Jonathan DeVore

By: Jonathan DeVore on June 22nd, 2022

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Knowledge Manager: Who Should Own Your Knowledge Base?

Having a knowledge base is a huge step to centralizing your company’s information. However, without a person appointed to manage your knowledge base, your knowledge base could quickly become obsolete.

Policies and procedures are constantly changing. If no one takes ownership of keeping your knowledge base up-to-date, then your knowledge base quickly becomes outdated. Essentially, your knowledge base could become another system that sits collecting dust.

You need to designate someone to “own” your knowledge base.

As Director of Transformational Services at ScreenSteps — a knowledge base software company — I’ve coached many knowledge management professionals on best practices for managing their company knowledge base.

While most of the people I work with have different titles, they are all responsible for managing their company’s knowledge base.

But, when you are starting out your knowledge base (or looking to improve your knowledge base), you don’t always have that person in place.

In this blog post, I’m going to explain who should manage your company’s knowledge base. I’ll share some of the qualities and skills that make a good knowledge base manager as well as provide a list of responsibilities for the person you choose.

What is a knowledge manager?

A knowledge manager (or knowledge base manager) is an employee designated to ensure employees have access to the company information they need to do their jobs.

The role of a knowledge manager is to “own” the knowledge base. This means they maintain the health of the knowledge base by using best practices. They oversee documentation and the distribution of that knowledge.

A knowledge manager encourages employees to use the knowledge base in their day-to-day work and ensures the knowledge base is a reliable resource for employees.

At ScreenSteps, we call your knowledge base manager your Knowledge Champion. That’s because a knowledge manager is an advocate for your knowledge base. They champion accurate information to support your end-users.

When should you hire a knowledge manager?

The time to hire a knowledge manager is kind of a chicken and egg situation.

You could hire a knowledge manager before you get a knowledge base. The benefit of hiring prior to purchasing knowledge base software is they can help you research and select the best software. Plus, they may have recommendations and be familiar with specific software systems that would help you implement your software.

Or, you could hire a knowledge manager after selecting your knowledge management software. This works if you already have software that works for your company. It also works if you have already completed the research and know what you want for your business.

Of course, every business is different. Either way, it is helpful to have someone who will own the knowledge base (or other knowledge management software) before you launch. That prevents things from getting out of order in your knowledge base in the first few months post-launch.

Some common milestones in your business that warrant getting a knowledge manager include:

  • When you are purchasing knowledge base software or knowledge management software
  • When you are acquiring/merging new companies
  • When you expect your company to grow
  • When you have high employee turnover

Is this a full-time position?

Ideally, your knowledge manager will be able to focus all of their attention on maintaining a knowledge base. As you’ll see from the list of responsibilities below, there is a lot for a knowledge manager to do in day-to-day operations.

If you don’t have the budget to designate someone full-time to manage your knowledge base, you can have someone dedicate half of their time to knowledge management. Then the other half can be split with other responsibilities.

For example, they could help with the customer support team.

However, it is essential that you prioritize maintaining the knowledge base. It is easy to let other tasks and responsibilities cut into your knowledge managers’ knowledge base time. Don’t let that happen! If you don’t prioritize maintaining your knowledge, your support articles will easily become outdated and inaccurate.

Who makes a good knowledge manager?

A good knowledge base manager can come from a variety of different backgrounds.

It helps that your knowledge manager knows your company. They know what you do. They know the ins and outs of how you operate. They know your culture.

It can be helpful to promote someone within your company to step into the knowledge manager role. Some backgrounds that translate to a good knowledge manager include:

  • IT manager
  • Learning and development managers
  • Operations manager
  • Enablement managers
  • Program managers

7 qualities and skills of a good knowledge manager

A good knowledge base manager has a wide range of skills. Many of these are soft skills.

While it may be difficult to find someone with all of these skills, this list of seven qualities and skills will help you know what to look for in your knowledge manager candidates.

1. Interpersonal skills

Your knowledge manager needs to have good professional interpersonal skills and be good at building their internal network within your organization.

The knowledge manager will need a good relationship with operations managers and supervisors. That’s because they will need to talk to these subject matter experts (SMEs) to hear about where the knowledge and learning gaps are.

Where are people struggling with their job? Where are mistakes being made?

Your knowledge manager is the keeper of all your company’s information, so they need to be interacting with every department.

2. Project management skills

Being a knowledge manager means overseeing a bunch of small tasks. The bigger project is the maintenance of your knoweldge base and/or other knowledge management tools you use. Otherwise, there is daily articles updates and tasks to tend to.

They need to be detailed-oriented to keep up with all the deadlines. They need to be process-oriented to keep things organized. But, at the same time, they need to be flexible as emergency updates and new articles pop up.

With all these moving pieces, they need to be good about balancing and prioritizing their time with these different tasks.

3. Technologically savvy

This doesn’t mean your knowledge manager needs to be in IT (but they can). When we say technologically savvy, I mean that they know the basics of cloud-based software and authoring on a website.

The learning curve is higher if you hire someone that struggles with the basics of online applications and word processing. So, it is helpful if your knowledge manager has a base for knowledge management software.

