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Knowledgebase creation for small companies
August 3, 2010 6:45 AM   Subscribe

How can a small company create a knowledgebase for use internally as well as externally by clients.

I work for a bicycle manufacturing company, a relatively small one compared to big companies like Trek or Specialized. The company has its own niche and unique products. We have a body of information pertaining to our bikes which is perpetuated via an email list, on Youtube, through personal contacts and on our web site with numerous how-to pages.
Internally, our hosted server volume is a bit of a mess with data nested many directories deep and no particular overall organizational management of the information within it.
In terms of knowledge bases, I'm speculating about how can a company create a searchable knowledgebase for use internally that ultimately becomes a repository for external users as well?
The equivalent tools that I think would be relevant would be Mac Spotlight content searches on server volumes (Windows only network), tagged photos, and wikis.
Given the deep involvement by our client base, you would want them to be able to contribute to the knowledgebase which makes me think of a wiki.
We have Google search set up on our web site, which helps, but doesn't really help us create a dynamic repository of information which supports the company internally in its day to day operations as well as becomes a resource for clients seeking information easily and quickly.
This can't be a tech heavy endeavor since we don't have the resources to do that. Open source solutions are preferred.
I'm not looking for one single answer but some speculation about what might work or avenues to research or think about. Thanks in advance.
posted by diode to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Have you looked at any of the products like SharePoint?*

*I'm not suggesting you use SharePoint specifically, but SP or something like it seems to be the software you are looking for.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:53 AM on August 3, 2010


I'm in the process of building just such a system (an online reference library, with resources for both paying subscribers as well as the general public). I have a decent amount of web experience so I'm using Drupal. It can range from simple to maddening, depending on what you want it to do. It takes a lot of futzing with, but so far it's worth it.

The nice thing about it is that it indexes all our many types of content very well and consolidates everything with a single search. We also don't need to "break brand" by using an embedded Google search bar; everything stays within our site.

Really, though, there are lots of Content Management Systems (CMS), most of which are free and open-source, which are intended to do exactly what you want here. The decent ones also have user account management so you can choose what internal/external users see.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 7:03 AM on August 3, 2010


First of all, approach this as a social problem first. Focus on the people, what they need, and what will encourage them to contribute to and use the knowledge in your knowledge base. Use these as a basis for your goals, metrics, and system requirements.

Make your presentation layer separate from the internal organization of your repository. In other words, you don't want to make your users and contributors navigate your internal database structure. Don't skimp on metadata. And consider allowing users to define and modify metadata.

Focus especially on what processes, management practices, recognition methods, etc. will help your organization make the knowledge base a success. I think the rule of thumb is that less than 1% of your audience will contribute signifcant content to your knowledge base. Make sure your practices identify and encourage these key people.

For instance set up a way for contributors to feel validated and heard. I always have clients identify a team of "hosts," for lack of a better term, who will always acknowledge contributions and be designated commenters and facilitators. If a user feels like what they contribute will be read and appreciated, they will contribute more.

Also, try to identify within your organization the early adopters who are most likely to be open to changes like these. Consult them throughout the developmet process to build their enthusiasm. Groom them to be your evangelists once this thing launches.

Make sure the processes for contributing knowledge are as lean as possible. Something as small as an extra login will discourage a large percentage of your potential contributors. And with these types of systems frequent contribution drives everything else.

One idea I always try to implement whereever I can is to make the knowledge gathering as close to the "real work" as possible. You don't want knowledge management to be an extra thing people do, but a natural part of the stuff they already do.
posted by cross_impact at 9:11 AM on August 3, 2010


Since you have resource constraints, I would recommend something like http://twiki.org/.

I set it up at my workplace recently and found it relatively simple. It will search your content plus any attachments and will let you setup different areas of the site accessible to different groups of people.
posted by xufasch at 12:51 PM on August 3, 2010


Okay, the twiki suggestion is something I've already considered. I'll be looking more into that to see how I can use it for our needs.
posted by diode at 4:57 PM on August 3, 2010


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