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A Guide to Using Microsoft Software as a Knowledge Base

12 April 2022

A knowledge base is a mine of useful information for your customers, but it can also be useful for your own team members? Here’s a way to enable your internal customers to self-serve and complete the tasks they need to, using Microsoft technology and software you already have.

What is a knowledge base?

A knowledge base is a library of information about your company, product or service and the questions or issues people might ask about it. A knowledge base allows people to find answers and solve problems on their own so it's an essential part of good customer service, whether your customers are members of the public or internal customers – i.e.; your colleagues.

The best knowledge bases typically include frequently asked questions (FAQs), a user forum, articles, whitepapers, how-to articles, video tutorials, case studies and glossaries.

A knowledge base allows you to create self-service content around recurring questions, issues and themes. It’s important to note that the point of a knowledge base is to help users complete a task or solve a problem. The knowledge in your knowledge base needs to be actionable.

An organization with a call-center or a team of customer service representatives will undoubtedly use a knowledge base to ensure that each customer receives the same information and as an easily navigable database for a wide range of queries. The use case for a knowledge base within a company or B2B environment is perhaps less obvious, but extremely beneficial – and the focus of this blog.


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Key benefits of having a knowledge base

You know the importance of delivering excellent customer service, but when you find yourself inundated with queries, many of them repetitive but essential to the person asking, or many of them easily answered but still preventing you from getting on with your ‘real’ work, it can become frustrating.

Everyone knows customer experience is a major factor when deciding whether to buy from a business. A great online or in-store experience has a ripple effect on the customer’s perception of the company, how likely they are to recommend or review your product or service and become a repeat customer. But your customers can be found within the business too: internal customers could be one team requiring a service from another team. Similarly, a frictionless process for requesting and receiving service within a company can help build cooperative, collaborative personal and inter-departmental relationships.

Another benefit is that knowledge bases help people find answers on their own. Research by Forrester found that most people favor knowledge bases over other self-service channels – probably because people typically want an immediate answer to their question. The best knowledge bases get people to those answers easily and quickly.

The best knowledge bases:

  • Enable people to self-serve
  • Reduce frustration and workload for people providing customer service (e.g.; internal IT team)
  • Create a positive experience and an opportunity for building rapport
  • Manage productivity and customer support at scale
  • Save time
  • Provide a consistent experience

Microsoft knowledge base tools & software

Some common ways to build a knowledge base include:

  • A shared Microsoft server or folder: This could be a local file server or a shared Microsoft OneDrive folder. Shared document storage makes information available but this method can sometimes create challenges with duplication, file formats, and accessibility from within or integration with other systems.
  • Microsoft Intranet: Making information easily editable and findable by many people is the key benefit of a wiki tool. Intranet tools such as SharePoint or Microsoft Viva Connections are often used for making internal information accessible to staff.
  • Dedicated knowledge base software: Knowledge base software that integrates or is built on Microsoft and is a specialized tool for creating, maintaining, and delivering information.

You could also try mould your current CMS software into a knowledge base. However, if your criteria include scalability and flexibility, you will require a knowledge base solution. Some questions that may help you choose one could be:

  • How much does it cost per user?
  • Does this software provide user analytics?
  • How well-supported is this software?
  • Is support immediately available?
  • Does the software integrate well with other tools we use?

Microsoft SharePoint as knowledge base

As most of our clients – and over a million companies worldwide – have invested in the Microsoft technology stack, Microsoft software is a practical option, so let’s discuss the pros and cons of using SharePoint for your internal knowledge base.

Microsoft SharePoint as a knowledge base – pros:

  • SharePoint is a powerful document management tool, managing the storage and sharing of document and information within a business in ways that improve productivity and collaboration.
  • SharePoint is included in your Microsoft 365 license so there are no extra costs for a knowledge base.
  • Employees already know how to use Microsoft tools, if not SharePoint specifically. This means less time and effort is required for people to start using your SharePoint knowledge base.
  • SharePoint is designed to be an internal, collaborative tool. Anyone with access can add content, in the form of text, images and video, format it and apply metadata to make it searchable.

