Internal knowledge base guide
Implement an internal knowledge base and share the gift of knowledge company-wide for higher employee satisfaction.
Last updated January 22, 2024
Your business is a treasure trove of information. But storing it across different inboxes, personal files, and within your mind doesn't benefit the company as a whole and can cause confusion, frustration, and inefficiencies on your team. Luckily, an internal knowledge base compiles all that information into a single platform and is accessible to anyone who needs it.
The right internal knowledge base (KB) software can empower your workforce to find solutions on their own. Learn how to create and use an internal KB for your company and how it can facilitate employee experience management.
In this guide, we’ll cover:
What is an internal knowledge base?
An internal knowledge base is precisely what it sounds like—a place for employees to reference company information. It’s like a digital library or encyclopedia of your business’s information, organized to make it easy for team members to find what they need quickly. An internal KB prevents employees from reaching out to colleagues for assistance with every question or digging through disorganized files.
What is the purpose of an internal knowledge base?
Similar to how customers benefit from an online knowledge base to learn about your product or service, employees also require an internal knowledge base to excel in their roles. Implementing a knowledge base focused on internal use helps ensure that all employees have access to the same information. Employees can use it as a self-service feature, eliminating the need to hunt around for what they’re looking for.
Where can a company create an internal knowledge base?
There are software programs designed exclusively for knowledge base functions and end-to-end software suites that offer internal knowledge base tools as an additional feature. When deciding how to set up a company knowledge base, you have two options for where the software tool operates:
On-premise software: Internal knowledge base tools are installed directly onto your computer hardware and run on your servers. These programs typically involve higher up-front costs and require devoted IT expertise to maintain and update the software as needed.
Software-as-a-service: SaaS programs run on the software provider’s servers, and users operate them through an internet browser or app.
The best option for your company will depend on your staffing requirements, infrastructure, and budget. Some free knowledge base software can provide basic tools to get you started, with the option to upgrade when needed.
Benefits of using internal knowledge base tools
A company knowledge base can benefit your operations in many ways. Here’s a rundown of some of the advantages the best internal knowledge bases offer:
What should be included in an internal knowledge base?
What to include in your company’s internal knowledge base is entirely up to you and the needs of your employees. Really think about what everyone needs to be as productive as possible. Here’s some of the most common information stored in a company’s internal KB:
Basic company information: location, operating procedures, website, safety policies, stock symbols, company announcements and newsletters, etc.
Onboarding and training: policies for new hires, onboarding paperwork and protocols, and training materials specific to each role.
Tech assistance: device and software setup, IT troubleshooting, tech stack information, security, etc.
Personnel directory: a comprehensive list of the chain of command, contact details, and team structures.
Calendars and events: important dates, company holidays, employee milestones, and team events.
Employee compensation and benefits: paystubs, medical and dental insurance coverage information, PTO policies, parental leave permissions, etc.
Department-specific information: team goals and statistics, processes, troubleshooting guides, etc.
Customer issue resolutions: a collection of the best answers to the most commonly asked customer questions, easy-to-follow instructions for fixing issues, and notes from other customer service reps.
How to create and structure an internal knowledge base
Using an internal knowledge base isn’t as simple as selecting a platform, importing all of your information, and letting the software do the organizing. You still need to determine a structure for how you will organize your information. Follow these steps to ensure information can be shared effectively and accurately throughout your organization.
1. Create an internal knowledge base strategy
When creating an internal knowledge base, take the time to determine which issues you want to solve and define the knowledge base’s overall scope. This includes identifying the types of information that should be captured, such as:
Consider how your knowledge management will assist with achieving organizational goals and what features it needs to do so.
2. Select an internal knowledge base tool
Selecting your business's internal knowledge base tool requires a systematic approach. Use the issues you identified when forming your KB strategy to determine which knowledge management tools to pursue.
Conducting thorough research and evaluating different knowledge base tools through demos or trials can help you assess their suitability. Additionally, seeking agent feedback can provide valuable insights. It is crucial to consider factors like:
Ease of use
Making a well-informed decision, by aligning the tool's capabilities with the company's requirements, will ensure an effective internal knowledge base implementation.
3. Designate internal knowledge base team roles
After deciding to integrate internal knowledge base software into your operations, assemble a dedicated team responsible for its creation and maintenance. This knowledge management team should consist of individuals who can effectively collaborate with employees across the organization, craft concise and accurate articles, and establish a systematic approach for regularly organizing and updating the information.
The role of a knowledge administrator or manager is to delegate the task of writing and managing all the company's information within the knowledge base. This person should comprehensively understand various departments within the organization and make informed decisions about granting access to internal information based on employee roles and responsibilities.
4. Create content hierarchy
You can structure an internal knowledge base in three ways based on your use case, goals, and audience. The first option is to structure it by department:
The second option is to structure it by role or user type:
The final option is to create sections based around frequently asked questions:
Some companies rely heavily on the KB’s search function to streamline finding answers. This strategy relies on having content optimized with keywords and tags that are likely to be used by your employees, just as a blog is optimized to appeal to search engines.
5. Evaluate content success
Sometimes, you’ll find that the most-viewed articles can either solve a problem or serve as a gateway to finding the solution. These articles guide users to another article that provides the solution to their specific issue, which is still helpful in its own way.
Do this by placing internal links throughout your articles, like a Wikipedia page. You can then track activity in your internal knowledge base to determine if the most popular knowledge base FAQ pages actually solve problems or if they’re simply a good jumping-off point.
How to choose the right internal knowledge base software
Internal knowledge base tools specialize in different applications. Here are some questions to consider when looking for the best software to suit your needs.
