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When is the right time to create a knowledge base?

For smaller companies, managing knowledge might seem pretty straightforward. Only a few people hold key information, and they’re the ones who need to use it. But what happens when those organizations start to grow? When is the right time to create a knowledge base?

The simple answer is, as early as possible. Right now, in fact. 

The challenge of transferring implicit knowledge

If your company is small, having a full-fledged knowledge base might feel like overkill. Teams consist of just a few people. Everyone knows everyone. If one person can’t answer a question, they’ll quickly find the person who can.

But that way of working relies on implicit knowledge — the information in an organization that isn’t codified and recorded. That kind of knowledge is all too easy to lose. And as organizations grow, that’s exactly what happens.

As more people join, it becomes less clear who holds what information. People may be working in different locations and in different time zones. And with essential know-how trapped inside the brains of a few people, those individuals become bottlenecks. 

New hires may become frustrated, unable to complete even basic tasks without having to interrupt colleagues and wait for a response. They may eventually give up and search for other roles, draining the organization of new talent and fresh ways of thinking. 

And when established people move on to new pastures, they take their knowledge with them. That crucial information is now lost to the business forever.

This isn’t just a ‘future problem’ to worry about. Research shows that difficulty in finding key information is actually a major problem amongst knowledge workers right now. A study by Qatalog and Cornell University found that:

  • 69% say they waste time trying to find the information they need to do their job.
  • Workers spend an average of 5 hours a week searching for information.
  • 49% worry that important information is being lost at work.

The faster an organization grows, the more acute these issues are likely to become. By the time the problem gets identified, the task of solving it has become far more difficult.

The value of acting early to build a knowledge base

Setting up a knowledge base is a crucial first step to solving  these problems. It captures and records key information, transforming it from implicit to explicit. And it puts it within reach of everyone who needs it. 

So when is the right time to create a knowledge base? The sooner it’s tackled, the easier the task will be. 

Early in an organization’s development, information is more likely to be held in a few key files, applications, or employees’ heads. Retrieving and codifying this information will be much simpler than it is for a larger, more complex entity.

For organizations planning to scale up soon, it’s the perfect time to create a knowledge base. The right solution will grow and evolve alongside the organization. So as ever more knowledge is stored, it remains easy for people to find what they need.

But it’s never too late to create a knowledge base

If your organization is already operating at scale, you will have a chunkier project on your hands. But you have some advantages, too. 

  • A wider and deeper range of skills, including operational and technical teams who can help plan and implement a knowledge base that really works.
  • You have an opportunity to develop a true documentation culture across the organization — an essential underpinning to any great knowledge management system. Get this right, and it will keep offering value for the long haul.
  • You have existing communications infrastructure, with established channels and processes for internal comms that will help you establish your new knowledge base.

Even if the challenge is big, the best time to start is today. Creating a knowledge base stops the problem of lost knowledge in its tracks.

How to create a knowledge base: best practice and simple steps

Is there a correct way to create a knowledge base? Yep. And it starts by being clear what outcomes you want it to achieve for your organization. Examples of outcomes might be:

  • Excellent self-service, with staff able to find the answers they need easily, whenever they need them.
    Simple, fast, and effective troubleshooting on technical problems.
  • Informed and transparent decision making, with decisions based on relevant knowledge, clearly documented, and set in context.
  • Better understanding of what's going on across the business and which teams and individuals are working on it

Write down what you decide. This process turns vague ideas into actionable objectives. 

Those goals will be the guiding light for designing, implementing, and growing your knowledge base. They’ll also help communicate its purpose and value across the organization. You’ll need your people on board to make it work, so be transparent about the plan from the outset.

When you know what you want to achieve, you’ll have a clear basis to assess knowledge management solutions.

However big or small your organization, Qatalog makes creating a knowledge base easy. It stores information naturally, because it’s the place where everything happens: collaboration, decision making, progress tracking, and process documentation. 

It centralizes company-wide information. And it integrates with other apps too, making knowledge accessible wherever it’s stored.

Book a call with our Customer Team to find out more about how Qatalog can turn scattered information into a single, searchable knowledge base for your organization.

Sr. Customer Success Manager @ Qatalog
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