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Understanding knowledge management

Understanding knowledge management

Aside from your employees, company knowledge is your organization’s most valuable asset. If yours is like most, the amount of […]


Category: Content governance

Understanding knowledge management

Understanding knowledge management

Aside from your employees, company knowledge is your organization’s most valuable asset. If yours is like most, the amount of knowledge accumulated over the years seems to grow exponentially until systems become bloated with duplicate and outdated information.

Traditionally, knowledge management was haphazard and siloed, with few auditing processes in place. AI-driven technology to the rescue! RFPIO’s Content Library is an AI-powered knowledge management database that helps democratize and organize information, benefiting anyone who needs it.

What is knowledge management?

Knowledge management is about managing a company’s content repository policies, practices, and pretty much anything that is valuable enough for the company to keep. There are several ways to capture, share, and organize knowledge. Knowledge management is about organization, but it’s also about sharing, along with the process of recording and retaining. 

If you are unsure about the importance of a knowledge management system, read how one of the most technologically advanced organizations in the world dropped the knowledge management ball, with ramifications that still reverberate, half a century later

Did you know that the main reason NASA stopped sending crewed missions to the moon is poor knowledge management? If that sounds implausible to you, we don’t blame you. 

In the late 1960s-early 1970s, the United States invested billions of dollars and tapped into some of the brightest minds on the planet toward creating the Apollo missions. 11 iterations in, and several years later, U.S. Astronaut Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. The entire world was rapt.

After that, it seemed we might be on our way to regular, perhaps even civilian, trips to the moon. But suddenly, in 1972, the Apollo missions stopped, and we haven’t sent a crew to the moon in the 50 years since. Why? Well, in large part because they forgot to write things down.

Indeed, this is an oversimplification. Other factors, such as more advanced materials and technology, made replicating the Apollo crafts difficult. And Apollo blueprints aren’t exactly single-paged documents. However, even NASA admits that its knowledge management failure hurt future projects. 

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory CKO David Oberhettinger recalls, “No one thought to keep a copy of the drawing and design data for the gargantuan Saturn 5 rocket that brought us to the moon.”

Today, thankfully, NASA takes knowledge management very seriously. They have managed to recreate much of the technology, but the design for the Saturn 5 rocket is gone.

Your company might not be in business to send people to the moon, but as with NASA, moving forward sometimes means looking backward. Not only does company knowledge help you learn from your successes and failures, but it also helps forge a path toward the future. Can effective knowledge management help you avoid Apollo-sized failures?

Obstacles to a knowledge management system

People are often reluctant to share or may take for granted that the knowledge is already public, at least among stakeholders. Some people are more deliberate and have somewhat of an old-school mindset—that if they share too much knowledge, it will make them expendable.

How to encourage company buy-in

Minds don’t change overnight, and neither do work habits. The best approach is gradual. Don’t immediately change everything. Instead, record and organize what you’re doing for processes and how knowledge managers will be able to access information from multiple repositories across the company.

Pitch why it’s essential, such as simplifying the training process. Emphasize that intelligent knowledge management will save their time and keep them from having to pester subject matter experts (SMEs) by eliminating the need to ask for answers to questions the SMEs have already addressed.

What are the three types of knowledge management?

Knowledge management generally encompasses three main types of knowledge: tacit, implicit, and explicit. What are the differences?

Tacit knowledge

Tacit knowledge is as it sounds. It’s the knowledge that comes from years of experience but might not be easy to put into words. Still, the majority of company knowledge is in tacit form. 

Tacit knowledge might include negotiation skills, creative thinking, or knowing the company tone and voice in written correspondence. Because tacit information is by definition difficult to record, it’s best passed on through training, trial and error, and mentorship.

Additionally, tacit knowledge helps position people as industry thought leaders who can communicate with others in the industry on equal footing. 

Implicit knowledge

Have you ever tried to teach basic computer skills to someone who has never used a computer? It can be frustrating to both parties. Implicit knowledge is expertise that comes through training or practice to the point where you no longer have to think about what you’re doing. It can also refer to individual preferential processes. 

For example, how you start your workday—boot up the computer, check emails, check the calendar, etc.—might come from implicit knowledge if it’s a habit. Another example might be how you approach SMEs or make entries into the Content Library.

As with tacit knowledge, implicit knowledge is difficult to record, but it’s not impossible. Implicit knowledge is best passed along through training, which might include 1-to-1s or videos. It’s important to realize that not everyone is elbows deep in your day-to-day tasks, so thoroughness and patience are critical, as they are when you teach someone to use a computer.

Explicit knowledge

When most people think of knowledge management, they think of explicit knowledge. Explicit knowledge is written or otherwise documented, and easily stored in a knowledge database. 

Examples of explicit knowledge include profit and loss statements, your company’s mission statement, compliance documents, employee handbooks, etc. 

An effective management system should provide combined access to all types of knowledge across all organizational levels, especially since tacit and implicit knowledge can disappear after the knowledge holders leave the organization.

Both tacit and implicit knowledge become explicit when recorded. 

Why is effective knowledge management important?

According to a McKinsey survey, interaction workers spend about ⅕ of their time trying to locate internal information. The same study found that searchable knowledge bases can reduce that time spent by as much as 35%.

An IDC study found that around half of a data professional’s time is lost to improper knowledge management:

  • On average, employees who manage or use data spend 14 hours per week on data they can’t find, protect, or prepare.
  • They spend about 10 hours per week building information that already exists.
  • About 80% of businesses say that accessible, searchable, and accurate information is vital for operational efficiency, policy compliance, risk reduction, regulatory compliance, and increased revenue.

