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Corporate wiki vs knowledge base - Document360

Corporate Wiki Vs Knowledge Base-A Guide For SaaS Business

Category: Knowledge Base Software

Last updated on Feb 8, 2024

Businesses are often very interested in conserving their knowledge, for the benefit of current and future employees. Improving employee engagement and knowledge management means you might be looking into corporate wiki software.

It’s important to know the difference between some very closely related types of software. In the field, corporate wiki software is actually different to internal knowledge base software, for reasons we will delve into in the main body of this article.

Companies that fail to share knowledge face a huge bottleneck in their productivity – Fortune 500 companies lose at least $31.5 billion a year due to their failure to share knowledge, so it’s important for companies to undertake knowledge management initiatives. For those initiatives to work properly, you need the right software.

“Knowledge management is change management, and, if you don’t understand people’s perspective, all the strategy and technology in the world means very little,” says Carol Kinsey Goman, president of Kinsey Consulting Services.

What is a corporate wiki

One of the most well-known examples of a wiki is Wikipedia, which runs on MediaWiki. Wikipedia’s content can be created by anyone with a web browser and the ability to write in a simplified markup language. Wiki software is structured in such a way that there is no centralized team in charge of the content, which instead is crowdsourced from a large number of participants.

Wikis are democratic because anyone can use them. They are usually developed using the open source model – the code is freely available for anyone to view and work on, and they are usually free for companies to install and use on their own servers. Corporate wikis require employees to collaborate together to produce a body of content that shares the company’s knowledge more widely.

The definition of a knowledge base

The most simple definition of a knowledge base is an online repository where you can store information in a centralized manner. It can contain any type of knowledge ranging from departments, topics, or projects. An internal knowledge base aims to bring together the most important knowledge in the business – this content is usually curated by a select group of contributors who collaborate with subject matter experts to find the right knowledge.

In contrast to a wiki, there is a more consistency with an internal knowledge base. A knowledge base provides more ways to structure and logically organize your content, compared to the sprawling nature of a wiki that grows organically as content is added. The front-end of a knowledge base has been specially designed with User Experience in mind so the interface is easy for users to navigate.

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How companies benefit from using wikis

There are a number of ways that wikis can improve your operations. We’ll go into them now.

Better collaboration
An internal wiki can improve employee engagement by encouraging your team to collaborate on content. They have an enhanced ability to share and transfer knowledge, and teams can collaborate better with each other when they need information relating to projects and initiatives that are the responsibility of other departments. Sharing knowledge improves productivity by 35%.

Enhanced onboarding

A wiki can help you onboard your new employees by giving them access to more information than they would have had otherwise. 53% of HR professionals say that employee engagement improved after making enhancements to the onboarding process. The average new employee wastes up to 200 working hours due to inadequate training, so it’s important to get this part of the hiring process right.

Better knowledge retention
Holding onto company knowledge is a crucial part of your knowledge management strategy. Every time an employee leaves your company, vital knowledge goes with them. A wiki encourages your employees to document their knowledge so it’s always available, even if they don’t stay in their jobs. Your wiki acts as a single source of truth so that employees aren’t always hunting around for knowledge they need to do their job.

Prevent staff attrition
Employees who have access to the right knowledge are much more likely to stay in their jobs than those who don’t have it. A wiki reduces staff attrition by crowdsourcing content and producing a repository of information that can be used by anyone. Better knowledge management has the potential to save your business up to $6 million a year.

Corporate wiki versus an internal knowledge base

Wikis and knowledge bases are similar because they have been designed to capture and curate information for a large group of users. Here, the similarities end.

Knowledge base content is created centrally by a dedicated group of writers, whereas your corporate wiki grows organically with crowdsourced content from every employee. Any user can contribute to your corporate wiki, whereas login credentials are required for knowledge base content creators. Think of your knowledge base as read-only, with a clear distinction between authors and readers.

