3 Steps to Creating a Knowledge Base in SharePoint (That People Actually Use)

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Long ago, I spent some time at a global bank helping to manage the technology support desk’s knowledge base (KB) in a software system called ServiceNow. Our KB was full of technical guides, FAQs, process manuals, and outage alerts. Most of my time was spent going through old, obsolete articles and flagging them for clean-up, trying to track down metadata (e.g., who owns this? Who should maintain this? Who can tell me if this is still accurate, when it hasn’t been updated in years?) or straight up deleting documents that didn’t apply anymore (think Windows XP support, or an outage warning for a system update that happened years ago).

It was a nightmare. It’s also why I prefer SharePoint for my KBs.

A KB should store information to help the team perform tasks and answer questions. As a best practice, KBs should be easy to build, simple to maintain, searchable, and – above all else – useful. Don’t let your KB become a dumping ground for PDFs, Word documents, spreadsheets, and PowerPoint presentations to gather virtual dust.

Within SharePoint, you have several decent options for building a KB. I’ve known organizations that use document libraries for their KB, but inevitably some documents are never used, never looked at – and age into uselessness. This is the opposite of what we want! Another option is using a blog as a KB – an unorthodox approach that gives you categories, attachments, and clear ownership, but it’s a pain for regular maintenance or updates. Discussion boards are great for knowledge sharing, especially for a team that is trying to collaborate on a problem, but searching for a definitive answer can be impossible with no way to rank or prioritize search results. That’s why I love the Enterprise Wiki for KBs.

A wiki site creates a reference place for knowledge sharing in a web based, as opposed to document or spreadsheet based, format. Enterprise Wiki requires publishing features to be enabled, but allows page rating and metadata tagging, and wiki pages can include text, graphics, tables, or video. Like Microsoft Word, the formatting of content can be changed, users can reorganize or spell check content, insert and format tables, and embed graphics or video, all without leaving the wiki page.

Users can collaborate on wiki pages with other users, comment on a wiki page to enable discussion about the contents of the page, rate a wiki page to share opinions about its content, and categorize wiki pages to enable users to quickly find information and share it with others. To edit a wiki page, users must have the appropriate permissions to contribute to the page.

So, how do you create a wiki KB?

     1. Create the Wiki page on your existing SharePoint site (if you don’t have access, talk to an administrator).

     2. Set up a style guide so people who make edits are using a consistent format with accurate data. Style guides can include how to organize information, formatting article titles, headings, and sections, even preferred terminology or date format.

     3. Make updates until it looks like Wikipedia, as a huge, grand warehouse of useful information.*

*Note: Your wiki doesn’t have to look like Wikipedia.

Since editing a wiki and making updates is a meant to be an easily accomplished team effort, it’s fairly straightforward.

To edit a wiki, click Edit this page. A new screen will open with a Format Text ribbon at the top that has several features like Microsoft Word: the font style can be changed, spacing can be modified, bullets can be added, even headers set up. Spellcheck can also be used on this screen.

The Insert tab directly beside the Format Text tab also allows the import of a table, an image, a video file, the addition of a hyperlink, and more.

Type updates, add content, text, whatever you need. This can also be pasted directly from another source, like a Word document, and will (generally) keep the same formatting.

To add wiki links to other pages, type the name of the page surrounded by double square brackets: [[Page Name]]. For example, to add a wiki link to a page named "Project Page," type: [[Project Page]]. After typing [[, if the page exists, it appears on a list that the user can select and link to.

If the page that does not exist yet, a link can be created to the page anyway. Save changes by selecting Save on the Page tab. If you don’t want to save the changes, click Page, click the arrow under Save, click Stop Editing and then click Discard changes.

After saving the edited page, the placeholder link will have a dotted line beneath it. The actual page will be created later when someone clicks the link to the page.

Click Create, and a new edit screen opens. Just like the previous page, the new page can be edited, additional links created, and special formatting applied. When edits are complete, click to save the page or discard changes.

As a best practice, consider making your first page a style sheet or instructions, easily findable and referenced. Also (and as I’ve said before), nothing in SharePoint is meant to be a one-person show, so be sure to train your people to use it!

Last modified on Monday, 02 October 2017 18:23

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