One of the most straightforward, common-sense IT practices, self-service knowledge management can be difficult to implement properly. High-quality knowledge bases can reduce incoming service tickets, empower users to find solutions to their own, and even help spread some helpful IT knowledge around the office, potentially having a dramatic impact on the number of technology problems needing direct attention from help desk staff.
Conversely, poorly maintained knowledge bases could confuse users and create more issues than they solve. For any IT knowledge base to be useful, it needs consistent and planned upkeep to stay current, usable, and concise. With software, personnel, and hardware constantly changing over the life-cycle of any given database, clearly outlined procedures for knowledge base maintenance is needed.
Following a handful of simple, easy-to-follow guidelines will drastically improve how effective your knowledge base will be to your end-users.
Designate a Knowledge Base Administrator
First and foremost, assign someone with good organizational skills to have overarching control of the knowledge base. This person will be responsible for the database from a macro perspective; they will ensure that the information in the knowledge base is consistently updated, evaluate new or changing issues that need addressing, and have the final word on database administration. Having one person designated for this task will give your platform a cohesive direction. This is essential in creating a working database that end-users can take advantage of to solve their technical issues.
Databases without a clear administrator can quickly fall into disarray, with too many people pulling it in different directions, or not enough attention to stay relevant. Assigning one person with control over its development guarantees this doesn’t happen.
Database administrators will need to stay current on what’s needed in the knowledge base, regularly checking for new information that will be needed for future updates. Staying up-to-date on the issues generating support tickets will give the database a constant flow of new articles for end-users to take advantage of.
Set Guidelines for New Article Generation
Clear guidelines need to be set for when new information should be entered into the database. Help desk staff should have an easy avenue for flagging new issues for potential knowledge base implementation. Decide on what constitutes a frequent issue that should be given easy accessibility in your knowledge base. Setting rules for new article additions will greatly aid the database administrator in authorizing or requesting new content generation.
Be sure that help desk employees understand these guidelines!
Assign Knowledge Base Writers
While this seems obvious, knowledge base articles need to be written. They need to be easy to understand, concise, and, most importantly, they need to solve the problem they’re addressing. Long, drawn-out explanations with too much technical information will result in users ignoring the self-service knowledge base.
Pick several support staff or hire a technical writers to produce new articles for the database. Outline how these articles should be written, what formatting they should use, and have the database administrator ensure these guidelines are followed. Knowledgebase articles don’t need to be perfect technical manuals, but they do need to fulfill their intended purpose. As the knowledge base gets larger and larger, and more issues are added to it, having consistent writers that can be counted on to create working content will greatly improve knowledge base usability.
Have Clear Standards for Knowledge Base Articles
Since it’s likely that existing support staff will write knowledge base articles, create standards for article creation to increase efficiency in content generation. Here are some quick and simple tricks that can be used to help smooth the writing process:
- Clearly title knowledge base titles. This will improve end-user usability and also help direct the writing of the article itself.
- Create an easy-to-follow template. Templates are one of the easiest and most helpful tools for this task. Not only will simple templates result in consistency from article to article, but it will also greatly aid support staff in writing new content. It’s much easier to write when an outline is already present on the page!
- Use links in your articles. These can either be links to related articles or links to a glossary for tech terms that aren’t commonly known. Having links will improve readability and give users the option to get more information if it’s needed.
- Keep articles short. The shorter the article is, the more likely it is to only contain essential information for correcting the problem the user is having. This also reduces the amount of time the article will take to write.
Review New Articles
Test any new content before it reaches the live knowledge base. Have another member of the support staff or the administrator run through the article and ensure it fits all the above guidelines. After getting approval from someone with technical knowledge, test its use on someone who isn’t tech savvy. Pay close attention to any feedback given on the article. Not only will this help ensure that article can be used by the average person, the feedback gained can be used for future content generation. This information can then be used for specific content guidelines relevant to your company.
Thorough Knowledge Management is Key to Success
Following these simple guidelines will set your knowledge base up for success. With easy-to-understand, easy-to-write articles, employees on both sides of the company IT equation will find the knowledge base a powerful tool in their day-to-day activities.