A knowledge base usually follows a content strategy and has information architecture. There is a central strategy behind the authors of a knowledge base and they regularly review and revise content that has been there for a long time. In contrast, a wiki is updated on the whims of every employee, and you may not always collect the information you need.

The problem with wikis is they don’t follow a logical structure and can end up becoming a disorganized mess. Users looking for content must wade through a plethora of unrelated articles just to find the content they’re looking for.
We’ll look at some more downsides of wiki software now.

The downsides of a corporate wiki

Limited search

Wikis often come with poorly executed or even non-existent search capabilities. We’re living in the era of Google where everyone expects to be able to type in their search terms and find content they’re looking for with one click. Lack of search seriously harms your employees’ engagement with your company’s knowledge.

Employees are like the customers of your knowledge. It should be easy to find so that employees can become consumers of your knowledge. A knowledge base comes with great search capabilities so that employees spend less time retrieving information.

Content is hard to edit

Employees are required to learn markup languages in order to edit content on your wiki – this presents a hurdle to some employees which they may be unable to cross. This barrier to entry means your content is less likely to stay fresh and you’ll end up with no content at all in some places.

Knowledge base software comes with a WYSIWYG editor so that anyone who knows how to use Microsoft Word or a social media platform will find it easy to create and edit content. Even non-technical team members will be happily creating content in a fast and easy way.


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Inconsistent and time-consuming to maintain

Since anyone can access and edit your content, this often results in many inconsistencies across your wiki. Inaccuracies don’t get flagged and you might be missing some content if no one thinks to add it. Without a centralized knowledge strategy, the end result can be disappointing.

Knowledge base software is flexible when it comes to editing roles. You can define roles for writers, editors, and publishers, so you have control over how your content is produced. Users can collaborate over content through commenting and tagging each other, so that creating knowledge is truly a team endeavour.

Overwhelms new users

The problem with a wiki is there is no real structure and it can be overwhelming when you’re onboarding new employees. A wiki is good for people who have time to browse content, but not as useful for employees who just need to get up to speed.

You need to be able to easily direct employees to the right content, and in some cases restrict their access. A wiki does not permit access restrictions.

Private information is not separate from public

Every user of your corporate wiki has access to every single piece of content and there is no ability to create different types of users. Information is always available to everyone and there’s no possibility to create a private wiki.

You might have to use different platforms to create public and private information, which leads to more difficult content management and more time spent on your wiki. Fast-paced teams just don’t have the bandwidth to mess around with different software, when you want all your knowledge centralized in one place.

Choosing an internal knowledge base over a corporate wiki

You can end up with a wiki that no one is using if you’re not careful. It was built with the intention of sharing knowledge and engaging staff, but it now becomes a waste of money.

Corporate wikis don’t come with many customization options so you may have a platform that looks a little out of date. In contrast, a knowledge base comes with extensive customizations with a front-end site that is UX-optimized and visually appealing. Users don’t need any special technical knowledge to publish great-looking content that engages your users.

SaaS knowledge base software is hosted by the vendor so you don’t have to worry about maintaining your own servers. It also comes with complementary customer support so you can get help with any technical problems in your knowledge base.

In knowledge base software, you have access to back end analytics where you can see the search terms your employees are looking for. You can identify which articles are the most popular and collect data from your employees about what they find useful.

Corporate wikis can seem appealing in the beginning because there is less initial content investment than with a knowledge base. Employees are supposed to organically contribute to your wiki which then grows on its own. In reality, wikis are hard to manage without substantial content oversight, and is likely to end up in an unmanageable mess.

Final remarks

Wikis might look like a good option at first, but the reality is that they can be hard to manage. A knowledge base, on the other hand, is designed to be easy to use and are more focused than wikis.
Whichever option you choose, you need to have a proper Knowledge Base Content Strategy in place to make sure you can gather the relevant content. A wiki or a knowledge base isn’t a quick fix for companies with deeply rooted cultural problems, but it does play a part in the knowledge-sharing initiatives you already have in place.


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Document360 Team

Mar 23, 2021

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