Do you keep all your data on internal processes and policies in the same place? If you don’t, now might be a great time to start thinking about it.
Internal knowledge bases can help your business become more efficient and employees more independent.
If you’ve never heard of this type of database or are unsure what information to include in one or how to organize it, you’re in the right place!
Let’s take a deep dive into the topic of internal knowledge bases so you can see why using one is a good choice for your company.
What Is an Internal Knowledge Base?
Nowadays, knowledge bases are all the rage in the business world. Companies have realized there is simply no progress without having informed employees—and what better way to educate your team than to create your internal knowledge base?
There are many definitions of it on the Internet, but Atlassian’s description seems the most concise. They define a knowledge base as “a self-serve online library of information about a product, service, department, or topic.”
In other words, a knowledge database is something an individual can use on their own in search of information about a specific, often business-related, topic. The critical distinction to make when discussing databases is between external and internal ones.
The external type is the one you create for your customers. For example, if you sell a product or a service, it would be wise to create a database with information on using the product or service correctly to get the most out of it.
You may not think this is necessary, but think again! Research shows that younger generations would rather look things up online or use a self-service online than call your customer service.
For instance, millennials make up the largest group of consumers, so your business should cater to their needs. Therefore, it would be wise to upload all the instructions and explanations regarding your product somewhere online and cater to their preferences.
On the other hand, an internal knowledge base is one you create with your team in mind. Your team needs to have access to all your internal procedures, troubleshooting, and any other documents that help them do their job correctly.
Outsiders shouldn’t have access to this database since it’s meant for your employees’ eyes only.
What Are Internal Knowledge Bases Used For?
Internal databases are beneficial to employers trying to educate and empower their employees.
Think about it: you have the opportunity to create a space that contains all the additional documentation necessary for team members to perform their job well and comply with company rules.
Some companies choose to be very thorough in their approach and include every single file they have to make the knowledge base detailed.
Others prefer a different approach and only use the internal knowledge base to list solutions to complicated problems or for instructions and tutorials.
There is no “correct” way—it’s all about what your company needs.
That being said, here are some ideas on what to include in your internal knowledge base:
- Employee handbook
- Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
At the end of the day, your knowledge base should contain all the data you want everyone on your team to have access to.
By sharing this information with them and teaching them how to use your database, you’re giving your employees some freedom and encouraging them to find things out for themselves, which can be empowering.
Instead of, say, relying on emailing the relevant procedures and policies to your employees, think about just adding them to your knowledge base, where anyone with access can look them up and read up on them.
Benefits of Having an Internal Knowledge Base
Even though putting together an extensive internal database can take a lot of time, the results will be worth it.
Firstly, you’ll onboard new employees faster if you have all your files in one, easily accessible place. You can even add specific sections for new employees, like what they can expect on their first day of work.
On top of that, you’ll be saving a lot of time and increasing productivity.
For instance, McKinsey has found that the average worker spends almost a fifth of their workweek finding and gathering information.
Instead of letting your employees waste that much precious time on this task, you can grant them access to the database that contains all the information they need.
If you choose to list your HR policies in your database, which is common in employee handbooks, you’ll reduce the workload of your HR team.
Your internal knowledge base will answer the questions other employees usually send to them.
Another fantastic benefit of a shared internal knowledge base is standardized information. You’ll easily ensure that your entire team has access to current data, thus minimizing the risk of workers following different procedures and outdated practices.
If you deal with customers, your Time to Resolution will significantly decrease thanks to a database of this kind. After all, instead of waiting for someone to help them, your team will be able to find the solutions and correct procedures in your knowledge base.
Clearly, the benefits far outweigh the hassle of creating an extensive internal knowledge base. Let’s see how to make that process as seamless and easy as possible!
How to Structure Your Internal Knowledge Base
Perhaps the most complicated part of building a knowledge base is knowing what to include and doing it in a way that makes the most sense.
The arrangement is something you should decide for yourself, as there’s no universal rule for it. Each company has different documentation and needs, which is why you need to think about this long and hard.
However, we’ll give you some pointers that can help you decide.
Determine What Content to Include
When thinking about creating an internal knowledge base for your company, you should consider what exactly you want to cover.
What documentation is crucial for all your employees? What instructions could they all benefit from? On top of this type of data, you should ensure that anyone can solve issues or problems that arise when using your knowledge base.
In other words, it should be so extensive and informative that employees are able to find information on any topic you cover and solutions to at least the most common problems.
Once you figure out what that entails, think of what documents you already have. You already use some documents for onboarding, training, and HR policies. Of course, you probably also have a handbook for new hires.
Put all these files to good use in your new internal knowledge base. Why start from scratch if you already have the relevant files available?
For example, why not start with defining the values that make up your perfect employee?
These are already included in your job ads, but existing employees might benefit from having a reminder, right there in your knowledge base.
Go through these documents and decide which ones you must edit and improve and which ones you have to write anew. When you start doing this, you’ll realize how many of your procedures and processes are undocumented because “everyone knows them.”
However, this type of thinking can cause problems and knowledge gaps.
The point of an internal knowledge base is to have a “the person reading doesn’t know this” mindset so you can explain it in a way that anyone reading will understand and learn from it.
