As companies grow more complex over time, the wealth of practical and institutional knowledge builds up. Being able to collect and organize this valuable information can bring concrete benefits to the individual employees, the organization, and, of course, to the corporate bottom line.
In this article, we explore what knowledge base software is, and how to choose the right solution for your organization or business.
What is Knowledge Base Software?
Knowledge base software are tools designed for building and managing a self-help channel for a target audience, whether its internal (for employees) or external (for customers).
For this reason, knowledge base software is also known as business wiki, help center tool, or knowledge management program.
The creation and management of a knowledge base channel is part of the broader field of knowledge management. Knowledge management aims to collect all the valuable knowledge, best practices and routines of the company for the benefit of the entire organization.
Who Uses the Knowledge Base Software?
The knowledge base is a very useful resource for different types of audiences. These include:
Employees– in the course of their everyday tasks, whenever they need to look up data, a procedure, or information possessed by other departments
Customers – a self-help channel can help clients solve issues on their own instead of going through a customer support agent
New hires – for onboarding, training, or company culture
Promotions or lateral transfers – allows them to get up to speed quicker
Inter-department collaborations – when different teams or departments need to work together, the knowledge base offers a reliable source of information.
External partnerships – with the appropriate clearances and restrictions in place, external users like business partners, consultants, suppliers and agencies can also find the knowledge base useful.
Internal vs External Knowledge Base
In terms of the audience, there are two types of knowledge bases:
The internal knowledge base is designed for use within the organization. As such, it usually possesses data security features like log-on credentials, permissions and access management.
On the other hand, an external knowledge base is meant for use by customers via the cloud. As an open resource, it may not require a log-in credential. External knowledge bases may also be linked to other customer support channels such as chat support or contact pages in case the information displayed is insufficient, or doesn’t solve the customer’s issue.
How Do I Know If I Need a Knowledge Base Solution?
1. Poor customer support
If your customer service ratings are dismal, an external knowledge base can act as a new support channel. Instead of calling the support hotline or waiting for a chat support agent, customers can simply look up the information they need to solve the issue on their own.
The knowledge base also acts as a filter: by providing a self-help channel, only customers with serious issues or those who are unable to solve the problem on their own will contact your landline or chat support.
2. Growing complexity
As the organization grows, so do the teams and departments, each with their own specialized fields. This can lead to information silos, where valuable knowledge is left unused instead of being shared for the benefit of those who may need it.
3. Fragmented or contradictory information
Information can get scattered, leading to lost productivity. Worse, it can even be contradictory, with different parties following different rules and interpretations of the same subject. The knowledge base acts as a single source of truth, so that all information it contains has been checked, verified and agreed upon by all parties.
4. Knowledge drain
Each time an employee leaves or retires, they take with them years of valuable knowledge and experience. This expertise can be captured by a knowledge base so that it gets passed on to future members of the company.
5. Training and development are not optimized
New hire orientation can be done faster and more efficiently when onboarding materials are contained in a knowledge base. Similarly, promotions and transfers can be accomplished more quickly and conveniently when the employee can access the training modules from the knowledge base.
These and other issues are typically solved by implementing a knowledge management strategy, with the end result being a knowledge base that is comprehensive, accurate and easy to use for everyone.
The Benefits of Having A Good Knowledge Base Software
A good knowledge base software can bring a ton of benefits to your business, making it worth more than the initial time and investment required. These benefits include:
Improved customer service
✓ Gain another customer support channel
✓ Streamline support issues by enabling customers to solve issues on their own
✓ Filter out minor solvable issues, so that your agents can focus on more serious ones
✓ Employees spend less time hunting for information
✓ Customer support teams spend less time on minor issues
✓ Increased communication and collaboration
Unified source of truth
✓ Knowledge becomes codified: no more contradictory facts
✓ Information is checked and verified before becoming part of the base, making it more accurate and reliable
Knowledge gets retained
✓ The brain drain is minimized when employees leave or retire
✓ Best practices are recorded and can be improved upon
Better training and development
✓ Onboarding becomes faster and standardized
✓ Vertical and lateral training is more efficient
✓ Better customer support means higher customer satisfaction and retention
✓ Employees are less frustrated and have better workplace satisfaction
✓ Teams and departments can work in harmony together
✓ Knowledge retention and best practices allow for better business performance
FAQ vs Knowledge Base: What’s the Difference?
The FAQ section, or Frequently Asked Questions, is a collection of common queries. They are designed to answer a narrow set of information questions.
On the other hand, the type of data provided in a knowledge base consists of everything that may be useful to everyone in the organization. Rather than being a limited set of questions and answers, it encompasses everything from instructions and FAQs to troubleshooting guides, solutions, service manuals, etc.
While FAQs typically take the form of a document or web page, a knowledge base usually takes the form of a web portal, wiki, or even a mini website.
The Different Types of Knowledge Bases
A wiki is a documentation application that relies on user-posted submissions to build the content. It also has a search function to allow users to search for, revise or contribute to specific pages.
Hosted vs self-hosted knowledge base
A hosted knowledge base is one where it is hosted by a dedicated hosting service, outside of the company.