A well-developed, well-maintained knowledge management system has several tangible and not quite as tangible—but still key—benefits, including:

  • Improved efficiency – A well-managed knowledge management system eliminates redundancies, saves time searching for information, and generally empowers employees to do their jobs.
  • Retention of organizational expertise – People within companies have decades of information and historical data in their heads. Retaining the expertise helps prevent repeating mistakes of the past and contextualizes current actions and processes. 
  • Facilitates collaboration – A democratized knowledge management system helps tear down silos by letting people from anywhere in an organization access needed documents or other information for maximum collaboration. 
  • Enables data-driven decisions – A well-maintained knowledge database tracks changes within an organization. It even provides knowledge managers with the tools to see how much a particular part of the repository is used, how much things are utilized and not utilized, where there are knowledge gaps, etc.
  • Reduces the risk of a data breach – A single source of truth should have consistent security processes, such as two-factor authentication. Administrators should also control access. Browser-based access, as is available with RFPIO, lets employees access the knowledge base from anywhere without logging onto the company server.
  • Increases revenue – Accessible company knowledge empowers revenue teams to provide the information customers need and close more deals faster.

See how Crownpeak saw a 6x ROI within months of implementing RFPIO

What should be included in knowledge management systems?

Of course, every company defines critical knowledge differently, but there are some things that every organization should house in a secure, well-maintained company knowledge base. Some information might be closely-guarded, and some might be publicly available. Here are some examples:

  • Company information – Company history, mission, values, public product information vs. what’s on the roadmap for the future. Policies such as diversity, equity, inclusion, etc.
  • Sales enablement material – Product info, processes, sales cycles, relevant data, quotas, busy/slower seasons, customer service information, etc.
  • Internal FAQs – General HR questions, benefits, PTO, policies, product information, customer-facing information, mission values, etc.
  • Customer-facing FAQs – Values, mission, history, products and bundles, diversity, equity, inclusion, philanthropy, case studies, notable customers, etc.
  • Calendars – Major events of importance, quarterly all-hands, meetings from the CEO, events throughout the year, quarterly deadlines, sales cycle, etc. 
  • Marketing documents – Branded and ready-to-go content, brochures, case studies, logos, etc.
  • Product information – Historical and up-to-date versions of the product(s); some include product roadmaps, lists of subject matter experts, product onboarding and training materials, etc. 
  • Security information – Security policies and practices, depth of protection, due diligence questionnaires (DDQs), compliance information, etc.

Types of knowledge management systems

There are two main types of knowledge management systems, corporate wikis and internal knowledge bases. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. 

Corporate wiki

A corporate wiki is a lot like Wikipedia. A wiki is truly democratized; anyone in the company can add to it or edit it. Corporate wikis shouldn’t house confidential information. 

Benefits of a corporate wiki

  • Enables increased employee engagement
  • Open source
  • Searchable

Downsides to a corporate wiki

  • Unreliable contributors and information
  • Difficult to audit
  • No defined page roles

Internal knowledge base software

Internal knowledge base software provides a controlled repository for information. It has defined access and page roles, and the content is generally reviewed for quality, accuracy, and timeliness.

Benefits to an internal knowledge base

An effective organizational knowledge management system should feature centralized accessibility, reusability, and efficiency. Intelligent knowledge management systems also include AI-powered automated response generation, real-time access, and auditing features. 

Knowledge management ensures that content is accessible and shareable within an organization and that there’s a clearly defined process for discovering and capturing knowledge. There are formal and informal ways of managing knowledge. Knowledge managers should look at what is being shared and what they need to capture.

How to develop a knowledge management strategy

Tools do not in themselves motivate people to share knowledge; however, a knowledge management strategy can support a cultural shift around sharing knowledge. Here are some steps for implementing a knowledge management strategy:

Identify organizational objectives

A knowledge management strategy should contribute to overall organizational goals, including organization objectives, culture, infrastructure, processes, etc. 

You can also break down your knowledge management practices, such as discovery, capture, organization sharing, etc.

Audit your current knowledge processes

Evaluating your current knowledge management system is necessary for benchmarking knowledge management capabilities. 

Questions you might ask to gain key insights into processes include: 

  • How effectively is knowledge currently accessed?
  • Where is knowledge presently stored?
  • Where do informational silos exist?
  • What gaps would exist if subject matter experts left and took their expertise with them?
  • What are common search terms?

Some information, such as company history, may be static, while other company knowledge needs regular updating. Setting regular—preferably automated—review cycles for existing data is essential. 

Capture and organize knowledge

As the saying goes, prevention is the best medicine. The same is true for knowledge management. Organizing knowledge as it goes into the database provides better searchability and optimized audit cycles. The best tactics for systematically codifying knowledge include:

  • Adding tags
  • Using templates for consistent formatting
  • Setting up custom fields and collections
  • Using filters for moderation
  • Restricting sensitive content visibility

Implement an accessible knowledge base

People often resist change, even if that change dramatically improves their work processes. The same is true with a knowledge management system. Rather than shock the company ecosystem, take it slowly. Tactics for rolling out a knowledge management system include: 

  • Establishing clear and transparent buy-in from departments – Include department heads in onboarding processes
  • Introducing the system to one department at a time for gradual expansion
  • Prioritizing departments in greatest need – For many companies, those in most need include revenue teams
  • Scheduling training for all users

Conduct regular audits

Advanced knowledge management systems are robust and intuitive, but when there are 1,000s of somewhat different answers to a single question, you might find yourself combing through them all. 

