Knowledge Base Vs Wiki: How Can Your Business Leverage Them Both?

Knowledge Base Vs Wiki: How Can Your Business Leverage Them Both?

Sometimes we think, to be the best, we have to work with the best tool. We can spend ages doing intensive research, weighing up all of our options, and stressing over our choice. If you were to ask about knowledge management software, you’d be advised to either consider a knowledge base or a wiki.

They are pitted against each other. But what if we told you that no matter what you pick, you’d be missing out? By opting for one tool, your business is losing out on the advantages of the other. This hardly sounds effective, and 70% of companies predict that having solid company knowledge will improve productivity by 20%.

The information shows the pros and cons of both softwares. Wikis have faster content population, live updates, but potential inaccuracies, can be prone to abuse, and relies on colleagues for checking. A knowledge base is more authoritative, has less errors, but can be less up-to-date and has a slower submission process.

We are going to talk about how you can leverage multiple management systems to benefit your employees. Don’t get us wrong, knowledge sharing with customers can reap great rewards for your business. But making every team member feel like a company expert will undoubtedly boost customer experience. Therefore, our focus is going to be on internal knowledge bases versus corporate wikis, which we will go over soon.

Not everything has to be a competition. Sometimes you really can have the best of both worlds. By being fully informed, you give your company a fighting chance. So, let’s dive into what your options are and how you can successfully integrate both into your strategy.

What is a knowledge base?

When we want answers, we want them fast. Especially when customers are growing angrier by the minute. No one likes to wait 3-5 business days for a generic response from your support team that doesn’t even end up being helpful.

Imagine if there was a platform where your company has inputted solutions to every problem they can think of. What you’re picturing in your head is a knowledge base. A collection of business-relevant information all in one convenient space.

Knowledge bases are used for self-service, either for the customer or the employee. Your intended audience will affect what type you require.

Types of knowledge bases

  1. Internal knowledge base. Information is gathered and stored for employees. It is private and confidential, only allowing access to those within a company.
  2. External knowledge base. A platform where you can share information with the public. Customers can use this as a self-help service.
Benefits of having an internal knowledge base is displayed, including quicker onboarding, time saving, reduced HR workload, standardised information, and lower resolution wait time.

What is a wiki?

You’ve heard of Wikipedia, right? The website has all of the answers you need. That’s a relief; then we’re already halfway there. As you would’ve seen, with a wiki, knowledge sharing is a free-for-all and no permissions are required. Probably why it didn’t fill our teachers with the most confidence.

It’s a place you can visit to research just about anything. Think of the strangest thing you can, there are probably wiki pages for it. You can go beyond this and make edits to information and dig deeper through the hive of links.

Wiki software in general involves the collaboration of users to maintain an open-source platform of information. However, there are different types to meet different needs.

Types of wikis

  1. Corporate wiki. It is an internal resource for employees about specific company information. Team members can update the content. Also referred to as an internal wiki or a company wiki.
  2. Traditional wiki. Users can add, edit, and collaborate on content. Groups of people can share knowledge on one platform.
Benefits of having a corporate wiki are displayed, including organized information, higher productivity, optimized onboarding and training, and knowledge retention.

Similarities and differences

Corporate wikiInternal knowledge base
Very helpful for collaboration because anyone can add and edit the content.It is only worked on by dedicated editors, so cannot be used for collaboration.
Some wikis don’t have a search function. It can be time-consuming to find content.The information is organized in keywords and categories, so it’s easy to find.
The lack of structure makes employee onboarding difficult. They struggle to find what they need and get overwhelmed.The clear layout improves the accessibility for new employees and makes onboarding a quick process. 
Anyone can say anything. The information can therefore be inaccurate and there is not much quality control. The content producers carefully choose resources. The information has a lot of authority and is accurate. 
The content tends to be more specific because information can get added during team meetings or brainstorms. This makes it easier to solve industry-dependent issues.Experts carefully curate content so it is helpful in a broader sense. While it is diverse across your industry, it can be harder to find something very specific.  
More cost-effective.Can be an expensive investment. 
Due to wide access, wikis benefit from live or fast updates.Knowledge bases have slower publish rates and are checked only by editors, meaning they can be out-of-date.
Having organized information will boost employee engagement.Having organized information will boost employee engagement. 

Both knowledge bases and wikis have a wide range of positive attributes and things that could be improved. By weaving them together, your company can cherry-pick what features it can benefit from while leaving the rest behind. Being the best isn’t about making unnecessary choices. It’s about being innovative.

