By: jdevore on March 4th, 2013

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​SharePoint's Knowledge Base Software Won't Cut it

Succession Planning

sharepoint knowledge base

Thousands of organizations and teams use SharePoint as a knowledge base to manage their documentation — but that's a mistake.

I'm not saying SharePoint is a bad tool; on the contrary, it can practically do everything. However, not everybody knows what they want it to do, or how they want to use it — so it ends up being a shared drive where PDFs, Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, and PowerPoint presentations dwell. The contents of this drive sit there, gathering cyber dust, without helping anyone accomplish anything.

Using SharePoint as your knowledge base just won't cut. You need an actionable knowledge base.

What's an Actionable Knowledge Base?

There are knowledge bases, and there are actionable knowledge bases. A knowledge base is where everybody throws their white papers, training slides, Excel tools, and old on-boarding presentations. The information may be useful, but it's not very actionable.

Sure it might help to know what the big picture is for why insurance premiums are going up, but that doesn't help anybody when they're trying to update a customer's account.

That's exactly what an actionable knowledge base is — a place for storing information that helps your team perform tasks like updating customer accounts, creating invoices, creating a webinar, etc.

Organizations need to be building more actionable knowledge bases.


Why do I need an Actionable Knowledge Base?

If you aren't building an actionable knowledge base, then you'll never really be able to delegate tasks to other team members. Although you might be able to get away with standing over your teammate's shoulder, explaining every button they're supposed to click is not a foundation that you can grow your team on because it always requires interaction from you.

And if you're constantly answering questions, you can't focus on other, more important tasks. Nor can you ever take vacation, get sick, or grow into a new management role. You need another source from which your employees can obtain the information that they need — one that doesn't involve a lot of hands on attention.

Your team needs something to reference

Learning something new doesn't come by just hearing it once — it takes repetition. So when somebody is performing a task that's new to them, even if they were taught how to do it in a fancy training two months ago, questions will come up. Questions about the little details. And for those questions, you'll need material that's easy to reference.

If referenceable material isn't easily available, then either the task will be done incorrectly, or you'll be constantly answering questions as they come up.

It's not a scalable model.

How to build an Actionable Knowledge Base

Building an actionable knowledge base is easier than you might think. By following these tips and using software that makes it easy to create tutorials (i.e. NOT Word or SharePoint), you'll have an actionable knowledge base your employees can reference in no-time.

  1. Include tasks or events in your titles. This way employees can search for them much easier. For example, title something, 'How to Reset the Router.'
  2. Account for various scenarios. Examine the possible scenarios your employees will encounter on-the-job and account for them. Including decision trees can also be helpful for employees.
  3. Include screenshots where appropriate. A picture is worth one thousand words. Show your employees what it should look like.
  4. Include only the information that helps your employees perform the required action. If other information can be useful but isn't necessary, link to it. Keeping it simple keeps your employees efficient.

Avoiding document repositories and using an actionable knowledge base will inform, train and reinforce employees with on-the-job experience they can learn from.


Why is a document repository bad?

Remember how I said people need a reference-point when they're learning how to do something new? Well trying to find a reference in a document repository is awful. The one piece of information you need might be locked in a PowerPoint presentation that was given three years ago... on slide 201 of 276.

Nobody will look that hard for information in a SharePoint knowledge base , especially when they can just ping you over chat.

What will an actionable knowledge base do for me?

Find the right tool that has the following features:

  • Easy to build
  • Easy to search
  • Easy to update
  • Includes decision trees
  • Teaches how to do actionable tasks

And you'll have an amazing resource that will allow you to delegate tasks to others, spend less time explaining how to do work (i.e. training), bounce back from employee turnover, and FINALLY spend your vacation not checking your email every 10 minutes.

Next steps

If you are convinced that you need to invest in an actionable knowledge base then you should read our post, "Should I replace my Sharepoint Knowledge Base with ScreenSteps?" This will help you understand exactly how ScreenSteps can help you create an actionable knowledge base for your call center or internal operations team.


About jdevore

Jonathan (Jay) DeVore is the Director of Marketing at Blue Mango Learning Systems, developers of ScreenSteps. He graduated from Brigham Young University with a BS in Accounting, and is a licensed CPA in the state of Virginia. Right after graduation, he worked for his dad's private medical practice in Pasadena, CA auditing the efficiency of billing and collections. After 9 months of living in the golden state, he moved his family to Virginia to begin working at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). As an accountant at PwC, he actually did very little number crunching (which surprised him), and instead audited government information systems for compliance with government requirements (e.g. NIST 800-53). During his time with the Big 4 Accounting Firm, he helped large organizations improve their documentation both from a compliance perspective and instructional perspective. His favorite aspect of work was training/teaching, so when Greg and Trevor approached him with an opportunity to create educational content for ScreenSteps, he jumped at the chance. Jonathan lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and children, and enjoys the beautiful weather the D.C. area offers 9 months out of the year.