But a knowledge base is supposed to save you time, right? It will, but like a garden, it needs regular pruning—we suggest monthly. Here are some of the content auditing best practices:

  • Conduct a duplicate report and delete or warehouse duplicate content.
  • RFPIO’s Content Library allows auditors to pull insights reports to see how often content is used. Archive any content that hasn’t been used in the last year.
  • Archive content that hasn’t been used at all.

Measure improvement

There are many intangible benefits to knowledge base software, such as better collaboration, fewer mistakes, higher quality proposal responses, less frustration on the part of SMEs, better engagement, etc. But executives generally want to see more. They want numbers. 

Scheduling regular Content Library health reports can assist in demonstrating ROI to stakeholders.

Fortunately, RFPIO’s internal knowledge base software capabilities allow for easy, quantifiable measurements of post-implementation success through a wide range of reporting features, including:

  • Content Library Insights Report – Track trends, win/loss analysis, etc. Content Library reporting is almost limitless.
  • Content Library Timeline – Are you meeting customers’ timelines or your deliverables?
  • Content Library Search Terms Report – What are frequently used search terms?
  • Projects – Which projects are currently being worked on and which are on hold?
  • User activity – Which employees benefit from which content, and what content do they use?

RFPIO’s reporting features are fully customizable if the pre-built reporting features don’t cover all of your company’s needs. 

Breaking down silos: How RFPIO can help

Farm country, as you’ve probably witnessed, is dotted with grain silos. Silos are effective at storing grain because they’re insular—there’s little chance of contamination or leakage. That’s great for grain but not so much for companies.

Unfortunately, many companies, intentionally or not, work in solos. Departments are isolated, and any knowledge they create stays with them. RFPIO addresses the barriers that keep people from effectively sharing knowledge, including:

  • Not enough time – You have too much going on to provide information to people who you don’t even know. With RFPIO’s Content Library, they can find it themselves.
  • Cumbersome processes – RFPIO’s Content Library lets you customize and streamline your operations.
  • Outdated relevancy – The Content Library helps you conduct periodic audits to keep content fresh and accurate.
  • Lack of trustworthy source – User permissions help ensure content reliability.
  • Inaccessibility – The RFPIO Content Library is open to any stakeholder in the company. RFPIO® LookUp provides access from any browser.
  • Lack of collaboration – Desiloing helps encourage collaboration.

Dynamic Content Library

Your company might send people to the moon, but your accumulated company knowledge is vital for your future. Knowledge hygiene, or ensuring your knowledge base is accurate, de-duplicated, and current, helps ensure that employees aren’t running around like proverbial headless chickens as they try to locate the tools to do their jobs. 

Easy Collaboration

Most company knowledge is hard to define as company knowledge since it exists inside people’s heads. RFPIO’s collaborative software facilitates sharing implicit and tacit information with tools to tap into experts’ minds. 

  • In-app mentions – Tag collaborative partners with a simple @mention, right inside the RFPIO app. 
  • Messaging app integrations – RFPIO seamlessly integrates with all the most popular messaging apps, such as Google Hangouts, Jira, Microsoft Teams, and Slack.
  • Task assignment capabilities – Assign tasks and track project status in real-time with advanced project management tools.
  • Eliminates the differences between formats – Whether your information is on a spreadsheet, a document, or a PDF file, RFPIO supports full searching and collaborative capabilities.

Integrations

We get that tech stacks sometimes grow out of control, and users having to check multiple apps throughout the day is a hassle. RFPIO seamlessly integrates with more than two dozen of the applications you already use. 

Discover how sales teams can benefit from a streamlined and effective modern tech stack

Additionally, RFPIO® LookUp allows for quick access to the most up-to-date information from any web-based software, such as Salesforce, Slack, Google Docs, etc. If you have a web browser, you can access RFPIO’s Content Library.

Manage smarter knowledge with internal knowledge base software

If your knowledge management system contains out-of-date or inaccurate information, is siloed inside departments or inaccessible applications, or if you don’t have a knowledge management system at all, schedule a free demo.

 

Company wiki: How to decide if it’s right for your business

Company wiki: How to decide if it’s right for your business

A prospect sends over a question and you know you’ve answered it before. You already took time getting the answer just right. Now you either have to dig through old emails and notes, or try to recreate that answer. Either way, you’re wasting time duplicating work.

That’s frustrating from an individual perspective, but consider how many other employees have gone through this exact same process—some for that same question. In a recent analysis, Asana found that employees spend over four hours a week on this kind of duplicate work.

One way to get some of that time back is a company wiki.

What is a Company Wiki?

A company wiki, sometimes called a corporate wiki or business wiki, is a type of software that serves as a central repository of company knowledge. It works much like Wikipedia, the most widely known wiki example, in that anyone in the company can contribute. Employees can add articles as new information arises and questions come up, and can edit the information already there to improve accuracy.

54% of professionals said they spend more time searching for documents and files they need than responding to emails and messages. Wakefield Research

4 Benefits of a Corporate Wiki

1. It saves time.

Every minute an employee spends on a work task is one the company’s paying them for, so efficiency matters. In a survey by Wakefield Research, 54% of professionals said they spend more time searching for documents and files they need than responding to emails and messages. A wiki gives employees a faster way to find the information they need, giving them back time for work that’s more valuable.

2. It makes knowledge creation democratic.

Anyone at the company can add information to the wiki, or update an article to improve accuracy. A wiki isn’t a top-down approach. Information about products, processes, and common customer questions can come directly from the people whose jobs are most connected to that knowledge.

3. It enables knowledge sharing.

Someone in your company has written the best possible response to a common question. That response shouldn’t get lost once they press “send” on an email. A wiki allows you to capture every valuable piece of knowledge someone in the company produces so that others can take advantage of it.

