Corporate Wiki vs. Knowledge Base
Choose the best tool for knowledge management
In an era where new information and technologies are constantly emerging and evolving, knowledge management is crucial to every organization, no matter how big or small it is. A good knowledge management system help increase operational efficiency, empower employees, improve cross-functional collaboration, and build a knowledge-sharing culture.
In recent years, we have seen a significant increase in organizations' investment in knowledge management platforms, so that employees can find the information they need to do their jobs effectively. Such systems also minimize the potential knowledge loss when a valuable, experienced employee leaves the company, and make sure that the critical knowledge and expertise don't leave with him/her.
When choosing the software and tools for their knowledge management system, some companies consider corporate wiki software as the state-of-art solution and decide to use it as the platform fo their employees to store and share documents.
This misconception is due to the lack of a good understanding of what knowledge is. Many people simply equate documentation with knowledge management. They think that writing thorough documents is the only way to capture knowledge. When it comes to documentation, wikis got the job done. However, there’s a much better solution: a true knowledge base.
A knowledge base supports functionalities that go far beyond what wiki software can do. It is optimized for capturing different types of knowledge very effectively. It also features a robust search function, built-in workflow, artificial intelligence, and much more, helping your team be more productive.
Without a clear understanding of differences between a corporate wiki and a knowledge base, you might think that they are basically the same. In this article, we will break them down and help you understand the main differences between the two.
Explicit knowledge vs. tacit knowledge
In order to better understand why Corporate Wiki is not enough for your Knowledge Management, we need to know the two basic types of knowledge - explicit knowledge and tacit knowledge.
Explicit knowledge is the type of knowledge that is easy to articulate, write down, and share with others. Compared with tacit knowledge, it is more clearly defined, more organized, and more structured.
"Explicit knowledge can be expressed in words and numbers and can be easily communicated and shared in the form of hard data, scientific formulae, codified procedures or universal principles." - Nonaka and Takeuchi
Examples of explicit knowledge include user manuals, datasheets, white papers, research reports, etc. As shown in the image below, explicit knowledge is only the tip of an iceberg. It is estimated that only 20% of the knowledge in your organization is explicit, and the other 80% is tacit knowledge.
Tacit knowledge is the knowledge gained from personal experience. It is more difficult to articulate. It is often called know-how that is hard to capture using traditional documentation. Tacit knowledge is often the result of years of experience after many trial-and-errors.
"Tacit knowledge is highly personal and hard to formalise. Subjective insights, intuitions and hunches fall into this category of knowledge. It consists of mental models, beliefs, and perspectives so ingrained that we take them for granted, and therefore cannot easily articulate them." - Nonaka and Takeuchi
In the workplace, tacit knowledge is often trapped in emails, chat rooms, and in people's heads. As employees leave the company, the tacit knowledge that they possess will be lost because it cannot be documented as part of the knowledge transfer to their colleagues.
Now we have a clear understanding of the main differences between explicit knowledge and tacit knowledge, it should become obvious that corporate wiki alone is not adequate to be the knowledge management tool of your organization. Wiki is mainly a documentation tool and it cannot be effectively used to capture tacit knowledge which accounts for about 80% of your total team knowledge.
What's a corporate wiki
Wikipedia is probably the most well-known example of a wiki system. The content on Wikipedia can be created and edited by anyone from any part of the world. It crowdsources content without any centralized owner or group that oversees the process. This democratic model encourages the active participation of users.
Similarly, a corporate wiki or company wiki allows company employees to add, edit, and maintain content related to their business and processes. With a corporate wiki, every team member can create, access, and edit content. It emphasizes collaboration and sharing over strict control and oversight.
Wiki represents a big step forward in the history of knowledge management systems. It was once considered the best option comparing with other technologies such as Document Management System or Intranet.
A company wiki system increases user engagement and collaboration. Now, if one employee finds out some information in a document is outdated, the employee can directly access, edit, and publish the changes without waiting for approval from the supervisors or experts.
With more documentation, more knowledge is being captured and retained. A well-managed internal wiki can also speed up your new employee onboarding. 53% of HR professionals say employee engagement rises when onboarding is improved, and highly engaged businesses see a 20% increase in sales, according to recent research on employee engagement.
However, as technologies and needs for knowledge management evolve, the limitations of a corporate wiki become increasingly obvious and a better solution is needed.
What's a knowledge base
An internal knowledge base is a centralized online repository that your team can store, manage, and retrieve information related to your company. It goes beyond the standard documents such as product manuals, training materials, new hire onboarding procedures, etc. It is capable of capturing tacit knowledge, or know-how, of your employees.
The knowledge in the knowledge base is organized into separate spaces based on specific departments, products, projects, or topics. The added structure makes information more organized and creates clear ownership. Better structured and more organized content is essential to keeping your knowledge base consistent and reliable. The integrated workflow also keeps content up-to-date.
The knowledge base was designed to address many issues or challenges of a traditional wiki system. In this article, we will go over each one of them so that you will have a clear understanding of the key advantages of today's modern knowledge base and why it is replacing corporate wikis as the knowledge management system.
AllAnswered, a leading knowledge base solution, offers an all-in-one knowledge management system to companies across the world, big or small. We will be using AllAnswered as an example in the following analysis.
Issues with corporate wikis
Ineffective with tacit knowledge
Wiki is simply a collaborative documentation tool. As explained above, it is only good for capturing explicit knowledge, which only accounts for 20% of your total team knowledge. The other 80% is tacit knowledge which is mainly experienced-based and hard to codify. Forcing wiki onto tacit knowledge is like using the completely wrong tool for the job. It will lead to high user frustration and low efficiency.