Providing different types of information

We often seek out a single source of truth, especially in a company where we are used to having the right way of doing things. But, as we’ve discussed, wikis are more of a tool for collaboration, and knowledge bases are a source of authority.

Below are some examples of information types. Some will be better suited for a wiki, and others for a knowledge base. Regardless, they are all crucial to user experience and having satisfied employees.

  • Conceptual information. No matter your industry, employees will always want to share theories, hypotheses, and new ideas. Since there is no concrete information, and people want to add their own input, a wiki would be more accessible.
  • Technical guidance. You don’t want employees who aren’t qualified to edit anything technical because it could confuse others or they could add something that isn’t accurate, so it should be kept in a knowledge base.
  • Procedural support. This advice isn’t open to interpretation. It shouldn’t change, just be updated when necessary. Your policies and standard operating procedures (SOPs) need to be chosen by authority and kept securely in a knowledge base.
  • Subjective suggestions. Having a space for employees to bounce opinions can stimulate activity and workflow. This information shouldn’t be taken as truth and should be published in a collaborative space, so suits the format of a wiki.

As you can see, there isn’t just one type of knowledge. Sometimes employees benefit more by learning from their peers. But there are also times when a singular reliable source is more relevant. Taking away the choice is never the best option for content management. Instead, try leaning into both.

Give your knowledge software clear purposes. Don’t make the mistake of using both for everything, that’s where the confusion will creep in. Develop a community feel on the wiki and a corporate feel on your knowledge base.

Employees will gain from knowing they have access to the content they don’t need to fact-check, but also have a place where they can share and experiment. Promote creativity and authority in one clean sweep.

Improving the organization of content

Your employees can waste a lot of time wondering where the right information is. They spend their days asking around for the right answer or waiting for an email response. This might be because the content just doesn’t exist. But it could be just too hard to find.

Employees spend roughly 1.8 hours a day searching for knowledge, which is an average of 9.3 hours a week. This interruption of workflow is going to cause problems with productivity and engagement. If your support team has to spend days getting back to customers with an answer, they won’t keep a reputation for effective customer service.

A woman with her hands on her hips, smiling, with the subtitles "I love organisation".

So, we need a bit of organization. You may assume that because a knowledge base cannot be edited by everyone, it will be better for the organization. It’s definitely a necessary tool. But some of the best practices for organizing content are better employed with a wiki. Let’s take a look at what we mean.

  • Knowledge base: This software can be properly controlled to ensure that the right knowledge ends up in the right place.
  • Wiki: Your employees know best. They might put content in a subsection you wouldn’t. Let them tell you where something is best kept to make it more user-friendly.
  • Knowledge base: Documentation can get confusing when it is written by many people in many styles. Here, the content usually fits into templates or is written by the same person.
  • Wiki: Because everyone can work on the same thing in real time, it makes it easier to organize a project or plan internally.
  • Knowledge base: These are organized to get information seen, which increases discoverability. Content on wikis can be written in a hurry as the user could be trying to simply get the knowledge out there.

Don’t let your content roll around like a tumbleweed. Being organized is crucial for accessibility, readability, and quick problem-solving. Also, some content such as customer data and finances will probably be restricted. Keeping this in a knowledge base but having a fully accessible wiki will ensure confidentiality is never compromised.

Finding gaps

The reason you want to utilize a variety of knowledge formats is that you cover all ground. Your employees can find what they need, however they need it. But what about using combined software to identify what they can’t find?

Knowledge gaps

Pesky content gaps occur between what users are searching for and what they receive. It refers to the undocumented content that your company is missing out on. Greater knowledge cavities really do affect performance.

Employees may find the category they wanted, but the information within doesn’t answer the question they had. This wastes even more time because they will have to reach out to a support team anyway.

Many factors contribute to content oversight. Your company might not be thriving because of:

  • A lack of communication.
  • Insufficient research.
  • Too many editors.
  • Poor structure.
  • Employees are too afraid to reach out.

You can file away your technical content in your knowledge base, regularly updating as and when your experts uncover something new. Since the work is being done by professionals, you can rest assured knowing it will be controlled, curated, and categorized accurately. Detailed labeling and subsections make it easier to see what could be added.

Two types of categorisation are shown, one direct and one indirect.

