What is a Knowledge Base?

Page Coleman

A knowledge base (KB) is a repository of information that is used in an organization’s knowledge management operations. These operations include functions such as customer support or product development. The information is usually stored in an electronic data base.

Analysis of the knowledge base usage might show a need for improved instructions or additional training.
Analysis of the knowledge base usage might show a need for improved instructions or additional training.

A knowledge management system must allow for information to be collected, organized and retrieved. Within an organization, subject matter experts and technical communications staff members typically create the knowledge base information and enter it into a system. A robust system will provide a means for the information to be tagged with keywords and categorized for retrieval. People might do the tagging and categorizing of the information.

Software tools can aid in this process. Text mining, enterprise bookmarking and semantic web tools can make the process of categorizing the information — and thus retrieving the information — more efficient. The information might be tagged by product number, error message number, task, user type or other elements and then shared appropriately.

Some typical types of knowledge base information include frequently asked questions (FAQs), how-to articles, troubleshooting tips, white papers, user manuals and installation guides. Common-sense knowledge bases are types of knowledge bases that could be used for artificial intelligence (IA) purposes. These types pull together all of the information that a typical person could be expected to know on a topic. This knowledge can then be used to program a machine to resolve issues that formerly required a person.

Implementation of a knowledge base offers numerous benefits to an organization. It can reduce training time of new employees. The tool can increase employees’ job satisfaction, because it can make their work easier. Customers also will be more satisfied in several ways, because they will deal with employees who are better able to help them. In addition, web-based customer self-service allows the customers to resolve their issues at their convenience and not just during the company’s business hours.

Along with supporting customer service functions, a knowledge base can provide a source of information that allows the company to improve its products and services. Analysis of the knowledge base usage might highlight needs for added product functionality or enhanced usability. It also can show a need for improved instructions or additional training.

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