Building your best knowledge base

December 16, 2021

Every company has a “secret sauce”, a way to do things, a recipe (whether the team are aware or not). When the organisation is small things can be chaotic, processes may not be entirely defined and the team knowledge may not even be fully formed. However, when the size of your team (and/or your project) starts increasing, it is paramount to think of the best way to manage your knowledge base. Why is that? I will show you a few reasons:

  • When you onboard new members or swap them between teams, you need to have an effective way to explain to them how to do their best job and what the expectations are.
  • The more you grow, the more projects or products you will deliver to your customers. Consistency is key in this case, as it reduces errors whilst creating a good customer experience (they know what to expect and how things will run).
  • Things will go faster when you know what to do and how to do it. Error-free speed is one of the best features your organisation can have.
  • Only if you are able to formulate “how you do things” will you be in a position to introduce systems and automation to improve efficiency and reduce friction.
  • A good knowledge base will help scale and replicate your product and services. It is an essential ingredient for growth and volume.
  • It makes delegation easier, as everyone will be on the same page on the idea of how to perform tasks and establish relationships with both customers and providers.
  • A good knowledge base is also a “culture keeper”. By being able to document your values, your principles and your method people will understand better the context of the organisation.

Now, how can I best build my knowledge base? Well, I’m sorry to say — I bring no silver bullet and you will need to find your own way. However, I can think of a few principles behind a successful “know-how” repository:

  • Keep it alive. The worst knowledge base is the outdated one, as people lose trust and stop following it (which defeats its original purpose).
  • Keep it lightweight. If your system is heavy, dense and counterintuitive people won’t use it. Information should be easy to search for and use.
  • Make it collaborative. Let the entire team correct mistakes and suggest amendments. If you don’t, you will create a bottleneck and things won’t be maintained moving forward. 
  • Build a single source of truth. Sure, you may be able to use different platforms (Youtube, Github, Google docs…) but at the end of the day, all those references should be kept in a single place to avoid scattered information.
  • Make it accessible. Everyone in your organisation should be able to access this repository, so it’s important that you adapt it to their different needs.
  • Leverage multimedia. The information does not need to be boring. Sometimes a short video explains things in a better way. Sometimes perhaps a gif will show how to perform a task better than a long paragraph. 
  • Pursue automation. Systems like Notion or Confluence have an API that makes it way easier to push and pull data. The more you automate the easier it will be to keep things in sync whilst making people aware of the updates.

I'm very interested to understand how different organisations are building their knowledge base, so don't hesitate to stay in touch if you want to share!