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A guide to using Microsoft software as a knowledge base

12 April 2022

In the realm of knowledge management, a knowledge base is often seen as a go-to solution for many organizations. However, as businesses evolve and the demand for more dynamic, intelligent and integrated knowledge management solutions increases, you may want to explore other choices over tradional knowledge base software.

In the ever-evolving digital workplace, Microsoft's suite of software stands as a beacon for organizations seeking efficient knowledge management solutions. This blog explores the Microsoft technology for knowledge bases, providing valuable insights for organizations aiming to optimize their knowledge management strategies.

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 a 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.
  • The platform can be complex and might require dedicated resources for management and customization.
  • 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.
  • New users may find SharePoint's extensive features overwhelming, necessitating proper training and adaptation time.


Microsoft 365 Copilot: The next generation of knowledge base software?

Microsoft Copilot, emerging as a new player in the field, brings AI-powered capabilities to the forefront of knowledge management.


Pros of Microsoft 365 Copilot

  • AI-Powered efficiency: Leveraging AI, Copilot can offer advanced search capabilities, making information retrieval faster and more accurate.
  • User-Friendly interface: With its intuitive design, Copilot is accessible to users at all tech-savvy levels.
  • Innovative knowledge discovery: AI algorithms can surface relevant information and insights that might be overlooked in traditional systems.


Cons of Microsoft 365 Copilot 

❌ Not a knowledge harvesting tool
Leverages generic information only

❌ No single governance approach across multiple copilots

❌ No control of prioritized knowledge

❌Available only to internal personnel


Read more about Microsoft Copilot in our blog "Everything you need to know about Microsoft 365 Copilot".


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.

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.


What else to consider when it comes to knowledge management

Atlas Intelligent Knowledge Management Platform

Atlas is the first intelligent knowledge platform specifically designed for Microsoft 365. Integrating intranet, collaboration, and knowledge management with governance and AI, Atlas tackles the critical organizational challenge of improving business productivity by unlocking knowledge within Microsoft 365 and other enterprise systems.

Atlas stands out with its advanced AI features, surpassing the traditional knowledge base approach. These AI integrations offer credible sources of enterprise knowledge, smarter search capabilities and personalized content recommendations, transforming how knowledge is accessed and used in the organization.

  • Captures enterprise knowledge
  • Provides structure and curation of subject matter expertise

  • Manages consistent IA and taxonomy

  • Single governance framework with decentralized and delegated management
  • Enables ranking of validated knowledge
  • Consistent and well-orchestrated user experience
  • External data sources can be added to knowledge collection


KM blogs, e-books and other resources

For those eager to explore further, a plethora of AI and knowledge management blogs and ebooks are available, providing deeper insights and strategies tailored to various industries. Embracing Ai and KM is not just about keeping pace with the digital world; it's about leading the charge in innovation and efficiency.

Knowledge management blogs

e-books and other resources

Atlas: The first Intelligent Knowledge Management Platform for Microsoft 365

Nothing else comes close to the power and flexibility of Atlas.

  • Platform of choice for organisations using Microsoft 365.
  • Delivers quick access to expert knowledge and a frictionless route to answers.
  • Enables employees to tap into the most credible sources of enterprise knowledge through a variety of AI experiences.

Find out what Atlas can do. Book a demo now.

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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