4. It supports employee onboarding.

Finding the right candidates is always a challenge, but harder in 2022 than usual. When you find the right hire, you don’t want to lose them. Yet many companies fail to start the relationship right, with 58% of respondents in a Nintex survey saying they’ve encountered broken onboarding processes. 55% specifically mentioned issues accessing the tools and documents required to do their jobs. A well organized wiki collects the main training materials they need in one place so they can start doing their jobs faster.

How Can Companies Use a Company Wiki?

A company wiki can benefit employees across departments. For the customer support team, it provides a central repository of the best responses to common customer questions and issues. For the sales team, it can be a good place to store up-to-date sales enablement materials that make it easier to close deals. And as already mentioned, it’s a great place to keep the information that new hires need to get up to speed during the training process.

Go Beyond a Company Wiki: Get an Internal Knowledge Base

While a company wiki can offer a lot of benefits, it’s not necessarily the best tool for the job. You can get everything a company wiki offers and then some by investing in an internal knowledge base.

A good internal knowledge base offers:

  • Knowledge management features – Recording knowledge is just one part of the equation, you also need it to be easy for the right people to find when they need it. An internal knowledge base has features to aid in organization and findability, such as tags, collections, custom fields, and advanced search functionality.
  • Official department-specific content – There’s a downside to the democratic nature of wikis. When anyone can edit a page, you could end up with information that’s inaccurate or outdated. With an internal knowledge base you can make sure that all information is pre-approved by the right experts, and also organize it by department so employees can find the right information for their needs.
  • Top-level security features – A knowledge base software that promises high-level security features is one you can use for sensitive content like proprietary knowledge and legal information. And if it offers user permissions, you can make sure employees only have access to the information they need, keeping internal data more secure.
  • Collaboration features – A knowledge base with collaboration features allows you to communicate in the same tool where the information lives. Employees can tag each other and add comments.
  • Broad compatibility – An internal knowledge base that works seamlessly with all your other main tools will be much more useful (and more used). You can easily pull in content you’ve already created, and ensure employees can access knowledge from the tools they already spend their time in, like Slack, Google Chrome, and Microsoft Office.

RFPIO promises all these features to aid in knowledge management, and goes a couple steps further. It uses AI technology to make finding information the moment it’s needed even faster, and makes your proposal team’s lives easier by automating much of the proposal process. Additionally, you can give all frontline responders access to your company’s best knowledge in RFPIO’s Content Library with RFPIO LookUp. Using RFPIO LookUp, they can securely search your Content Library without having to toggle out of their browser or CRM.

All of that adds up to more knowledgeable employees, countless hours saved, and a higher win rate on sales and proposals. To learn more about how to gain those benefits, set up a demo today.

Deploy content governance that will take your breath away

Deploy content governance that will take your breath away

I recently hosted a webinar called Building a Solid Content Foundation about how to set up a content review workflow. Since then, it has occurred to me that there can be no content review without content governance.

This short article will provide some brief background on content governance, why it’s important, and how proposal automation and knowledge management software can help.

What is content governance?

Content governance is the framework and processes you use to create, store, and maintain your content. But before we dive too deep, let’s start with a bad joke and a Top Gun analogy…

What do you call it when an entire population is satisfied with its gubernatorial leadership? Content governance. Ha! I know, it’s terrible.

How is content governance different from content management and content strategy? I could just tell you, but that would be boring. You can find all sorts of places on the Internet that can give you the glossary version. We’re going into the Danger Zone.

We’ve been in a Top Gun mood around here. Anticipation around the release of Top Gun: Maverick is ramping up faster than that titular character’s need for speed. In a Top Gun analogy, content governance would actually be the U.S. Navy. Content strategy is “Top Gun,” or the Navy Fighter Weapons School (I hear it’s frowned upon to use Top Gun terminology while at the school). Here’s how it breaks down:

  • Content governance = U.S. Navy. This is the universe in which all organizational content exists, from its creation, storage, and access, to its moderation, and, ultimately, to its archival. All content is subject to the laws of the content governance universe.
  • Content strategy = Top Gun. There has to be a framework in place to create world-class content. Everything from rules of engagement to battle tactics to overcoming pushback must be taken into consideration when determining what to create when and for which targeted audience.
  • Content creators = Pilots. In case you’re wondering who the best is…well, it doesn’t really matter. Like the real Navy Fighter Weapons School, there is no room for ego. Within the parameters established under content governance in your content strategy and style guide (see below), content creators are free to do what’s necessary to connect with their audience.
  • Content management system (CMS) = Aircraft carrier and crew. It’s a team effort, and effective content cannot exist in a vacuum. Any successful content endeavor needs technology and subject matter expertise in its earpiece. You can think of the CMS as the execution phase of content governance, where theory is put into practice when buyer-facing content is created, reviewed, stored, and accessed
  • Style guide = F/A-18C/D Hornet (aka, the jet). Content governance only works when creators have guidelines to follow. They need a cockpit from where they can work their magic, otherwise they end up in a flat spin out to sea with content that is off-brand, off-message, and possibly off-putting to the buyer.

Why do you need content governance?

While content governance is often associated with marketing content, it’s time to think bigger, like sales content bigger. According to the April 26, 2021, Forrester blog, From Monolithic to Modular: Kicking Your Sales Content Engine into High Gear, “Because marketers produce more monolithic than modular content, 70% of sales reps spend between one and 14 hours every week customizing content for their buyers.”

Sales reps understand that their competitive advantage comes from personalizing content to customize a solution around buyers’ specific pain points. Releasing these content creators into the wild without any content governance is a recipe for disaster, in accuracy and efficiency.