Establish Guidelines for Contributors
Once you determine what you want to include in your internal knowledge base, you should decide who will manage it and who will be able to edit it.
The managers should be people with enough knowledge to add, remove, and edit parts of the database. A person who is not qualified might do more damage than good.
In smaller companies, it’s usually the CEO who gets this responsibility. However, you can always assign different sections to experts, like an HR manager for HR policies, an experienced coach for training materials, or an IT expert for IT procedures.
Being lax about who gets to edit your knowledge base is a slippery slope. On the one hand, if only a handful of people are in charge of keeping it current, outdated information will slip through the cracks, especially if there are frequent changes.
On the other hand, if you allow everyone to edit the database, things can go south quickly.
Not everyone has the knowledge and expertise needed to revise the policies your entire team will be reading.
So, it’s best to allow everyone to suggest edits and assign people to check and approve the proposed changes. That way, everyone can contribute and feel useful, but they can’t change things as they please.
If there are certain things that only a specific department should know or data that should remain confidential, you can always limit access to them. That way, you’re preventing data leaks and all the issues surrounding them.
Make It Easy to Use
Finally, your internal knowledge base won’t be helpful unless you make it practical and intuitive.
In other words, your workers should find it easy to get around the database searching for the information they need. Unfortunately, many employees are unhappy with the way their company’s way of document management, with the top problem being locating documents.
You can eliminate this problem by adding all the relevant files to a shared company knowledge database and making it easy to use.
You can achieve this through different steps, mainly by enabling search by keywords. Allowing your team to use a search bar to quickly find something using keywords will make them faster and more productive.
Another great way to simplify searching is to organize content by department and topic. You can have a section for HR policies and procedures, another one for internal processes, a third one for employee onboarding, and so on.
Then, you can go a step further and arrange your database by topics within these sections. That way, if one of your employees is looking for more information on your vacation policy, they can jump to the HR section and the time-related topic you included instead of skimming through all procedures.
What Is Internal Knowledge Base Software?
As the name suggests, an internal knowledge base software is a digital tool that allows you to host all the documentation necessary for your company to run smoothly.
Your goal is to have all the files in the same, easily accessible place that you can keep private and away from public eyes, especially if there’s confidential business information among the documents.
If you use specialized software to compile an internal knowledge base, you will get:
- Easy search options
- Quick and simple updating
- Possibility to assign roles
As explained, the search option saves your team time and helps them be more productive while navigating through your company’s knowledge base.
With the right software, you never have to worry about keeping your internal database current. In a couple of clicks, you will not only be able to update the data, but also notify your entire team of changes when they log in.
If you don’t want everyone to edit your knowledge base, you can assign roles to all users.
Some employees will have viewing privileges, others might need a suggestion function, while those members with the most relevant expertise and experience should be able to make changes themselves.
The right software solution lets you do all of that seamlessly, which is why it’s such a good investment.
What to Look For In Internal Knowledge Base Software
If you’ve looked for software that helps you create your database, you’ve seen that there are many options. The abundance of choices can seem overwhelming, so let’s see what functionalities are a must-have.
First, decide whether you want to save all the data in the cloud or on-premise. In the latter case, you’ll have to have an IT team for maintenance, which makes it more expensive.
With cloud services, you usually pay a monthly subscription fee, but don’t have to keep an IT team to maintain it within your company.
Then, think about how tech-savvy your employees are. In any case, it would be best to use software that is easy to use regardless of technical knowledge. That way, you’ll further simplify the process for everyone involved.
If you have an excellent IT team, you can leave the coding to them and get a database adapted to your needs. However, if you’d rather use already existing software, choose one that comes with an external knowledge base for users, so you can use it to its full potential.
Finally, the software you use should allow you to personalize the knowledge base and make it your own. Here’s how you can do that using our own quality documentation software, Archbee.
Our knowledge base software allows intuitive editing. This means you can make quick updates and track any changes since the last login. Moreover, you can approve or reject changes or reverse them.
We’re proud our product makes it easy to personalize your knowledge base. You can easily import files, share them with the entire team or specific users, and add extra content that makes the whole database look more fun and engaging.
For example, you can insert images or embed videos, which helps improve information retention. Since that’s the whole point of making a database, don’t miss out on this feature!
Archbee also allows you to:
- Easily drag and drop files into your base
- Add attachments
- Use keyboard shortcuts
- Tag people
- Ping team members
- Use custom blocks
Something that really comes in handy is the commenting feature, which allows users to leave a note after highlighting a piece of text.
When users comment in a database, it’s usually because they want to ask a question or express a concern. This way, they can get a response in the same place, without having to send a question via email or look for someone in person.
This feature is handy when you hire new employees or make a change in the knowledge base.
All in all, smart, cloud-based, easily-used documentation software such as Archbee is the perfect solution for companies who want a no-sweat way to build and manage their knowledge bases in order to improve their work processes.
A good knowledge base lists all your company procedures and processes in the same place but intuitively, thus allowing all employees to find what they’re looking for with ease.
The best way of creating a database of this sort is to use software designed specifically for this function. After all, software like that has a lot of built-in functions that can help you bring your knowledge base to the next level.
The point of a database is to help your team access all the information about your business and its processes quickly and easily, thus improving your entire company’s efficiency and productivity.