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Knowledge base health: how do you stack up?

As you conduct business and try to keep up with the rapid pace of the work week, your documentation can quickly grow outdated. We’ll explain the big problems inaccurate knowledge can cause, how to determine if your knowledge base is inaccurate, and discuss how you can solve this common challenge.

What's life like without knowledge you can trust?

When it comes to knowledge management, the tools you use are just one small piece of the puzzle. Creating a healthy knowledge-sharing framework starts at the root: capturing your organization's freshest, most up-to-date institutional knowledge. 

Accurate knowledge within a centralized location is your goal. Before you get there, users can’t trust the knowledge base, which is full of outdated knowledge that’s quickly losing value. Instead, your team finds other ways to get the answers and solutions they need. Whether that involves interrupting a coworker or spending time on an issue that has previously been solved, users quickly turn their back on the knowledge base after losing confidence in its accuracy. They stop visiting the knowledge base, it grows more outdated, and the problem deepens over time.

By the numbers: the impact of inaccurate knowledge

Most organizations have knowledge scattered across several disparate systems. In fact, Gartner found that 43% of people reported occasionally or frequently failing to notice important information because of it being in too many places.

Additionally, Gartner notes that 44% of people occasionally or frequently made a wrong decision because they did not have the information they needed.

Inaccurate knowledge is disruptive to an employee's workflow

Take the Quiz: How accurate is your organizational knowledge?

Answer the following questions about your knowledge base with “Yes” or “No”:

YesNo
To overcome a challenge or roadblock, employees typically need to visit three or more sources of information including workplace applications, documentation, ChatOps tools, and more.
One of the biggest challenges employees face is not knowing where to find answers to questions or roadblocks they’re facing.
After employees discover solutions within the knowledge base, they double check it with a colleague or manager to ensure its accuracy.
Within your knowledge base, there is no clear way to understand when content was last edited or updated.
The original knowledge base contributors (authors) are responsible for updating and enhancing knowledge as it evolves and changes.
Employees must ask for update permissions or access in order to edit existing knowledge that is outdated or inaccurate.
It is difficult to flag documentation or pages that has errors.
When knowledge is updated, employees are unaware of changes that could be beneficial to their work.

If you’ve answered yes to more than 4 questions, your organization likely has a knowledge base that is decentralized and out-of-date.

Getting to accurate knowledge centralization

Even the most organized systems require some spring cleaning. A knowledge base has great potential for storing and sharing knowledge across an organization, but it requires maintenance or else it will quickly spiral out of control. Should it fall to a single admin or multiple people? 

The ideal antidote to inaccurate knowledge can programmatically help organizations identify out-of-date, obsolete, or wrong knowledge for remediation. It identifies this content through customizable criteria such as creation date, last updated date, frequency of use, and tagged topics. 

Stack Overflow for Teams’ new Content Health flags content that has likely become inaccurate or out-of-date and notifies technical experts to take action. Content is identified for review, updating, or retiring based on its age and usage. Old knowledge is cleared away before it becomes a problem, so that knowledge stays relevant and the adoption of the platform remains high.

Your secret hero: Stack Overflow for Teams' Content Health

How does Content Health work, exactly? Documenting institutional knowledge is a waste of time if it’s not maintained or no one uses it. Content Health assists your community in identifying stale knowledge for review and corrective action. Stack Overflow for Teams is the central record of truth that stays relevant, reinforcing adoption and knowledge sharing even as your knowledge base grows and evolves with time, technology, and expertise. 

Subject matter experts are a key part of the process. They are notified and empowered to take action to review, update or retire flagged content to ensure that it remains accurate and high-quality. 

Your subject matter experts and content moderators are busy. That’s why Content Health alerts users when knowledge needs their attention. Experts receive alerts on content that requires their attention within their personalized feed known as “For You” and via email. Once accessing the review queue with knowledge identified as needing to be reviewed, the content can be prioritized based on customizable criteria.

Once automated notifications are sent to users who asked a question or provided answers or users who created or are identified as editors of an Article, users visit the review queue to take corrective action or verify the knowledge is accurate. That queue can be customized by tag and filtered by the type of content to help users further prioritize the knowledge that needs their attention.

The age and usage of knowledge can be configured at the Team level by an Admin on Business or Site Admin/Team Owner on Enterprise. This allows Teams to set unique thresholds for when content is considered outdated based on the pace of their environment. For example, one organization may decide to review items 90 days from when the knowledge is created/edited. 

The community drives the maintenance of the knowledge base. It becomes a self-sustaining reference point, and the responsibility to upkeep it isn’t solely on the original author or contributor of content. Instead, updates to the knowledge base are spread amongst the users.  No access rights or permissions are needed for users who want to pay it forward and ensure the organization is accessing the most up-to-date knowledge.

The community keeps your knowledge base healthy by closing, deleting, marking knowledge as obsolete, or going to the question. Closed posts can be referenced by users, but there are limited ways to interact with them. Deleted knowledge is only available to Admins. Marking knowledge as obsolete helps to provide users with historical context. By marking knowledge as obsolete, the post will be locked, demoted within search, and clearly marked that the knowledge is irrelevant and outdated.

You can’t move forward until you understand where your gaps are when it comes to sharing knowledge. Keeping inaccurate knowledge around clouds that understanding. In order to create a comprehensive centralized knowledge base, it’s important to address inaccurate information at its root. This act will feed into your larger organizational strategies, and keep your teams on task. 

To learn more about Content Health, visit our webpage or see the feature in action. 

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