Microsoft SharePoint as a knowledge base – cons:

  • SharePoint is a document tool not a knowledge base.
  • Searchability is a factor: as a knowledge base its search capabilities are limited.
  • Content in SharePoint can be unstructured. The lack of information architecture, particularly if there is a great deal of content, makes a SharePoint knowledge base overwhelming rather than helpful.
  • As SharePoint is not a dedicated knowledge base software, you’ll need to build your knowledge base using the Wiki Pages feature or third-party software that integrates with SharePoint.

Bridging Microsoft SharePoint gaps

Nevertheless, many of our clients can take advantage of SharePoint’s capabilities for a knowledge base because Atlas, our digital workspace platform built on and for Microsoft 365, bridges these gaps. Atlas automatically provides governance and tagging which, combined with its powerful search functionality, makes finding content quick and easy.

Atlas also provides a single platform from which people can access all their digital work tools, so your SharePoint knowledge base becomes a part of that digital hub, rather than yet another app to think about.

How do I build a knowledge base?

The primary function of a knowledge base is to help people self-serve and complete a task or solve a problem. In other words, it needs to be user-friendly and useful.

Step 1: Structure and design

The structure and design of your knowledge base is critical: it needs to be easy so users can find the information they need on it.

Search and navigation therefore need to be carefully thought out, and the homepage should address key focus areas, by prominently displaying links to content for the most frequently encountered issues, requests or questions. To achieve that you need to understand what drives those requests for content – do people tend to ask for the same information all the time or are there trends and types of questions that come up at certain times or when certain events take place?

You also want to avoid duplicate content otherwise you need to make updates in multiple places. Aim to have one page for each main concept or feature and link to that page from related topics.

Step 2: Define how content is to be added

Having established your knowledge base navigation and how people will find the content, it’s time to outline how content is added, presented and managed.

Knowledge base articles are educational in intent, so the writing needs to be clear and to the point, and always created with the end user in mind.

Write a clear, descriptive headline – you want to write the ‘label on the can’ so people immediately know what the article is about and how it will help.

  • Focus on clarity and usability.
  • Include helpful visuals.
  • Keep readability and the user experience in mind.
  • Proof your writing to avoid errors.
  • Link to useful resources and similar content.

Establish a process for how content will be added, by whom and how it will be updated or maintained. Assigning content owners ensures someone is responsible for keeping content current.

Knowledge base best practices

1. Manage your knowledge base actively

Once your knowledge base is built, it needs active management to stay relevant and useful. If it becomes out of date it will lose credibility. Any changes to the company, product or services need to be reflected in the knowledge base immediately.

2. Understand your audience

Provide content that’s relevant and appropriate to your readers. Make articles straightforward, easy to understand and concise – and above all, answer your readers’ questions. Otherwise they’ll simply contact you for clarification which will defeat the purpose of your knowledge base.

3. Make your knowledge base accessible

As with your website, your knowledge base needs to meet accessibility standards. Fonts and colors need to be clear and easily read. Guide the reader through the article through the use of thoughtful formatting – bullet points, hyperlinks, subheads and short paragraphs.

Use visual aids like images, diagrams and infographics to convey information quickly. Atlas has HoverPoint, a tool for making images interactive, which is particularly helpful for onboarding and training.

Make sure your knowledge base can be accessed on any device.

4. Measure your knowledge base’s performance

As with your company website, you need to look at how your knowledge base is performing. If people contact you to ask about something that is already on the knowledge base, either your content isn’t sufficiently easy to find or it’s incomplete. And while Atlas comes with analytics that make it easy for you to measure how effective your pages are, you can also include a simple ‘Was this article useful?’ survey at the bottom of a page.

On that note, was this article about knowledge bases and Microsoft knowledge base software specifically – useful? Please let us know!

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Author bio

Jeanne Davies

Jeanne Davies

From journalism to content marketing, I've always enjoyed learning and writing about a diverse range of topics, but the digital world has become particularly interesting to me over the last decade or so. ClearPeople gives me an opportunity to shape my work life and it's fascinating how technology allows me to create great working relationships with colleagues across continents and time zones.

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