4 benefits of content governance

I’m still adding to the list. Seriously, content governance is a huge benefit to all of my clients. Here are the top four:

  1. Better content: It’s always created with accurate information and undergoes peer review (none of us are adept at proofing our own work).
  2. Efficient workflows: When everyone knows their roles and content governance is being driven by technology, then the content runs through its lifecycle with less friction.
  3. Greater productivity: Automation, accurate content building blocks, and the democratization of content creation makes it easier for creators and reviewers to move faster.
  4. Improved outcomes: Breaking down monolithic content into buyer-focused customized content improves the overall buying and customer experiences.

How to create a content governance workflow

As is the case with most new process implementations, the pain is frontloaded. Trust me, the long-term payoff for proposal managers, sales representatives, content editors, subject matter experts, and all content creators is well worth it.

Conduct a content audit
You need to rein in out-of-bounds content first. Get your house in order by ditching redundant, outdated, trivial (deal- or client-specific), and off-brand content.

Identify content gaps
Now that the content bin has been cleaned out, you should have full visibility into what you need. Break it down by buyer need, not product need. According to the December 16, 2020, Forrester blog, Happy B2B “Contentukkah”: Spinning the Editorial Dreidel, “We encourage content creators to join forces and push back on the company’s tendency to sing the praises of its portfolio when it should be waxing poetic about its audiences’ challenges.”

Create a style guide
Specify the writing and graphic standards for content. You can go high level and just cover fonts and color palettes, or you can get down to a level of detail where you provide standards for individual content types (e.g., videos, presentations, data sheets, blog articles, etc.). Also, consider creating templates to make it easier to create that content that always has to be personalized according to your style guide.

Implement a CMS
Unless you want to go the manual route of spreadsheets and checklists, you’ll need a CMS for automation, auditing, and reporting.

How can proposal automation and knowledge management help with content governance?

Creating content on the fly—which is the preferred method for sales representatives creating content—can be challenging in a content governance environment rife with bottleneck risk. Manual processes are the biggest culprit, but an ill-fitting CMS can be just as dangerous.

Proposal automation and knowledge management software such as RFPIO presents a huge advantage to sales teams and other content creators because it breaks content down to its lowest common denominator: questions and answers. These are the building blocks of all content. When these accurate, curated questions and answers are accessible from anywhere, then content can be created from anywhere.

Beyond the advantage of creating content within your content governance model, proposal automation and knowledge management helps in three primary areas:

  1. Let the system drive your workflow. Assign content owners, establish content moderation teams, and set up content review cycles from an intuitive dashboard.
  2. Govern from a single, closed-loop system. Ditch the spreadsheets, checklists, and risk of human error. Once the workflow is established, you have an audit trail for every entry in your Content Library. You can also keep all collaboration in the system so that even emails to external collaborators can be monitored within a project.
  3. Robust reporting out of the box. Being able to monitor the health and hygiene of your Content Library is essential to adhering to content governance. Monthly and quarterly reporting to leadership gives them a window into the value of content governance, its efficiencies, and its ability to guide content creators to better sales outcomes.

Ultimately, content governance gets you that single source of truth. RFPIO makes sure you can provide the right content (sales, marketing, corporate, financial, solutions, etc.) to the entire organization.

If you’re interested in having RFPIO as your wingman, schedule a demo today!

Corporate wiki vs internal knowledge base: Which is better?

Corporate wiki vs internal knowledge base: Which is better?

Wikipedia is the primary resource hosts Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes, and Will Arnett cite in their podcast, Smartless, when interviewing a veritable who’s who in entertainment, sports, and journalism. It’s a must-listen podcast, IMHO, but not because the hosts actually rely on Wikipedia as their source. The use of Wikipedia is an inside joke because one or more of them usually knows their “surprise” guest quite well. As a result, the interviews are funny, insightful, and loaded with personal anecdotes and nostalgia.

What would happen to Smartless if Jason Bateman decided to forego podcasting for more directing opportunities? Could Sean and Will fall back on a wiki or internal knowledge base where Jason had the opportunity to upload his insight into interviews with Erin Gray, Ricky Schroeder, or Alfonso Ribeiro? (Try a reference that’s timelier than “Silver Spoons,” RD.) How about interviews with Laura Linney, Jason Sudeikis, or Rachel McAdams? Comparatively, they’d fall flat without Bateman’s personal knowledge and relationship with those guests.

In the real world, where we all do business with people who haven’t starred in a movie, sitcom, or Netflix series in the past 40 years, falling flat due to ineffective knowledge sharing means not meeting customer expectations, not having answers to prospect questions fast enough, or giving wrong or outdated answers in proposals. It’s costly and embarrassing. It’s also avoidable.

Businesses looking for knowledge sharing tools often end up deciding between two options: corporate wikis or internal knowledge base software. While they may seem similar, they’re actually quite different. In this blog, we’ll break down the differences between company wikis and internal knowledge base software to determine which is the best for your business.

What is a corporate wiki?

A corporate wiki is developed using an open source model. This means that anyone can submit edits or gain access. Although touted for being “collaborative,” they are not always reliable because anyone can make changes and include inaccurate information. Democracy works in politics and when making decisions with your fellow lifeboat occupants. Crowdsourcing worked for Tom Sawyer and tells you if police are ahead on Waze. Neither are good fits for business content.

As far as knowledge sharing is concerned, corporate wikis follow the rules of the jungle. While they certainly encourage greater employee involvement, power users tend to elbow out the specialists. They also get out of control fast. It’s an environment where content seeds are planted and then vines grow depending on what’s most popular or controversial. Without any strategy or rules in place, old vines don’t get pruned, some seedlings get overshadowed, and Barry from engineering starts every edit with, “Whoever wrote this is an idiot. The correct answer is…” Not the sort of collaborative vibe you were hoping for.

