In part 1 I talked about my favourite SharePoint Knowledge Base sites, places I look to frequently for SharePoint information. In this post I’m going to talk about resources available if you want to create your own SharePoint Knowledge Base site or site collection.
What is a Knowledge Base?
A quick check on Wikipedia gives us this:
“Human-readable knowledge bases are designed to allow people to retrieve and use the knowledge they contain. They are commonly used to complement a help desk or for sharing information among employees within an organization. They might store troubleshooting information, articles, white papers, user manuals, or answers to frequently asked questions. Typically, a search engine is used to locate information in the system, or users may browse through a classification scheme.”
And that immediately raises the question you should ask first – what information problem am I trying to address here? For example, do I want a site where users can post questions and other users can answer them? Or maybe I already have a set of papers, manuals or other documentation which I need to upload onto a site, possibly adding more value with SharePoint metadata such as classification, topic area, or review date?
Out of the Box Functionality
The good news is that we can get a lot of that functionality “out of the box” with SharePoint. Judicious use of document libraries, Wiki Pages and simple custom lists will give you a nice, easy-to navigate structure for for your body of knowledge. All of these can have an approval process added to them and I would also recommend adding a review date column where appropriate so that key personnel can get a “due for review” view of the list or library.
Also, think about how you want to categorise your documents and articles and use one or more custom lists as lookup columns for use in views or as filters. A good example of this approach can be seen in the End User SharePoint case study Pages and Sites in SharePoint 2007.
Microsoft’s Free Knowledge Base Template for WSS 3.0
This is a free download from Microsoft, one of the “fantastic 40 templates” and could be worth a look if you want to get some ideas. It’s an administrator template, which means it needs to be deployed onto the server rather than uploaded as a site template (stp) file. It includes pre-defined content types which let site users upload documents or articles and cross-reference. Ian Morrish is hosting all 40 templates here, so you can try it out first to see if it suits your requirements.
Take Advantage of Search Keywords and Best Bets
If you are using SharePoint Server 2007 or indeed Search Server Express, make sure you are regularly reviewing search usage data and use this information to create and update search keywords and Best Bets. Your users will get much more value out of your solution if they can quickly find what they’re looking for.
Zevenseas – Anatomy of a SharePoint Solution
Daniel McPherson has a series of posts covering the Anatomy of a SharePoint Solution. The solution is in fact an employee blogging platform but many features of the approach used could apply to a knowledge base solution. And some of the custom features they are using, such as Tagged Links, are available as free downloads. They have also developed custom “Most Discussed” and “Most Viewed” features, something I am frequently asked about by clients (but not available for free unfortunately).
Other Free Stuff
Here are a couple of other free add-ons which might be useful for a knowledge base implementation (note, these are community contributions, so don’t normally come with any warranty – use at your own discretion):
SharePoint Document Rating System – lets users rate documents by applying a number of stars.
SharePoint Knowledge Base Solution Accelerator from Bamboo Solutions
Last but by no means least, take a look at the Bamboo Knowledge Base Solution Accelerator. The licence price for this solution is currently $2,000, but that’s pretty good if you consider how much a bespoke development might cost. It incorporates the key features you’ll need to get your Knowledge Base up and running, including categorisation, search, questions and answers, ratings and most popular articles. There’s a trial download available here, or for a two-minute overview of how it works, take a look at this (note, I updated this on 26 Sept 2012 as URL for Bamboo video needed fixing):