Who are you supporting?
The intended audience or users of the internal knowledge base software significantly influences the selection process. If your primary focus is supporting employees, you’ll need software that seamlessly integrates with your customer relationship management (CRM) tool or other existing internal systems. If the main goal is supporting HR or IT requests, use specialized internal knowledge bases that can support employee ticket requests.
If you also want to support your partners or vendors, you’ll need software with comprehensive access control. Note that while external parties need to find relevant information easily, you’ll still want to keep confidential information protected.
What are your goals?
The software you choose should align with your organization's objectives and help you achieve specific outcomes. If you aim to foster a culture of knowledge sharing and collaboration within the organization, you'll need software with features like co-authoring, commenting, and version control. If your goal is to improve training and development, look for software that supports video tutorials, structured learning paths, and integrations with e-learning platforms.
Is the software easy to scale?
Scalability directly impacts your ability to accommodate future growth and changing organizational needs. Whether you have more employees using the knowledge base, a growing team to manage it, or increased content hosting needs, the platform must expand with you. If a platform is rigid in its offerings and unable to grow, it can create pain points for customers and employees rather than solve them.
What is the total cost of ownership?
While the up-front cost of the software itself is important, it's equally vital to consider the long-term expenses associated with implementing and maintaining an internal knowledge base. Your total cost of ownership (TCO) will go up if the initial setup requires upgrading your infrastructure or hiring a system admin. Similarly, if it takes weeks to train your team and comes at an additional cost, it will affect your TCO.
What is the time to value?
Time to value refers to how long it takes to realize the benefits of implementing internal knowledge base software. Look for a solution that offers a straightforward setup process, user-friendly interfaces, and intuitive configurations. A quicker implementation and onboarding process means your employees can use the knowledge base sooner, accelerating how quickly they can adopt the new platform into their daily workflows.
Best practices for an internal knowledge base
When you start creating your business’s internal knowledge base, you might encounter growing pains as you discover what works and what doesn’t. Here are some tips to cut down on the learning curve so you can optimize the knowledge base faster.
Get feedback from employees
One of the most effective ways to enhance an internal KB is by actively seeking user feedback. Regularly surveying employees allows them to highlight areas where the system meets their expectations and where it falls short. Leveraging this valuable feedback allows for incremental improvements to the internal knowledge base.
Additionally, tracking analytics can provide valuable insights into the program's effectiveness. If customer service wait times remain unchanged after implementation, it may be necessary to strategize and optimize specifically within the customer service department to achieve desired results.
Make content easy to find
The less content you have to sift through to find your answer, the better. That’s why the simplest way to categorize your internal knowledge base is to divide it up by departments. For instance, you can have an internal KB for human resources, a separate one for customer service, another for sales, etc. The key is to organize the most relevant information for the intended user, keeping the knowledge base free from files and content they’ll never need to access.
Use SEO best practices
You can improve your content by implementing knowledge base SEO best practices that boost article visibility. Simple ways to optimize your internal content include:
Using relevant keywords to make specific articles easier to find
Avoiding creating duplicate or overlapping content
Including internal links to relevant articles to get answers faster
Adding clear headings and subheadings
Incorporating these best practices into your knowledge base can make it as easy for your employees to find resolutions as if they were using a public search engine.
Most content will come in the form of articles. When you’re just starting, you’ll probably write articles that provide simple answers to the most frequently asked questions. Your company knowledge base team will eventually create articles on related topics that get more and more focused.
Writing a separate article to describe each product would be tedious and time-consuming, but using article templates can cut down on the work. For example, you may have a line of products that are all very similar but have slight differences between each iteration. In those instances, pre-built templates can promote consistent messaging between articles.
Internal knowledge base FAQ
Read through these frequently asked questions on internal knowledge base software for additional information.
What is an example of an internal knowledge base?
An internal knowledge base can take different forms, but it is primarily recognized as a platform that facilitates knowledge collection and sharing within an organization. Examples of internal knowledge base software include:
Employee help center
Employee support portal
Standard operating procedures
What is the difference between an internal and external knowledge base?
The difference is in who has access. Your external knowledge base is for customer self-service or curious users who want to know more about your business, product, or service. For this reason, be careful not to post too much information in your external knowledge base—your competitors might be able to leverage it for their own use.
An internal knowledge base may contain some of the same information as your client portal, such as how the product works, how to troubleshoot, or what steps to take if something goes wrong. But your internal knowledge base will also contain data that your customers and competitors never need to know, like step-by-step guides on internal processes. Plus, internal KBs tend to have many more permissions settings, so you can control who can see what based on their role.
What is the internal knowledge base of a company?
The internal knowledge base is like a digital library or encyclopedia of your business’s information. Organize it in a way that makes it easy for team members to find what they need quickly.
Will you be able to measure how employees are using the internal knowledge base?
Yes. If you have an internal knowledge base with customer experience analytics and dashboard features, you should be able to view how your team uses it. This will let you measure the platform’s effectiveness and provide clues as to what can be further optimized.
Try internal knowledge base software for free
The Zendesk internal knowledge base software is intuitive and built for employees at all levels. Zendesk allows support teams to create a robust internal knowledge base that grows and improves over time, ensuring support agents always have quick access to the information they need.
Zendesk also helps you manage and streamline all employee support interactions in one organized location. Plus, our robust analytics and dashboards enable your HR and IT teams to make better decisions about what’s working well for your customers and employees.
Related internal knowledge base guides
Learn how other platforms can increase knowledge sharing and collaboration by reading these related resources.