What is an internal knowledge base?

An internal knowledge base exists in a self-contained solution designed to streamline access, creation, and review of your business content. Unlike corporate wikis, internal knowledge bases have verified writers, so that all team members using the knowledge base can feel confident that the answers they are finding are accurate. Whereas wikis are open to any user creating or editing content, internal knowledge bases are read-only. If the corporate wiki is the jungle, then the internal knowledge base is a curated nursery.

Structure and strategy are the two biggest differentiators between corporate wikis and internal knowledge bases. Within an overarching content strategy developed for the internal knowledge base, writers create and edit content based on a schedule, which is informed by data-driven insight. Tags, collections, and custom fields define its information hierarchy, making it more user-friendly and efficient to search.

Depending on how you set up your internal knowledge base, you can also gather data to derive intelligence on how it’s being used, what it’s missing, and what it doesn’t need. For example, through RFPIO, users can output an Content Library Insights Report to see which content gets used most often as well as which search terms receive very few or zero results. In the latter example, content managers can build content production plans around zero-result search terms so users will be able to find answers they need during their next search.

Creating an internal knowledge base is a 6-step process:

  1. Consolidate existing knowledge: Import your most recent sales proposals, DDQs, security questionnaires, and RFPs.
  2. Grow as you go: Add new content as products come and go, markets change, audience triggers evolve, and new departments come on board based on your initial tag, collection, and custom field structure.
  3. Stay accurate and up-to-date: Curate content to keep it fresh (corporate content every 90 days, product content every 6-12 months, and evergreen content that doesn’t change much every 12-24 months).
  4. Provide open access: Make sure everyone who needs to use the content has access to the content. Don’t get restrained by user licenses.
  5. Train your team: Even if the tool is intuitive and easy to use, set up time to train new users or else risk them never even trying it.
  6. Conduct regular audits: Don’t let the internal knowledge base turn into the wiki jungle. Keep it clean.

Learn more about these six steps here.

Why is knowledge sharing so important?

In 2020, Forrester asked more than 3,000 sales reps about their main roadblocks to productivity. Finding content or information was at the top of the list. And a McKinsey study found that knowledge workers spend 20% of their time searching for internal information or tracking down colleagues who can help with specific tasks. Time equals money, and IDC estimates that an enterprise of 1,000 knowledge workers wastes $5.7 million annually searching for information that is never found.

One more bit of bad news (I’ll end on a high note. Promise.): Knowledge workers are quitting. They are not immune to “The Great Resignation” of the pandemic. According to the New Yorker, “Many well-compensated but burnt-out knowledge workers have long felt that their internal ledger books were out of balance: they worked long hours, they made good money, they had lots of stuff, they were exhausted, and, above all, they saw no easy options for changing their circumstances.” Well, the pandemic gave them the opportunity they were looking for to simplify their life. With knowledge workers departing, organizations need to up the ante on knowledge sharing to make sure they’re expertise doesn’t go out the door with them.

Speaking of doors, knowledge sharing is also a boon for onboarding new employees coming in the door. Giving them the freedom to access company knowledge at will and in context gets them up to speed faster while making custom face-to-face training more efficient and effective (i.e., trainees can find answers to common questions in the wiki or knowledge base on their own time). A majority of HR professionals cite improved onboarding as beneficial to overall employee engagement.

As promised, a high note: Knowledge sharing encourages and rewards greater employee involvement, especially when the sharing mechanism is easy, intuitive, and trustworthy. Organizations with highly engaged employees earn about 150% more than their less engaged counterparts. So they have that going for them, which is good.

What’s better: a corporate wiki or an internal knowledge base?

Guessing I probably showed my hand too early with that wisecrack about Barry from engineering. You got it: The internal knowledge base takes the checkered flag when it comes to organizational knowledge sharing.

Its structure and the processes that support it make it a more trustworthy single source of truth, which reduces knowledge hoarding and shadow development of content that may exist in individual hard drives. And just because content is created and edited by designated writers doesn’t mean that all expertise hasn’t been tapped. Systems such as RFPIO enable content owners to automate collaboration with subject matter experts so that knowledge is captured accurately and efficiently, while maintaining consistency in message, voice, and tone throughout.

Besides, it also offers much more functionality compared to a corporate wiki. Instead of opening a new browser window or tab and navigating to the Intranet wiki, users can search content from almost anywhere. RFPIO® LookUp is a portal into the Content Library, which can be searched from Chrome like you’re searching the Internet. According to Hope Henderson at Alera Group, “We market RFPIO as our internal content Google. If anyone that’s client-facing has a question about a specific product, the RFPIO Content Library will be the first place they’ll go.”

“We market RFPIO as our internal content Google. If anyone that’s client-facing has a question about a specific product, the RFPIO Content Library will be the first place they’ll go.”
-Hope Henderson, Marketing Coordinator at Alera Group

RFPIO also integrates with CRM, communication, cloud, and other applications so users don’t have to toggle back and forth to find content. Vicki Griesinger, Director of Business Strategy, Worldwide Public Sector at Microsoft, said, “RFPIO® LookUp is available right from Microsoft Teams and surfaces content from all of our content collections without the maintenance overhead.”

With fewer writers and more controls, you might think content ends up sounding too institutional, with too few opportunities to personalize it. On the contrary. With a finely tuned internal knowledge base, prospect- and client-facing workers can find accurate content faster and easier so they’ll have more time to spend on personalizing the interaction.

