how we created a knowledge base in a startup

Why is it bad not to maintain a knowledge base?

  • New employees are immersed in processes longer.

  • It becomes more and more difficult to search for information every month.

  • Teams don’t know what the neighboring department is doing and get lost in tasks.

  • There is no clear FAQ.

  • For any question, you have to communicate in chats.

Without a knowledge base, at some point it becomes too difficult – the amount of information grows every day, something is always lost, and sooner or later communication begins to take too much time. We went through all this and in the end realized that it was time to look for a suitable tool and collect all the information in one place.

How we chose sites for maintaining the knowledge base

We chose Notion as the main tool, although we also considered Atlassian and YouTrack. The latter appeared on the list because we then used the task tracker of the same name, but in the end it did not work due to the limited functionality. Between Notion and Atlassian, the first won – due to a more modern design and interface.

During the site selection (6-7 months ago), I conducted a short analysis of possible options and collected the results in a table. You can view it in full by link

Before the introduction of Notion, we used Google Docs and Google Sheets. Previously, up to 90% of all information was stored there, chaos and chaos reigned. Now they account for only 10%. For example, tools for finance and something that technically cannot be transferred to the knowledge base.

Of course, these tools continue to be used for their intended purpose. In the knowledge base, we store documents, spreadsheets and files from Google by links.

What problems will await you

The most obvious problem: finding a person who will take on the duties of the custodian of knowledge. There are two ways: to look for it within the company or to attract it from the outside.

The second option seems easier, but in GigAnt we have been looking for such a person for two months and have not yet found it. Here you need a specialist who already has experience in building such databases, plus you need to check whether his approach differs from the company’s views on this issue. As a result, I became the owner of our knowledge base.

If you want to find a person within the company, then look for those who are already immersed in the processes and know all the ins and outs. Of the required skills, I would single out the following:

  • analytical mind to make it easier to structure and store data;

  • literate Russian;

  • knowledge of the company’s processes;

  • well-established communications.

The latter is perhaps the most important. A knowledge base cannot be built by a person who does not have well-built communication with other teams, because the knowledge base is a tool for its replacement. If the owner of the knowledge base does not know how to communicate, then he will not be able to put on paper the means for this very communication.

Be aware that teams and management may have different views on how to organize the knowledge base. Even those who have been working in IT for a long time are not always ready to accept digitalization of information right away. The good news is that usually within a few months, most employees will be helping to build and promote a common knowledge base.

How to properly start maintaining a knowledge base

  1. Collect all knowledge in one place and only then plan their organization and updating

    If you collect information piece by piece, something will inevitably get lost. And it is important not to forget to take into account the information from all teams.

  2. Choose one suitable tool for maintaining your knowledge base

    It is better to study the tool beforehand in order to understand whether it is suitable or not. Otherwise, there is a great risk that you will have to spend time and money on moving to another site. Or suffer until the subscription ends.

  3. Show the convenience and clarity of the knowledge base to other teams

    Let all departments participate in the formation of the knowledge base, not just product developers. This will help the team stay in sync – everyone will know where to look for what. As a result, we came to the conclusion that each department has 1-2 people who are responsible for filling and updating the necessary sections. They almost do not use my help anymore, and I only do top-level things – I help integrate services and am responsible for the further development of the knowledge base.

How to evaluate the effectiveness of the knowledge base

The simplest and most visual marker is a decrease in communication between colleagues in chats on questions of the FAQ format. After all, the purpose of the knowledge base is precisely to reduce this communication.

You can also use the simplest bots, for example, in Slack, to count the number of links to the knowledge base during the day, week or month in general channels and chats. The more links, the better – it means that the knowledge base is used and convenient for colleagues.

And, of course, polls, where can we go without them. We spent in October suchto identify bottlenecks and opportunities for improving the knowledge base. A quarter of all employees of the company took part in the survey.

They asked colleagues to rate on a scale whether the statement was consistent with their experience, where 1 was the lowest and 5 was the highest.
They asked colleagues to rate on a scale whether the statement was consistent with their experience, where 1 was the lowest and 5 was the highest.

The results were pleasing – for example, almost half of the survey participants confidently answered that they use the knowledge base every day.

That’s all for now. Do not be afraid to spend money on a sensible knowledge base – it will pay off with interest.

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