Part of:

Why Most Organizations Need a Knowledge Base

KEY TAKEAWAYS

The management of knowledge is important for business success. A knowledge base is a tool for collecting, sharing, and managing knowledge.

You work on a difficult problem for
hours and hours, and then you are relieved when you find the
solution. You feel exhilarated and exhausted at the same time. And
you know that the next time you face a similar problem, you will know
what to do. But what about your colleagues? What about others in the
company who work on the other side of the globe? Will they know? You
realize that you need to share that knowledge with others. But how?

Knowledge is Power

As the former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan stated, “Knowledge is power.
Information is liberating.” He was speaking about education, but
the same holds true for technology within organizations. Those who
have the best grasp on company products and processes have an
advantage over those who are less informed. It has been common for
experienced engineers to keep secrets to themselves, hoping to
elevate their value within the enterprise. That is not the best
approach.

As knowledge is disseminated throughout
the organization, workers are more empowered to do their jobs. Smart
companies are aware of this and create opportunities for training and
knowledge transfer where possible. One of the best ways to share
knowledge is through a
knowledge base.

Techopedia defines a knowledge
base as “a database used for knowledge sharing and management.”
In a more general sense, a knowledge base could be anywhere that
information is stored, such as your public library. With the
advances of digital computing, businesses have developed methods for
collecting and analyzing data that include
data mining, artificial intelligence (AI) and
knowledge-based systems. AI systems are even being used to assist physicians
with medical diagnosis. (For more on this, see
The Role of IT in Medical Diagnosis.)

Knowledge Base Use Cases

Obviously you’re aware of the
significant advances in
knowledge management and the impact on
large-scale endeavors. But there are also potential use cases for
knowledge bases on smaller scales that may be very beneficial to you
and your projects.
Knowledge
management is about gathering, organizing, refining and
disseminating information. A knowledge base is an integral component
of knowledge management systems.

Ellen Berry, the Content Director for
Myndbend,
wrote about several uses for knowledge bases. She said that they are
often used to:

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  • Present users with quick
    self-service options
  • Train staff or equip end users
  • Give help desk reps a database of
    known issues and fixes
  • Supply developers with code
    snippets, templates and tools
  • Bring traffic to a website

A knowledge base is meant to provide
answers when they are needed. A prime example is the
Microsoft Knowledge Base, which has more than 150,000 articles. Your
knowledge base doesn’t have to be so big. Start small and allow
others to collaborate in building it. Assign one curator to take
care of it. Make it a work in progress.

Knowledge Base Software

There are plenty of ready-made software
solutions that you can use to develop your knowledge base, and some
them are free. One of the largest knowledge bases in the world is
Wikipedia, which currently has over five million articles in the English
edition alone. “Wiki” is the Hawaiian word for “fast” or
“quick.” You can put together your own
wiki knowledge base with
free software, and you can easily integrate your wiki into your
current website.

Other commercial software applications
are available, and you can
compare them on the Capterra website. As with any software selection, you
will have to consider your own needs and tastes, try them out, and
make your own decision. You will be able to find other software
reviews and recommendations online.

Final Arguments

If you are not yet convinced that you
need a knowledge base for an operation as small as yours, consider
this: You have a very knowledgeable and reliable employee or
colleague, and whenever you need an answer about the software or product
that you support, you can always go to him and find out what you need
to know. He is able to solve problems quickly and efficiently. Now,
suppose the scenario changes. Your go-to guy leaves the company or
is away for medical reasons. What do you do now?

The knowledge base that you start
today will gradually hold the sum of your organization’s technical
and institutional knowledge. You will be able to share it with
collaborators on the other side of the globe, and you will be able to
refer to it when dealing with similar issues in the future. You will
save time and money by developing this wealth of knowledge and making
it available to all who need it.

Conclusion

Developing a knowledge base will be a
fulfillment of the hopes of computing pioneers who looked to the day
when machines would be used as extensions of the human mind. In
J.C.R. Licklider’s
“Libraries of the Future,” he explored the capabilities of future machines
in recording and cataloging human cognitive activities. That day is
here. We would be unwise not to take advantage of it. (To learn more about Licklider, read
7 Computing Manifestos That Changed the World.)

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David Scott Brown

Throughout his career, David has worn many hats. He has been a writer, a network engineer, a world traveler, a musician.As a networking professional, David has had a varied career. David started out troubleshooting frame relay and x.25 with Sprint, and soon moved to Global One, the international alliance with Deutsche Telekom and France Telecom. Since then, he has worked for many national and multinational network providers and equipment vendors, including Sprint, Deutsche Telekom, British Telecom, Equant (Global One), Telekom Austria, Vodafone, o2/Telefonica, ePlus, Nortel, Ericsson, Hutchison 3G, ZTE, and Huawei.As a writer, David's portfolio includes technical articles, short stories,…