How I managed the use of the knowledge base. It worked out for the second time

How I managed the use of the knowledge base. It worked out for the second time

Greeting! My name is Vitaly Chesnokov. I am the CEO and co-founder of QSOFT TEAMLY – platforms for collaborative work and knowledge management.

In a previous article, I talked about how we tried to capture secret knowledge with the help of employee blogs. It’s time to try to organize a single knowledge base.

Why was it necessary to create a knowledge base?

Everything is simple. Previously, instead of a knowledge base, we had blogs on the corporate portal.
Someone wrote how they celebrated the New Year in Paris, and someone gave instructions for technical support. That is, there was a benefit, but it was sometimes difficult for beginners to find it. Because of this, managers spent an hour, and sometimes two hours every day, to answer subordinates’ questions about how everything was arranged.

Then we doubled our staff, and it became obvious: we needed a full-fledged, structured knowledge base.

General canvas of the knowledge base

We have created a single structured knowledge base in TEAMLY. It’s our own platform for collaboration and knowledge management. Now I will talk about how we came up with the principles of organizing the knowledge base and making the content understandable for employees.

By the way, if you want details about designing the platform and working on a user-friendly interface, let me know in the comments and I’ll share that experience.

Therefore, the decisive criterion for us was the simplicity and comprehensibility of the structure of the knowledge base.

There were 4 main thematic sections:

  1. By key competencies: projects, sales people, developers, designers, analysts and marketers. Highly specialized knowledge for each professional field is collected there.

  2. Business processes of the company or QboK: end-to-end processes that affect all employees. Sometimes everyone goes there, but most often – managers, because they are responsible for these processes.

  3. Projects for customers: These are artifacts and project documentation about what’s in the works.

  4. Internal projects that are repeated regularly. For example, every year we participate in exhibitions and conferences. It is more convenient to store materials for each year in one section than to go through different ones.

They were filled with content only by managers, and there was no moderation.

At some point, even the office managers came to us and asked for a section too. The others followed them. So we understood that the basis of knowledge is needed.

Several spaces in TEAMLY

Content in sections

I will not review all sections now, I will take the main one for the entire company – “Business Processes” or QboK. The head of this area introduced new business processes himself and described them in articles. Once a week, he conducted training for employees: he gave lectures, explained how to use the knowledge base, and answered questions.

We seriously bothered to make sure that each article in the knowledge base gave the most complete answers to the questions that often arise: we divided it into thematic blocks, tried to make a beautiful design, added a video at the end, etc. The work was large-scale, I would say – monumental. It’s a shame that we got so caught up in the process that we completely forgot about the result. The knowledge base was good, but ineffective.

How did we figure it out? These articles were given to our new employees and students of the QSOFT School of Managers. And the guys started asking questions, from which we realized that they don’t understand what we wrote at all.

For example, a new manager arrives. He is given a task: fill in the SRS on his project.

SRS (Software requirements specification) is an artifact where all functional and requirements are collected. We compile it on every project.

The manager sends it to QBok. A person reads, sees a very interesting theory. But it is not clear what needs to be done to complete the task. Where to start? How to place a ticket? How much time to allocate for work? And goes to ask the manager. The circle closed.

Therefore, we decided to revise the format of submitting articles.

Act two: how we reworked the same articles a second time

So what have we redesigned to make the articles more accessible to the audience of regular employees? The substance of the articles was generally correct. But it was not visible behind the abstract wording and boring presentation.

What was added to make the articles work better

Deciphering terms

Previously, all these terms and abbreviations, even in English, were right in the body of the article. And if you don’t know the term, you had to ask or Google it. We made it more convenient for the user: at the beginning of the article, we visually highlighted the block with the transcript and translation. If it is just text, and not on some colored background, then it was not found). We also always give definitions to artifacts, because they are called differently in different companies.

A brief summary of the method + a link to the source

We refactored tools according to various international methodologies. In order to make the essence of this method clearer to people, we re-stated the main idea in our own words and provided links to the original to expand our horizons.

Here we focused on the requirements management rules in the BABoK (Business Analysis Body of Knowledge) – a summary of business analysis knowledge compiled by the International Institute of Business Analysis IIBA. The link is clickable.