On the other hand, a self-hosted knowledge base resides on the organization’s own servers. This allows more control over data security, but at the cost of higher maintenance.
Open-source knowledge base
Rather than being a specific knowledge base, this refers to the software or tool used to create it. In this case, the software is open-source, meaning the source code is available for coders or developers to modify the program.
How To Choose the Right Knowledge Base Software
There is no single best knowledge base software: each comes with its own unique features, designed to fit different needs. As such, the best knowledge base software is the one that best fits your organization’s specific needs.
Here’s how to choose the right knowledge base solution for your business.
✔ Good search function
The knowledge base is only as good as its search capability. To be effective, it should be able to answer the query posed by the employee or customer accurately. To do this, it should ideally support deep searches, and make use of detailed search parameters.
✔ Intuitive UI
The software or portal must be easy to use and have an intuitive interface, even for novice users.
✔ Good content management
Contributors should be able to submit and edit content quickly, while editors and admins in charge of the knowledge base should be able to edit and publish content efficiently and conveniently.
✔ Robust access controls
For internal knowledge bases, the software should possess adequate access and permission controls for information security. For customer service knowledge bases, the portal should be protected from unauthorized revisions by external actors.
Make sure your chosen vendor integrates with your existing productivity tools. This could be anything from your CRM software to messaging tools.
The Best Knowledge Base Software for 2022
Tettra is a good example of a knowledge base software that possesses all of the five attributes important to have in a knowledge base solution.
It has strong search and content management functionalities; it has good access and permission controls; it integrates with popular enterprise apps like Slack and Google Docs; all wrapped up in an easy-to-use interface that is intuitive even for non-technical users.
- Google Suite
- Microsoft Teams
Popularly known for its helpdesk solution, Zendesk offers a knowledge base tool that can be adapted for customers, internal use, support agents, and IT. The interface is lean and easy to use, and the software boasts AI and machine learning, analytics, and community forums support.
Content can be translated to over 40 languages for localization, and the product can also be customized to match the company’s branding.
- MS Teams
Like Zendesk, Bloomfire has AI search capabilities and crowd-sourced FAQ contributions. What sets it apart is its social media-like interface: users can like, comment, and follow entries.
Other features include auto-tagging, usage and content reporting, and API access for customized applications.
- MS OneDrive, Teams and Dynamics 365
The key feature that distinguishes Guru from its competitors is that it unifies contextual information from productivity tools like the organization’s CRM, emails, and messaging apps. The contextual knowledge and relevant suggestions also improves over time, once the AI establishes individual and company-wide patterns.
Guru is primarily designed as an internal knowledge base, but the API can be modified to turn into an customer-facing knowledge portal.
- Google Suite
- MS Onedrive and Teams
5. Stack Overflow for Teams
Mostly known among developers, Stack Overflow now offers its iconic question and answer interface for enterprise use with the Stack Overflow for Teams.
The app possesses the same attributes that made its parent portal a huge hit with the dev community, including the answer ranking system and clean interface.
- MS Teams
Document 360 is both a knowledge base and file manager in one. It includes several content management features like a markdown editor, version control, secure file management, and user feedback.
Other features include community forums, SEO and analytics, and a self-service portal.
- MS Teams
This flexible app can function as a knowledge base, project management tool, or collaborative writing space. It’s geared more towards internal use and lacks many of the features possessed by dedicated customer-facing solutions. It has a markdown editor, categorization, and content management. While it can be repurposed for project management, the learning curve is a bit steep.
- Google Drive
Knowledge Base Software FAQs
How do I keep my knowledge base up-to-date?
There are two ways:
- Assign a panel of moderators to manage the content, including updating, revisions and approval of submissions.
- Crowdsource the content creation by letting employees submit new topics, revise or update existing material, just like a wiki.
To ensure that your knowledge base stays relevant and updated, it is useful to have a knowledge management strategy.
Who is in charge of managing the knowledge base?
A knowledge manager should be appointed to oversee the implementation and maintenance of the knowledge. The knowledge manager will ideally come from a related field, such as project management, training and development, or IT.
For more information, see our article “What is a Knowledge Manager, and Why Do You Need One?”
What software integrations should an external knowledge base software have?
For an external knowledge base, it should be able to support your customer relationship management (CRM) suite. This way, customer analytics such as usage, topmost concerns, and feedback are logged.
Another nice integration to have is ticketing support. In this way, the customer can file for a support ticket if they are not able to solve the issue on their own.
Finally, live chat support is useful so the customer can seamlessly be connected to a live agent if needed.
What software integrations should an internal knowledge base software have?
The internal knowledge base should integrate with your organization’s preferred messaging app like Slack or MS Teams, so that employees can quickly share and collaborate knowledge.
Likewise, it should ideally support productivity tools, so that users can look up information without leaving the tool or app they are currently using.
How do you migrate a self-hosted knowledge base to the cloud?
The most convenient way to transfer a self-hosted knowledge base is by using SaaS software. It automates the process of moving knowledge entries, links, categories, and files as part of the migration.