As a company evolves over time, so does the accumulated information, practices, and other institutional knowledge that comes with growth.
Once the company grows to a sufficient level, an internal knowledge base can become useful in ensuring that all practical knowledge and processes are properly stored and accessible for the benefit of employees and the organization as a whole.
Here we discuss all there is to know about internal knowledge bases: what it is, their benefits and drawbacks, and how to effectively shop for and manage your own internal knowledge base.
What is an Internal Knowledge Base?
An internal knowledge base or IKB is a centralized repository of information for internal stakeholders. It aims to gather all institutional knowledge and practices in one convenient location that can be easily accessed and shared by all members.
Think of it as a Wikipedia or customer portal, but for employees. But there are two main things that distinguish an internal knowledge base:
- They are intended for internal use only by members of the organization
- Since the contain proprietary company information, IKBs require robust access and permission protocols to ensure information security
Knowledge management software helps in the creation of internal knowledge bases by providing a ready-made platform for the storage, categorization and implementation of IKBs.
Examples of Internal Knowledge Base Resources
Knowledge bases can contain different forms of information sources, and even multimedia. These can include:
- Standard operating procedures
- Training and learning materials
- Onboarding modules for new hires
- Step-by-step guides
- Troubleshooting manuals
- Soft copy and hardcopy records
- Audio visual presentations
- Audio tutorials
It should be noted that an internal knowledge base is only as good as the information it contains. To be truly effective, the organization must have a strong culture of documentation so that the IKB can incorporate. all sources of information. Read up on Why You Need a Culture of Documentation.
Why Would You Need an Internal Knowledge Base?
There are plenty of reasons why companies may need an internal knowledge base. These include:
The organization has become sufficiently large or complicated over time, so that information and best practices have become fragmented. The average employee spends about 20% of their time tracking down internal information or colleagues who can help them.
Different teams or departments need to work together, and information barriers impede effective collaboration.
Training and onboarding
Training modules for different positions and departments are scattered, or learning and development programs are not sufficiently optimized.
Processes are not uniform, and best practices get overlooked in a sea of information.
What are the Benefits of an Internal Knowledge Base?
There are many advantages to setting up an internal knowledge base. In fact, the benefits are compounded the larger the company is. However, even smaller organizations and SMEs can stand to gain from an IKB.
✔️Better collaboration and communication
Different teams and departments are able to work more smoothly and efficiently together, and information silos are avoided.
Less time is spent hunting for data and processes, minimizing downtime. An effective IKB reduces the time it takes to search for internal information by up to 35%.
✔️Faster onboarding and learning
Training and development get streamlined thanks to a centralized knowledge database. In addition, a robust onboarding process can improve new employee retention by as much as 82%.
Organizational procedures become uniform and optimized, and best practices can be more readily identified.
✔️Improved employee satisfaction
Better communication, improved collaboration, and the ability to quickly look up needed information all combine to improve quality of life in the workplace, making for happier and more satisfied members.
For a real-world example on the benefits of internal knowledge bases, check out how an IKB can save a 100-person company over $300,000 annually.
How to Set Up an Internal Knowledge Base
1. Establish goals and timeline
- Map out a set of objectives to be realized by building the knowledge base
- Plot a realistic timeline for achieving these objectives, along with milestones
- Lay out the requirements needed in terms of company resources and personnel
2. Get the company buy-in
- Pitch the prospect to company brass
- Once approved, get the organization to rally behind the project. After all, the internal knowledge base is for everyone, and to be successful it needs the support of all internal stakeholders, not just the higher-ups.
3. Pinpoint the knowledge areas to be collected
- Map out the organizational hierarchy, departments, and relationships
- Determine how far down the organizational chart the information collection will reach.
- Plot all possible types of data to be collected, from processes and practices to intangibles like values, working relationships, etc.
4. Standardize content style
- Each data type should have a uniform template to follow
- Standardized formats make it easier for the information providers who will input the data, and for the readers who will be digesting it.
- You can refer to our collection of sample templates for different content types.
5. Set up the IKB team
- Make sure the organizational chart encompasses all departments and teams
- Designate a project coordinator per department
- Project coordinators will be in charge of team leaders, who will be responsible for data gathering at the team-level
6. Find an IKB solution
- This is discussed in detail in the next section.
For more information, read our guide to Setting Up Your Knowledge Base.
How to Choose the Right Internal Knowledge Base Software
Knowledge base tools come in different packages and price points. To find the right one that fits your organizational needs, here are some factors to consider.
Intuitive or familiar interface
- Explore the UI. Is it intuitive and easy to use for the average employee?
- If your company is used to certain tools (ex. Wikipedia or Slack), consider a solution that has a familiar interface to minimize learning curve and improve usage rate.
Good search engine
- A knowledge base is only as good as its search function. Next to the UI, the search bar should be your biggest priority.
- To be effective, it should support multiple keyword and keyphrase searches, provide search suggestions, and even use contextual learning to help users find the information they need.
Easy labeling and classification
- Does it have good categorization and data taxonomy?
- Does it support tags, internal links, and related content suggestions?
- Edit, Share, and Send functions should be readily apparent
- Highlight and Comment are useful features for collaboration.
- Apart from text and images, does it support multimedia like audio and video clips?
- If your company relies heavily on hard copy sources, is there a way of encoding or uploading the documents quickly to the knowledge base?
Rollback and version options
- Knowledge evolves over time, and versions allow changes to be made and tracked.
- Rollback ensures you have a backup in case new entries are erroneous, get lost, corrupted, or deleted.
- If your organization uses company-wide tools, consider whether the knowledge base solution supports them.
- Commonly used enterprise tools include Google Suite, MS Teams, Slack, and Github (all of which are supported by Tettra).