content perspective, it’s important to note that even though an internal knowledge base’s utility rests largely on well-written, searchable content. Commit to a big picture based on IA that defines the internal knowledge base structure and how content will fit into that structure.
Step Three: Inventory Existing Knowledge Content
Do you have current content to add to a knowledge base? Identify and pre-sort which content will go where and set up a system for confirming the material to the internal knowledge base’s specifications.
Step Four: Find an Internal Knowledge Base Provider
Now that you have your foundations in place, you are ready for one of the most important decisions: What internal knowledge base tools are best to roll out, build, and maintain the internal knowledge base? Remember that even though the internal knowledge base is an employee resource, it must seamlessly interface with customers and the outside world in specific ways like automated Self Service.
Step 5: Establish a Knowledge Base Team
An internal knowledge base is a living resource that constantly updates and provides answers. A knowledge base team supports the project by coordinating across departments, creating and proposing written content, and analyzing internal knowledge base usage metrics.
Step 6: Populate the Internal Knowledge Base
Start with essential articles or needs first. Establish a project calendar based on the company’s performance goals and what areas of the internal knowledge base will support them most directly.
Step 7: Create a Maintenance Plan and SOP
Decide on a reive plan to keep content from getting dated and set up a review rotation. Analytics can also help companies see what content is trending and alert them to potential hot topics or areas of confusion.
Internal Knowledge Base Best Practices
An internal knowledge base is like a modern library for companies. Libraries are organized based on long-held standards and best practices. They contain books covering thousands of topics, yet the format of the books is standardized.
Libraries organize their materials based on accepted, understood conventions. Internal knowledge bases also benefit from following best practices that keep everyone on the same page.
- Decide on consistent formatting standards based on usability considerations, navigation, page design, style guide, etc.
- Establish article templates and writing guidelines to structure all your content.
- Use Information Architecture principles to build, structure, and organize your internal knowledge base.
- Set up a routine to maintain the integrity and relevance of old and new information in the internal knowledge base.
As a library, an internal knowledge base is a resource that will scale and improve over time if you decide on your best practices before adding a lot of content to your internal knowledge base.