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Your knowledge is an asset and the collective knowledge within your business is valuable. If part of your business is about providing support to clients, both internal or external, a well-maintained knowledge base is crucial to providing good service and maintaining the health of your brand. When you or a key staff member are unavailable, the information locked in that head is unavailable, too. How much trouble would your business be in if your staff couldn’t answer a particular question or fix a certain problem? A knowledge base allows you to put all that important information into an accessible, searchable format.
After 13 years in the IT sector, I’ve seen a range of helpdesk and knowledge management systems but it’s not just the IT sector that uses them. Any organisation that solves problems needs to store that collective knowledge to refer back to. It saves you reinventing answers to the same questions and it’s an effective training tool. Eventually, a well-maintained knowledge base can also service your client via online self-help. It’s relationship building, with brains!
Tips on Writing For Your Knowledge Base
Authoring knowledge base articles can seem like hard work but with a bit of guidance, even the most unwilling writer will see the benefits.
Here are a few of my best tips:
Keep it simple — This one seems obvious but is the most common mistake in technical documentation. Keep your words short and your sentences uncomplicated.
Minimise jargon — Some jargon and acronyms are acceptable for documentation used internally, but consider the new employee. Your knowledge base will benefit them most if you spell things out and at least provide a quick reference to commonly used acronyms. And if your documentation supports external clients, it (almost) goes without saying, that jargon and acronyms will often cause confusion. Best to stay away.
Be consistent — Format your knowledge base articles with consistency. The same basic black font all the way through with one other colour to highlight important points, makes for easy skim-reading.
Your knowledge base is an owner’s manual for your business. What tools do you use to manage your documentation?