Plan for unknown knowledge

In your pursuit of the ultimate knowledge repository, remember one thing: It’s going to have to change. In five years, you may need the knowledge you have now or you may not. You’ll definitely need some of the new knowledge you’re going to gain on the way.

Both corporate wikis and internal knowledge bases are updateable, but five years hence do you want to be hacking through a jungle to see what you can update? Or would you rather have the new knowledge curated and grafted onto the existing content for you so that all you have to do is harvest the fruit?

To learn more about using RFPIO to build your internal knowledge base, schedule a demo today.

Internal Knowledge Base: What it is, how to use it, and how to create one

Internal Knowledge Base: What it is, how to use it, and how to create one

“Of course banana trees are trees, that’s why there’s ‘tree’ in the name.”

That’s how a heated debate with my family started a few weeks ago. Or, rather, that’s how a heated debate would have started if Google had not ended it immediately. (In case you’re curious, banana trees are actually herbaceous plants).

At risk of outing myself as a millennial, I feel like life before search engines was basically the wild, wild west. Before we carried around the answers to basically everything in our pockets, we’d either be content with not knowing, settle on an incorrect answer, or consult books or experts. (Madeleine’s father-in-law grows banana trees, he might be a good person to ask…)

In the future, I think this is what knowledge workers will think about the time before internal knowledge bases: How did everyone function before we consolidated all company knowledge into a single, easily accessible location?

In 2020, Forrester asked more than 3,000 sales reps about their main roadblocks to productivity. Finding content or information was at the top of the list.

And a McKinsey study found that knowledge workers spend 20% of their time searching for internal information or tracking down colleagues who can help with specific tasks.

Knowledge is a company’s most valuable asset, and being able to access it quickly and easily is essential to enhancing productivity and achieving goals. To make that a reality, you need to create and maintain an internal knowledge base, also known as a company knowledge base. Here’s a guide to make that happen.

What should be included in a company knowledge base?

You can fill your company knowledge base with whatever your heart desires. However, there are a few things you’ll want to make sure are easily available:

  1. Company Information: Office addresses, employee handbooks, onboarding documentation
  2. Sales Enablement Material: Case studies, training materials, pitch decks
    Legal Documents: MNDAs, contracts, policies, regulatory documents, release forms
  3. Marketing Documents: Brand guidelines, company boilerplates, logo sets, color palettes
  4. Product Information: Datasheets, release notes, technical documentation
  5. Security Information: Certificates (e.g. SOC II, ISO-27001), audit reports, answers to security questionnaires (e.g. SIG, CAIQ)
  6. Answers to Commonly Asked Questions: What this means depends on your organization. It could be common questions from prospects, onboarding questions, questions about benefits… this will continuously evolve as you build out your knowledge base.

Think about an internal knowledge base as the place to store the answers to everything. Any question that people would usually go-to subject matter experts for answers to should be readily available—and easily searchable—in your internal knowledge base.

That way, instead of your employees pinging HR for health care policy information or asking marketing for links to case studies, they can find what they need in your internal knowledge base.

Some companies prefer to use a company wiki. A company wiki is different from an internal knowledge management solution, but it can work for some companies.

What is an internal knowledge base?

An internal knowledge base is a library of knowledge created by an organization for strict employee usage to easily (and securely) access confidential knowledge. The goal of a company knowledge base is to make everyone’s job easier by making company knowledge available on-demand.

A company knowledge base can hold answers to basically anything. This includes information about products, services, compliance, company history, and more. It can also contain the most up-to-date documents from all departments, including things like sales contracts, product roadmap, HR policies, and brand guidelines.

How to use an internal knowledge base

Here are some examples of how you can use an internal knowledge base:

  • Answer customer questions

According to Hubspot research, salespeople spend 21% of their day writing emails. Many of those emails include following up to prospects with resources, or answering questions about the product or solution. With an internal knowledge base available from their email, salespeople can find answers to customer questions more efficiently—and get back to selling.

  • Respond to RFPs, RFIs, Security Questionnaires, DDQs, etc.

Consolidating company knowledge streamlines responses to RFPs, RFIs, Security Questionnaires, DDQs—especially when you consolidate knowledge in an AI-enabled RFP automation solution. We’ve found that organizations cut time responding to RFPs by 40% (on average) after implementing RFP automation technology like RFPIO.

  • Improve onboarding

New employees often ask the same questions. Rather than relying on tenured employees to answer that question time and time again, you can store that answer in your internal knowledge base and make it available on-demand to new employees.

  • Stay on-brand

Store marketing-approved content in your internal knowledge base, including things like branded slide decks, letterhead, and templates, as well as brand guidelines and boilerplates.

  • Get technical help

Use your internal knowledge base as a go-to spot for up-to-date IT information. Use your internal knowledge base to streamline common problems and communications.

  • Answer support tickets

Store answers to support tickets in your internal knowledge base. That way your support team can learn from each other’s experiences. Whenever a tricky support question comes up, your team has a rich database to find the answer.

  • Empower everyone to create their best content

When your company’s best answers are only a few clicks away, you can create better content. This includes things like blogs, slide decks, sales proposals, and more.

What are the benefits of using internal knowledge base software?

Internal knowledge base software can be a game-changer for organizations. This includes for sales, support, marketing, and especially proposal teams.

Here are some of the many (many) benefits of using internal knowledge base:

  • Improve customer experience. The faster your sales reps can get answers, the faster your customers can get answers, and the happier everyone is.
  • Streamline onboarding. When new employees have easy access to an on-demand library of answers, it relieves the burden on senior team members—and gives them the information they need to get up and running.
  • Enhance security on private information. Since sensitive company information is stored on an encrypted platform.
  • Respond to complex questionnaires faster. When answers are all stored in one place, responding to repeat questions is a breeze (especially if your knowledge base is AI-enabled).
  • So much more. It’s nearly impossible to quantify the value you get from an access-anywhere answer database.