However, since there are still gaps when you solely use a knowledge base, information still slips through the cracks. We can’t be perfect, but by adding a wiki into the mix, your employees can find gaps by themselves. Users of these platforms are the ones looking for answers, so who better to identify if something is missing?

To leverage your knowledge base software to the max, pick out what your company could profit from. Here are some examples:

  • Knowledge base: For each topic, document the categories within. For each category, document the keywords within.
  • Wiki: Encourage employees to post in a forum if they have questions that cannot be answered by searching. They’ve probably noticed something that you and the experts haven’t.
  • Knowledge base: People may be worried that the content is out there, but they can’t find it. They might be wasting time creating something that is already out there. This software creates a centralized system for your workplace. If something is missing from here, it probably doesn’t exist.
  • Wiki: The collaboration features mean that your team can flag and edit content that needs updating or needs something new added.

Skills gaps

Subject matter experts make sure you can find information. But what happens when they leave? The information stays alive on the platform, but the knowledge leaves with the employee. Gaps in skills can so often go unnoticed, leaving employees feeling unmotivated and frustrated.

Having employees with impressive skill sets isn’t just beneficial for appearances. There is a wide range of reasons to fill in the gaps where possible. You can do this by sending out surveys to your team and asking them how they want to progress and what they want to improve on. Asking your employees themselves will make them feel listened to.

You could also conduct a skills gap analysis. Conducting one can help you identify what you need to reach your business goals, what employees want to learn, and which problems could be solved by learning certain new skills.

The example shows an individual may participate in a skills gap analysis because of poor performance, changes in the job requirement, or requirement of a new skill for a project/promotion. It suggested that to address the gap you should conduct training sessions, drive succession planning, or mentoring initiatives. Alternatively, a team may need one because of issues achieving business goals, investing in new technologies, or changes in strategy. It suggested that to address the gap you should conduct training sessions, hire the right people, and mentoring initiatives.

Your aim is to turn information into knowledge. That’s the key to well-oiled teams and a successful company. But how can a knowledge base and wiki integration improve skill learning and sharing among your employees?

  • Wiki: The community aspect boosts employee relationships with teamwork. This will make them much more likely to reach out to each other when they need assistance.
  • Knowledge base: Using how-to guides, tutorials, and plenty of images instead of always publishing articles help people who learn visually.
  • Wiki: Encouraging documentation means that employees can work on their skills. Maybe you could have them create their own tutorials? Learn by teaching.
  • Knowledge base: You could include optional online courses among different topics.
  • Wiki: Collaboration creates a cycle of learning and documenting. This will help productivity to flow naturally with minimal intervention.

4. Better employee satisfaction

How your employees feel about the company is one of the most important contributions to its success. They reflect your values and if they don’t care, why should your customers? Keep them engaged and fulfilled. They’ll return the favor by being eager to learn.

Have you been suffering from a high turnover? Wondering why you can’t increase employee retention? 94% of employees responded that they would stay in a job longer if the company committed to helping them learn.

It shows the 4 key factors to determine employee satisfaction, which are "compensation and benefits", "employee recognition", "working conditions and resources", and "work relationships".

Knowledge-sharing platforms help users to learn, gain skills, have company pride, and work as a team. Do what’s best for your team and provide as many opportunities as you can. But how does leveraging two knowledge management systems affect employee satisfaction?

Wiki: Trusting your employees to edit directly will make them recognised.

Knowledge base: Employees will feel more satisfied if they are working for an authoritative, knowledgeable company. A good knowledge base will prove this.

Wiki: Collaboration makes users feel like they are a part of something.

Knowledge base: Giving your users access to exclusive resources and other benefits that are only available internally will make them feel valued and happier.

Wiki: Having solid relationships is a huge factor in employee retention. Allowing them to communicate and work together will make them more connected.

You can’t improve satisfaction and retention without proving that you care. Employees need to feel like they are growing. No one wants to feel stagnant in their daily lives. Give them a mix of expert-written documentation and the chance to learn in a collaborative workspace.

Final thoughts

You could spend days or weeks contemplating which software tidies up the best. One competitor uses a hoover. Another uses a mop. You need to use the whole cleaning cupboard. If you consider our practices, then you’ll be able to do just that.

Trust us. A combination of a knowledge base and a wiki will see your business storming ahead of the competition. You’ll have happy, skillful employees who care about your company as much as you do. They’ll offer the highest quality customer support they can. What’s not to love?