Why your team needs a purpose-built knowledge base

In the battle of a purpose-built knowledge base vs Swiss Army knife, the winner is clear

Despite Marc Andreesen’s famous 2011 pronouncement that “software is eating the world”, the software many companies used internally then –– and even through 2020 –– was not ideal for modern ways of working. In fact, just a few short years ago, only a handful of enthusiasts would have believed that hybrid and distributed working could be globally dominant in 2023.

Slite was among them, and we bring our unwavering belief in the potential of modern work to our product. As we started developing Slite into what it is today, we decided the best way to help people harness the power of shared knowledge was to be a purpose-built knowledge base.

Knowledge is the crucial element that drives all organizations to grow, collaborate,  innovate, and solve big problems. It deserves a dedicated solution so every team can realize its potential –– here’s why.

The Swiss Army knife approach fails

If you’ve ever tried to open a bottle of wine with the corkscrew on a Swiss Army knife, you know that it’s possible to get the job done with a multitool. But you’re also going to end up with a lot of cork floating around your merlot.

SaaS is no stranger to tools that try to do everything: scheduling + project management + team communication + docs system + sales pipeline + HR! But under that “efficiency” is a cost: a lack of insight for how teams use each part of the tool.

For knowledge bases, that means multitools often offer simple word docs, folders and tagging. Why? It’s easy to build and to add to the package. But this narrow vision misunderstands how companies actually use their knowledge –– or how they could, if their software helped them.

Purpose-built knowledge bases are created by people who do nothing but think about how you can create your team’s knowledge, add to it, find it, update it, use it, revise it, delete it, capture it in many forms –– video, audio, text, charts, doodles, polls.

We empower your team to integrate knowledge capture into everyday workflow and have options to make sure everyone can store what they need, from code snippets to fully designed presentations.

Because we know there is no real “backup plan” for a bad knowledge base. When your team can’t access good resources, or isn’t encouraged to maintain them, it is a point of failure that affects every person and project.

Your team’s knowledge is dynamic –– so your knowledge base has to be dynamic, too

We hate thinking of a knowledge base as a library. Believing a knowledge base is a static place for only the most essential pieces of information –– onboarding handbooks, employee manuals, company vision –– is setting yourself up for failure.

Rather, we think of knowledge bases like a community garden, alive and growing, and tended to often.

The information your company works with grows every day, in every meeting, with every new feature, hire and project. Your discussions, decisions, conversations and meeting notes all need to be in your knowledge base.

We know companies need a solution that collects relevant information –– and we also know that knowledge capture is the most complex and important part of any knowledge base. So doing this after the fact is not realistic and does not work.

For us, this means building a place that prompts people to save and organize knowledge as it gets created, whether that is in a discussion, a feature meeting, a 1:1 or a weekly update. We have a full library of templates that help you easily synthesize and store information as it arises.

We also provide clear, easy to digest updates so team members can see what needs their attention and what has changed without wading through a sea of notifications. With an option to follow or unfollow different documents, team members can stay invested in their contributions without getting overwhelmed.

Structure and support drive success

Some tools are a beach, with endless space and no borders. Any software that is selling tons of customizations and promising that you can create any flow or template from a blank slate is a beach.

Customizing a non-specific software to act as your knowledge base may work for select teams, but the downsides are numerous. It takes a lot of effort to get things off the ground, and train everyone to get up to speed.

It can also mean that easy access to the right knowledge at the right times diminishes. When many job functions happen in one app, made possible with extreme customization, people leave information scattered across the tool in silos, tagging people in when there’s a specific need. Paradoxically, having one place for the majority of work makes knowledge harder to navigate, rather than driving true centralization of data into a single source of truth.

Some tools, like Slite, are a sandbox, with plenty of room to arrange things the way you like, and guardrails that make working intuitive.

Because we’re a purpose-built knowledge base, our product is opinionated: we have clear guidance on how to work with knowledge, and only develop the features that are necessary. We’re focused on giving teams the structure they need to move fast and work better –– not providing every possible option. Slite still has flexibility so your company can set up everything you need, but our select features and workflows that mean start up time is minimal.

We also leverage AI to unlock easier ways to work.

That doesn’t mean we suggest you use AI to write your documentation for you. No digital tool can replace your ability to think or can synthesize the wisdom, experience and knowledge of your team as it happens. No digital tool can make decisions for you or come up with the next vision that will drive your product or company.

But AI can make knowledge bases better. Rather than having a sea of old folders and docs to wade through, what if you could simply query your own database and get a clear answer to your question? This is the idea behind Ask: to have an easy, accurate and intuitive way for people to surface the right information at the right time. Ask doesn’t fake your expertise, it helps you tap into the resources you’ve already worked hard on as a company.

Right now, we’re thinking about how to use AI thoughtfully as a way to summarize docs with one click, making it easier for people to surface key insights. And we’re using our research and experience to help companies verify their documentation at scale with AI –– and keep those verifications up to date. Both are coming soon to Slite, because we don’t expect you to figure out the setup and upkeep a good knowledge base requires on your own.

Shining a light on hidden hard work

Even though it is key to running a company well, building a great knowledge base is a difficult and under-appreciated job. But we see all the work you put into maintaining great knowledge bases, how much thought goes into picking the right tool and just how much teams get out when they’re done right.

That’s why we want to give teams the tools to create a single source of truth. As a purpose-built, AI-powered knowledge base, we are determined to create the next generation of our category. So modern teams can stop feeling overwhelmed by knowledge management and start getting to work.

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