How to create an internal knowledge base in 6 steps

If you need real-time knowledge sharing, a knowledge base is what your business needs. Knowledge bases can easily share information in real-time with verified employees.

There are plenty of best practices to take into consideration when building a company knowledge library. Here are the steps to consider when creating an internal knowledge base:

  1. Consolidate existing knowledge
  2. Grow as you go
  3. Stay accurate and up-to-date
  4. Open the floodgates
  5. Train your team
  6. Conduct regular audits

Consolidate existing knowledge

I’m going to tell you something that might surprise you: A quick way to consolidate company knowledge starts with your sales proposals, DDQs, and security questionnaires.

When you write a sales proposal — be it a proactive proposal, SOW, or response to a request for proposal, bid, or tender — or respond to other complex questionnaires (e.g. security questionnaires, DDQs) you’re compiling relevant, accurate, up-to-date information about your company, products, services, security standards, and compliance status.

If your organization responds to RFPs, writes sales proposals, and/or fills out security questionnaires and DDQs, you already have the foundation upon which you can build your internal knowledge base.

Many teams choose to consolidate knowledge using a shareable spreadsheet (e.g. Google Sheets) or platforms like Sharepoint. While this is a perfectly respectable first step for smaller teams, it can be very labor-intensive, difficult to scale, and can easily get out of control.

For a more long-term and scalable solution, you might consider using an AI-enabled RFP automation solution (e.g. RFPIO). With RFPIO, you can import old responses (e.g. to RFPs, RFIs, security questionnaires, DDQs, etc) into the platform, and RFPIO’s patented import functionality will break your lengthy questionnaires into question-answer pairs.

Step 2: Grow as you go

After you’ve consolidated content from your sales proposals and security questionnaires, start consolidating question-and-answer pairs (Q&A pairs) from other departments. If you’re using a spreadsheet, create a tab for each department. Within the tab, designate a column for “questions” and a column for “answers”. If a question needs multiple answers, you can create an additional column.

If you use an RFP automation platform, growing as you go is much more straightforward. Tags, collections, and custom fields keep your internal knowledge base organized. And the more questionnaires you respond to, the richer your Content Library grows.

You can also easily build your internal knowledge base beyond proposals and questionnaires by adding question-answer pairs (Q&A pairs) not associated with any proposal.

As a Content Marketing Manager, I use RFPIO as a hub for sales enablement documents, including case studies, data sheets, one-pagers, blogs, and email templates. Because of RFPIO’s advanced search functionality, the sales team can easily find the information they need with a simple keyword search.

Step 3: Stay accurate and up-to-date

The key to an internal knowledge base is that it’s been approved and pre-vetted by the right people.

Before you add any new Q&A pair to your internal knowledge base, make sure it’s been reviewed and approved. If you’re using RFPIO, you can set up content moderation, so any new Q&A pair needs to go through an internal knowledge base “gatekeeper” before it can be added to the library.

The second part is staying accurate and up-to-date. If you’re using a non-automated solution like Google Sheets or Sharepoint, you can use your calendar or email scheduling tool to remind yourself to review and verify information.

With RFPIO, you can set custom review cycles on each Q&A pair. For example, if you set the review cycle for 6 months, the content owner will be sent an email reminder every 6 months, asking them to review the answer and verify it’s still up-to-date.

How often you should conduct reviews depends on the type of content. As a standard rule of thumb:

  • Corporate content should be reviewed once every 90 days
  • Product content should be reviewed every 6-12 months
  • Evergreen content should be reviewed every 12-24 monthshow often should you conduct a review cycle

Step 4: Open the floodgates

Once you’ve created your internal knowledge base, it’s time to give your team access.

If you’re using an AI-enabled internal knowledge base solution like RFPIO, you have a lot more control over user permissions, so you can feel confident your people only have access to the content with need.

And you can also make sure that knowledge is accessible from where people are already working. With RFPIO® LookUp, you can access your company knowledge from:

  • Slack,
  • Google Chrome,
  • Microsoft Teams,
  • Microsoft Outlook,
  • Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, Powerpoint), and
  • Chromium Edge

Step 5: Train your team

People hate change. This axiom never rings truer when you’re trying to get people to adopt a new system that will make their lives easier.

Even if you’re simply sharing a link to a cloud-based spreadsheet or storage system, you still need to train your team on how to use it.

Here are a few best practices to get your team up and running with your internal knowledge base:

  • Schedule training. More training than you think necessary. Once to show people how to use the system. And then again after 3 days, 3 weeks, and 3 months.
  • Share information. Create how-to guides for using the platform and share them with your team. And then share them again. And again.
  • Learn from your peers. Luckily, you’re not the first person to ever implement an internal knowledge base. Learn from how other high-performing teams about how they set up their internal knowledge base:
    • Read how the Microsoft team uses Microsoft Teams to make company knowledge widely available
    • Read or Watch how Illuminate Education made their internal knowledge base available from Slack
    • See how Genpact made company knowledge available from Microsoft PowerPoint

Step 6: Conduct Regular Audits

A healthy knowledge base needs regular updates.

For content audit best practices, head over to our blog: Clean up your RFP Content Library in 3 steps.

Get started building your internal knowledge base

Internal knowledge bases are perfect for companies looking to easily locate resources efficiently and securely. Learn more about how RFPIO® LookUp can help you create an internal knowledge base.

Or, if you’re ready to see LookUp in action, schedule a customized demo.

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