Schemes instead of a canvas of text

We usually draw diagrams to show the evolution of various artifacts as we work.

We have already created this scheme in relation to our work. Pre-sale analysts are responsible for the initial processing of requirements for our company. They transfer to the account manager the initial processing of the customer’s requirements, the estimate and the plan-schedule. To detail all the requirements, the account manager draws up the SRC. Then, on the basis of several artifacts, a technical task is formed at the next stage. It just seems to us that it is easier to remember in the form of a scheme.

Video overview of the section with time codes

This is a video recording of an offline lecture + a list of questions and answers from employees on the topic of an article from the knowledge base. For those who didn’t understand/missed something. The video format was praised, but they complained that 1 hour and 28 minutes was simply not enough. So we added timecode to save people time.

Question answer

We took questions for this section from a variety of sources: from competency leaders, from comments on articles, written on planners, or directly asked by employees to add it to the knowledge base. Therefore, if 2-3 questions were collected for one article, we make a block and supplement as needed.

Check sheet

At the end of the article, we include a checklist for self-checking, so that the manager does not waste time explaining the requirements for each task. It seems to us that there is less risk that it will have to be reworked, because initially everything is spelled out quite clearly.

Area of ​​responsibility in process

If we describe a process where several participants are involved at once, we write in the knowledge base: who is responsible + role description. This was not in the knowledge base at first. But this simple line essentially removed many points of potential tension when working in a team.

When a person does not understand his area of ​​responsibility, and he is responsible for everything, neuroticism begins. Dissatisfaction with oneself, processes, and colleagues is growing. Hence burnout, conflicts, dismissal, etc. And so everything is publicly recorded in the knowledge base: everyone has their role in the project fixed. And we save time figuring out who has what + take the stress out of all team members.

Adjusted stylistically

Let’s do an imaginary experiment, shall we? How many times do you need to read this sentence before you understand the meaning?

Pricing with the calculation of the actual cost of labor does not include the risks of defect correction or warranty obligations, ie. the correction of detected errors is planned and a report on it is prepared as for a regular task, for example, system development.

To be honest, I have two.

People often go to the knowledge base to quickly find an answer. They don’t want to read the text twice until you get to the point. That’s why we abandoned verb-based nouns, vocabulary from Soviet textbooks, and official business style.

How this offer can be rewritten: Price calculation based on actual hours spent does not include risk of defect correction or warranty. We plan to correct the detected errors, but we prepare the report as for a regular task. For example, regarding system development.

Fans of corporate wording grimaced. But the articles became clearer.

Verification by steering: how efficiency was evaluated

Next, we started to check whether we are going in the right direction. Therefore, first rewrite one article and check whether the hypothesis was correct. We were not tasked with measuring the number of views, etc. The main thing is honest feedback.

I will explain with an example. At QSOFT, we have such a process as steering. These are the meetings where we discuss the key project metrics and see if we’re on target in terms of time and money. Each participant must prepare documents and data for steering. The problem is that people came to steering unprepared. if at least one is not ready, the discussion will be delayed for at least half an hour.

We rewrote the “How to prepare for steering” instructions and gave all participants a link. So they wrote: “Guys, this is an instruction on what to prepare for steering. Be sure to read and prepare.” And then on the steering wheel itself, they watched whether the person was ready or not. If not ready, then the reason was found out.

Most often there are two of them: did not read/read, but did not understand. If you haven’t read it, it’s not in the article itself, but in the surrounding context. Too many tasks, not enough time. Or a person sets priorities incorrectly: he thinks that preparation for steering is the lowest. Someone just hates the very process of preparation, as well as someone – filling tasks. Some simply don’t try: they read diagonally and prepare to fall behind.

And if 9 out of 10 people read it, but did not understand it, then the problem is in the article itself.

After steering, we talked with the guys. There were 10 people in total. 6 after this article came prepared. The 4 reasons for not preparing were the ones I described above. So the articles fulfill their function.


Then we rewrote the remaining articles in the same spirit. They did not develop a brand book and editorial policy. We don’t see the point in this yet: a lot of time and resources, but they don’t generate revenue on their own. And then we connected all company employees to fill the knowledge base.

But this is the topic of a separate article. If you are interested in reading our knowledge management materials in a different format, visit ours Telegram channel or on YouTube.

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