Why you probably need a knowledge base instead of a corporate wiki

Jan 2nd, 2020

Avoiding knowledge loss, storing, retrieving and sharing knowledge is a critical part in every business. In fact, lots of businesses make losses every year because of their lack of knowledge management.

Wikis are often considered by companies as a top-of-mind solution to build, organize and share their knowledge internally.  

You might think an internal wiki (or corporate wiki) is the same as an internal knowledge base. It's actually very different and you might be looking for a modern knowledge base software rather than for a wiki software.  

This article will help you to understand the main differences between a knowledge base over an internal wiki, and the benefits of choosing a knowledge base. 

Table of content
1. What's a corporate wiki 
2. What's a knowledge base
3. Main disadvantages of a corporate wiki 
4. Takeaway

What's a corporate wiki 

Wikipedia is certainly the most famous example that comes to mind. 

In the same way, with a company wiki, every team member can access, create or edit content. And the changes are typically designed to be instantly displayed after an edit. The word "wiki" actually means "very quick" in Hawaiian, and that's why they are designed to be that way.

There are no restrictions, owners or centralized content producers. All you need is a web browser to browse through the wiki pages, read and edit content. The number of users allowed to collaborate is potentially endless. 

In fact, collaboration is the most important factor in a corporate wiki. Most wikis were developed with open-source model and designed around knowledge sharing and collaboration.

Wikis are actually built around the notion of "minimal content oversight". It's their main advantage as their biggest issue. We'll see later how this issue can be overcome in a modern knowledge management system.  

What's a knowledge base

Simply put a knowledge base is a centralized and online repository where you can store and retrieve information. The knowledge it contains can be of any kind related to a specific department, topic, or project. 

An internal knowledge base is meant to help centralize and share the most crucial information for a business. In a classic knowledge base the content though is produced by selected contributors that have been given the right to create or edit the content. 

This usually helps to keep better consistency and up-to-date knowledge across all your documents.  

A knowledge base will provide more ways to structure and organize logically your content which can become crucial to keeping your employees engaged and leveraging your company knowledge. 

Most modern knowledge base software combines the best of two worlds: wikis (collaboration) and internal knowledge base (consistency, sharing, search etc.). 

Keep reading below to understand what are the main benefits of managing your internal documentation using a modern internal knowledge base and why they are slowly replacing corporate wikis in today's knowledge management systems. 

Related contentwhat is a knowledge base8 tips to build yours

Main disadvantages of a corporate wiki 

While using a wiki for your company knowledge might sound like a good place to start to encourage knowledge curation and collaboration between your team members it comes with some critical disadvantages, such as: 

Limited search functions

Wikis come with poor or even no search capabilities. In a modern world where everyone is using search engines such as Google and expects to find information in one click, it can really harm your employees' engagement with your company's knowledge. 

Think of your employees as customers of your knowledge. A fast, reliable search is vital for your knowledge to be consumed. A great search will provide great customer support and improve discovery while reducing the time spent retrieving information. That's something you should be looking for in a knowledge base. 

Hard to edit content

In most cases, your employees will need to know markup language rules as HTML to edit content within a wiki. It makes it harder for the content to stay fresh and often ends up with no one using it at all. 

Modern software for knowledge base provides "wysiwyg" ("What you see is what you get") real-time editors. This allows for greater user experience. Furthermore, your non-technical team members won't be excluded from using it. 

Inconsistent content and time-consuming to maintain

As everyone is able to edit your wiki content this often leads to inconsistency across your knowledge documents. And you can even end up with inaccuracy and gaps in your knowledge, as you have no ways to control who can edit what. 

Modern Knowledge base softwares now provide more flexibility. Depending on the control you want to apply over the content being produced and stored you can define roles for writing and accessibility. The marketing team, for instance, might be able to read the product team content without editing it and the product team can have an overview of the general marketing plan in return.

Furthermore, with comments features embedded in tools such as Slite, everyone can collaborate actively without leaving the content. 

Inefficient employee onboarding

If you send your new employees out in the wild of a wiki, they will probably end up overwhelmed by the lack of structure. A wiki is great for discovery but might not play its best role when it comes to ease your employee onboarding. You'll need to be able to direct them quickly to the right content and if necessary restrict their access to it. And there's where our onboarding checklists.

No separation of private vs. public information

Every user of a classic wiki will have access to all the content within it. You won't be able to create different types of users. Every bit of information will be available to everyone. There is no option to create a private wiki.

You might have to create different platforms to separate private and public information. You won't be able to centralize all your company information in a single place. 

This makes content management harder and more time-consuming. It often leads to miscommunication, inconsistent data, and harder to share information across your whole team. 

Little to no analytics 

A feedback loop is key to improve your process and knowledge management system. Wikis provide little or no analytics about how your team consumes the content.

It will make it harder to improve your content over time, spot content gap and follow your team engagement. 

Takeaway

Wikis might seem like a good idea to centralize and enhance collaboration around your company's knowledge. In reality, they quickly become hard to manage, they lack flexibility and are often a struggle to keep your employees engaged with. 

Opting for a modern dedicated knowledge base software will provide your company the best of both worlds bringing structure, ease of access, sharing and collaboration capabilities all in one place.

Discover Slite, a dedicated knowledge base software.

Great teams manage their knowledge base on Slite.

Slite helps teams share knowledge and get organized.

Screenshot of corporate wiki handbook
Screenshot of corporate wiki handbook