If you’re reading this, you’re probably at the point where it’s time to organize all your company knowledge—and there are so many knowledge base vendors claiming to solve all your problems it might seem overwhelming.
Not to worry— this post, we’ll cover exactly what you need to know to make the best decision.
Start by assessing the content types you need
If you’re like most companies, you have essential documents you need to migrate over to your new KB software; you may also prefer to have other content types (like FAQs or wikis) available out of the box.
Although organizations generally use knowledge bases internally, if you’re at the stage where your knowledge needs to support customer channels—take a long hard look at what each vendor offers. You may need a knowledge management platform if you need to surface great knowledge in customer-facing channels—like the contact center.
It’s important to analyze your company’s specific needs when choosing the best knowledge base software.
If you only need to store confidential information for employees and team members to access, an internal knowledge solution like a knowledge base may be right for you.
Let’s start with the basics of knowledge base software and how it fits into a KM system.
The purpose of knowledge base software
At its core, knowledge base software helps businesses and organizations store and organize information to easily access and use by employees. A knowledge base fits into an organization’s knowledge management system (people, process, and technology) with the sole purpose of collecting and retrieving information that solves problems or answers questions.
Knowledge base software can store a variety of information, including:
- Product information
- Technical support information
- Customer service information
- Human resources information
- Marketing information
Knowledge base software comes in many different forms; some KB software is better suited for internal collaboration, some solutions better adhere to knowledge management best practices than others.
In general, knowledge bases may contain basic or advanced features that allow you to:
- Store and create a few basic content types
- Organize information so that it can be easily accessed
- Create a knowledge base or a FAQ section on a website
- Search for information using keywords
- Export information to a variety of formats
- Share information with others
Internal vs external knowledge base software
There are two main types of knowledge base software: internal and external. Internal knowledge base software is designed to be used by company employees; this software is commonly card-based and allows employees to easily collaborate. Private information should be stored in an internal knowledge base and not exposed in external channels.
In contrast, external knowledge base software is flexible enough to surface knowledge in some external channels as public information—although limitations typically exist.
Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages.
Internal knowledge base software
Internal knowledge base software is usually more expensive than external knowledge base software, and often falls into the team collaboration category.
Internal knowledge solutions like Confluence or Notion are designed for employee experience first, and knowledge is often stored and accessed within cards.
Internal KBs can also include features like access control, search, filtering, tagging, and other features that allow users to visualize knowledge to their preferences.
External knowledge base software
External knowledge base software help companies organize public-facing knowledge; this KB software falls into the support site category and includes articles, FAQs, and other simple external-facing content types out of the box.
A dedicated external knowledge base often lacks the content maintenance features of an internal knowledge base or knowledge management platform.
A simple knowledge base buyer’s guide
There is no one-size-fits-all knowledge base solution. However, there are a few key factors to consider to determine what KB software is right for your organization.
Below are a few steps to follow as you begin your buyer’s journey.
1Define your organizational needs for a knowledge base
Start by analyzing your company’s knowledge needs.Here are a couple of questions to answer:
- Where do you need knowledge?
- What knowledge solution(s) are in place you can replace?
- What’s the main use case for the purchase?
- Would you create another knowledge silo to manage?
You also need to analyze the content that will be stored in the knowledge base. If you have highly technical content, you will need software to handle and properly organize this type of information.
If you have more general content, you may not need as many features and functionality; a less expensive software may be more appropriate.
2Prioritize usability and ease of use
One of the most important factors to consider when choosing a knowledge base software is its usability and ease of use.
Simply put: don’t expect users to adopt your new knowledge base if existing alternatives are easier to use.
Review sites like Capterra and G2 offer plenty of knowledge base recommendations (in a ton of different categories). Look for vendors with high user adoption and look for user feedback that highlights ease for use.
The last thing you want is to select a vendor that seems easy to use on paper (but actually isn’t).
If you are already in the vendor evaluation process (or intend to be), here are a few things to remember.
- Good knowledge base software should be easy to use and navigate —Users should be able to find the information they need, a clunky search experience will ruin the experience. Any good KB software should include a user-friendly interface that makes adding, editing, and deleting content simple.
- Ensure the knowledge base software you choose is easy to use and install —If IT help will be needed for a successful implementation, get these requirements upfront. Take the time to ask about content migration and onboarding.
- Ensure the knowledge base can support your workforce —If you will eventually need to support a large number of users, ensure the product can handle growth and includes the user permissions you need. If you have a small organization, an entry-level KB may suffice for a while. If you are already an enterprise organization (and support thousands of B2C customers) you’re probably past the knowledge base stage.
3Determine if you need a KB for internal or external usage
Will the knowledge base software be used internally by your team members and only them? Will it store confidential information that should only be accessed by the company and its employees? If so, you may only need an internal knowledge base.
However, external usage is needed if the knowledge is to be shared with contact centers, support teams, or even directly with customers. Typically in this situation, a knowledge management platform works best.
Be sure to check out our post, What is a Knowledge Management System? A Clear Explanation for a complete breakdown of how a knowledge base compares to a knowledge management platform or knowledge repository.
4Do your research
Once you collect the requirements for your next knowledge base, take time to do your research or even trial the product. Checking out reviews is also a great way to understand any struggles or successes similar companies.
The knowledge base vendor you choose should offer a wide range of features to help your business needs specifically.
Some of the most important features to look for include:
- A searchable database of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and answers. This can be a valuable resource for both customers and customer support staff, as it can help reduce the number of support inquiries.
- Guided workflows to help guide people through complicated processes
- Ability to integrate knowledge into the agent desktop
- Ease of use and intuitive navigation. Customers and employees should be able to find the information they need quickly and easily without having to search through a confusing or cluttered interface.
Industry research reports
You should also check out industry research reports. They provide insights into the industry’s trends, challenges, and opportunities, and you can use them to inform business decisions. You can use industry research reports to assess the competitive landscape, understand customer needs and preferences, and develop marketing and sales strategies.
Based on the insights you discover within the reports, you can determine which type of knowledge base will be most beneficial for your organization.
Many of these reports compare similar solutions (more in-depth than review sites) if you are having a hard time narrowing down your list.
5Begin an RFP process
An RFP (request for proposal) is a formal document that businesses or other organizations use to solicit proposals from vendors for products or services. In the case of knowledge base software, an RFP typically outlines the organization’s needs and requirements for a knowledge management solution and asks vendors to submit proposals outlining how their products or services can meet those needs.
The RFP process for knowledge base software can be broadly broken down into four main stages: research, solicitation, evaluation, and selection.
- Research: Before issuing an RFP, it is important to first do your homework and understand the different options available on the market. This includes reading trade publications, conducting online research, and talking to other businesses that have implemented similar solutions.
- Solicitation: Once you have a good understanding of the different options available, you can then begin drafting your RFP. This document should include a detailed description of your organization’s needs and any specific requirements you may have.
- Evaluation: Once you have received responses back from vendors, it’s time to evaluate them. This includes comparing the different proposals side-by-side and conducting demonstrations or test drives of the software.
- Selection: After careful evaluation, select the knowledge base software that best meets your organization’s needs. This decision should be based on factors such as cost, functionality, and support.
Select a knowledge base that will enable growth
Knowledge base solutions seem to be everywhere these days, and most are quite helpful for small businesses. Some can surface knowledge internally, others have a few more integrations to offer.
No matter the knowledge base vendor you choose, look for those that follow knowledge management best practices—solutions that make categorization easy, those with intuitive tagging capabilities. Your employees will thank you!