Quora is an online question-and-answer (Q&A) website where questions are asked, answered, followed, and edited by any users on the internet, either factually or in the form of opinions. Stack Overflow is another question and answer site designed specifically for programmers to ask questions related to programming. They are the two most successful public Q&A websites and they have proven that Q&A is the most effective way to capture tacit knowledge.
AllAnswered supports both an advanced wiki editor and a Q&A platform to capture both explicit knowledge and tacit knowledge. Its wiki editor features multiple menu toolbars, making writing documents easy and intuitive. You can embed rich media such as images, videos, tables, and code snippets in wiki pages. It also supports mark-down language if that's what you prefer.
AllAnswered Q&A feature allows anyone in your team to post a question to the whole team. Others who might know the answer can post their responses. The accepted answer and other answers with high vote count will bubble up to the top, which makes it super easy to find the most helpful information. Things changed? No problem. You can simply post a new answer to the thread and keep it updated.
Lack of content oversight
One of the wiki’s greatest strengths is also one of its biggest weaknesses: there is no control over content contribution. Employees can add content to a company internal wiki without approval from management or domain experts. For example, if someone adds an article in customer support wiki with incorrect steps for troubleshooting a customer issue without necessary validation, it may be used by other support agents and result in failures in support cases and frustrated customers. This could become a serious risk and have a devastating effect on your companies reputation and customer satisfaction.
Modern knowledge base software like AllAnswered now provides more flexibility through role-based access control. Some users may only have read permission to certain content based on their groups, responsibilities, and levels. For example, hotline support agents may not make any edits to the product information provided by the marketing team.
In a knowledge base, not all knowledge is created equal. Some of them might be mission-critical, whereas others are just informational only. That's why AllAnswered breaks down explicit knowledge into two categories - dynamic knowledge and static knowledge. Dynamic knowledge is constantly evolving and needs to be reviewed on a regular basis. For dynamic knowledge, AllAnswered forces you to define a review cycle and the reviewers will receive notifications when the deadline is approaching.
No clear ownership
Knowledge sharing should involve everyone on your team, but that does not make it optional to establish the ownership of the content. Without clear owners, no one is accountable and your knowledge base will eventually become chaotic. New knowledge base solutions need to strike a balance between allowing all employees to contribute and ensuring quality, reliable content.
As your company grows, no single person or group is capable of owning knowledge management for the entire organization. In AllAnswered, your knowledge base is organized by communities. You can create separate communities for different groups, departments, products, or projects. Once your knowledge is organized in such ways, the group leaders will become the owners. For example, the manager of the human resource department would be the natural owner of the community for all HR policies.
The community owners are responsible for monitoring content, identifying knowledge gaps, and making sure members are engaged. AllAnswered equips owners with a range of tools to help avoid the challenges of company internal wikis. For example, leaders can use content moderation tools to identify duplicate content, create review requests, and schedule those content reviews. For communities that require tight control, the owners can approve content edits and answers to questions, which ensures that only relevant and accurate information gets published.
Many corporate wiki systems are cluttered with stale content. If the information in your knowledge base is outdated and no longer valid, it can no longer be trusted.
AllAnswered system supports built-in workflow and knowledge life-cycle management to keep your knowledge base up-to-date. The common workflow including reviews, verification, approvals, close, and deletion of content. AllAnswered is also powered by artificial intelligence (AI) to discover stale or duplicate content, make knowledge recommendations, and automate the knowledge management workflow.
Outside of daily workflow
Maintaining a wiki system and keep it updated requires a significant amount of work from your employees, even though it may not be part of their core job function. Traditional wiki systems are a stand-alone piece of software that is outside of your everyday workflow. That means going to your wiki takes you outside of where you’re working, causing context switching which negatively impacts your team productivity.
AllAnswered integrates with other tools that you use every day so you will have the information you need at your fingertips without jumping between tools. The featured 3rd party integrations include Slack, Microsoft Teams, Jira, Github, G-Suite, and many more.
Here we will take the Slack integration as an example. Each community on AllAnswered can be mapped to a specific Slack channel. After it is configured, you can see what your team members posting on AllAnswered and respond to them without leaving Slack. You can also ask questions and search your knowledge base directly from Slack.
Search is terrible
If you have used a company wiki before, you know it is a struggle to find the information you need on the system. Traditional wikis come with poor search capabilities that make you want to pull your hair out sometimes. Today, a sub-par search engine can really hurt your users' confidence in your system. One the other hand, a great search will provide good user experience and improve discovery while reducing the time spent retrieving information.
AllAnswered features a powerful search engine. You can search within a specific community or across all your communities. It searches folders, tags, content, and even attachments, providing a unified search experience with results from different sources. Different filter options help you quickly narrow down the search results so you can find what you are looking for quickly.
Corporate wikis might have been the state-of-art 10 years ago, but today, they are simply outdated. People who used such systems before know it very well. Because of the lack of support for tacit knowledge, limited oversight, and missing workflow support, they quickly become too difficult to manage.
Instead, adopting a modern knowledge base solution for your company can benefit your team in the long run. A knowledge base isn’t just a repository for documents and files. It provides comprehensive support for your knowledge management needs with features that are unmatched by corporate wikis.
Please checkout AllAnswered, the leading corporate knowledge management system, and see how it boosts your team productivity through improved efficiency, consistency, and collaboration.