4. Communications skills

Communications skills are essential for knowledge manager for many reasons.

First, it helps your knowledge manager interview SMEs. Then they can translate those interviews into easy-to-understand guides.

Second, having strong communications skills helps your knowledge manager share changes, updates, and new articles with your team. They know best how to notify your end-users about the knowledge base.

5. Documentation and writing skills

While they don’t need to be a Pulitzer-prize writer, it helps if your knowledge manager has writing skills. More specifically, you want them to be able to take information and condense it down into simple steps.

Typically, you DON’T want your knowledge manager to be a technical writer. They are writing guides that you need everyone on your team — from top executives to frontline workers — to understand.

Documentation and writing skills help them write clear policies, standard operating procedures (SOPs), and other help guides that are easy for your end-users to follow.

These documentation skills go beyond writing. Part of documenting is formatting documents in a clear manner so that things are easy to read. That means knowing when they need to include screenshots and images, when to use indendentations or bolding to make phrases pop, etc.

🔎 Related: ​​11 Best Practices For Writing Knowledge Base Articles

6. End-user centric

Going along with having writing and documenting skills, your knowledge manager needs to be end-user centric.

A strong rule in writing is “Know your audience.” You probably heard that phrase repeated over-and-over in your high school writing classes. That’s because knowing your audience helps you provide the right information and use the language that best communicates with that reader.

You need to be able to discern what the end-user requires to succeed in completing tasks. It that a step-by-step instruction, including screenshots? Is that a table they can quickly skim for information? Or something else?

7. Analytical mind

Finally, a key skill for your knowledge manager to have is an analytical mind. Your knowledge manager needs to monitor usage and hold people accountable. They need to know how to read knowledge base reports and how to use that information to make important changes.

Fair warning: This is probably the most challenging aspect of being in charge of the knowledge base.

Role of your knowledge manager (7 responsibilities)

What does your knowledge base manager need to be able to do? Here’s a look at seven of the day-to-day tasks and responsbilities.

1. Manage the knowledge base

First and foremost, your knowledge manager is in charge of the overall health of your knowledge base. That means your knowledge base is up-to-date, accurate, and available for all your end-users.

For an internal knowledge base, the knowledge manager ensures employees have the the appropriate permissions so they can access the articles and resources they need. These can be viewing or writing permissions.

Ultimately, the knowledge a manager wants to create an internal Google for your company or a specific department.

2. Encourage knowledge base usage

The knowledge base is meant to be used, so it’s your knowledge manager’s responsibility to encourage your employees to reference your knowledge base.

Your knoweldge manager will reiterate that employees need to use the knowledge base as the first resource for finding answers to questions. Employees are held accountable for using the knowledge base.

3. Identify learning gaps

Are you missing any guides? Are your employees getting stuck?

As much as you try, it’s difficult to identify every article you need to write for your knowledge base before launching it. Plus, new needs come up as your company grows and changes.

Through usage reports and talking to end-users, your knowledge manager can figure out what answers your end-users can’t find in your knowledge base.

4. Identify experts and extract knowledge for experts

When your knowledge manager identifies missing articles, they will need to interview SME experts before writing the article.

Your knowledge manager needs to be integrated with your company so that they can identify the SMEs who have the needed knowledge.

Then the knowledge manager need to be good at extracting the needed knowledge from those experts. That could look like interviewing the SME, recording employees doing their job, or asking the experts to create job aids.

5. Create employee support guides

Beyond gathering information, your knowledge manager also creates the help guides. They capture new knowledge. Then they curate content so that end-users have answers at their fingertips.

They need to be good at turning the experts’ knowledge into easy-to-use guides that people can use. This could include step-by-step guides, checklists, reference tables, or interactive guides.

6. Communicate changes to your knowledge base

Your policies and procedures are constantly changing. Your knowledge base articles need to be updated with those changes.

Whenever your knowledge manager publishes changes to your knowledge base, they need to notify your team. This makes sure everyone is aware of changes and using the appropriate guide.

7. Monitor usage and audit your knowledge base

The knowledge manager regularly reviews your knowledge base for areas of improvement.

Are there areas where end-users are struggling? Is there a guide that is confusing the end-user? Are things up to date?

Your knowledge manager uses analytics and reports to know how your end-users are using your knowledge base. Then they translate those findings to make improvements to your articles and knowledge base.

Get your knowledge manager started on the right foot with expert guidance

Selecting the right knowledge manager for your company can be challenging. It’s an essential role and the knowledge manager is the keeper of all your company’s information. When you know what to look for, it helps you make the best selection.

Sometimes the right candidate doesn’t have all the right skills, but the are a great fit for your company. They just need a little help getting your knowledge base started.

With ScreenSteps, we offer content workshops and content coaching. In the Content Workshop, your knowledge manager and team of experts are provided directions on how to launch a successful knowledge base.

(You don’t even need to have a ScreenSteps knowledge base to do a Content Workshop with our content experts.)

Explore the content workshop and coaching options. If you want help knowing how to manage and optimize your knowledge base, talk to a ScreenSteps expert to see which workshop or coaching option is best for your company.

Talk to a ScreenSteps Rep

About Jonathan DeVore

Customer Success