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Find this Podcast “Using SharePoint for Your Next Knowledge Base Project” on the ThreeWill Soundcloud, Stitcher, and iTunes.


Danny Ryan:Hello and welcome to the ThreeWill podcast. This is your host Danny Ryan and I’m here with Tommy Ryan. How are you doing Tommy?


Tommy Ryan:Good. What happened to the co-host thing?


Danny Ryan:I’m here with co-host Tommy Ryan. How are you doing Tommy?


Tommy Ryan:I’m doing well.


Danny Ryan:I can make a quick modification, that’s fine. How are you doing co-host?


Tommy Ryan:Doing fine co-host.


Danny Ryan:How are you feeling co-host?


Tommy Ryan:Just wonderful.


Danny Ryan:Good.


Tommy Ryan:All that thunder and rain and lightning, I’m all refreshed.


Danny Ryan:I guess all your grass is turning green now and your plants are starting to wake up.


Tommy Ryan:Yeah, it’s looking. Yeah, the garden’s actually getting a good start.


Danny Ryan:Awesome. Yeah, we’ve got a nice little dogwood tree in our backyard that’s waking up. It’s been fun to watch it start to bloom.


Tommy Ryan:Did you lose all the flowers on it in the rain?


Danny Ryan:Not yet, no. No, no. No, it looks-


Tommy Ryan:Okay, we did.


Danny Ryan:You did, really?


Tommy Ryan:Yeah, ours bloomed a couple weeks back.


Danny Ryan:It’s just starting to bloom so I guess I’m a little bit further north than you I guess. I don’t know what..


Tommy Ryan:Garden talk with ThreeWill.


Danny Ryan:Garden talk, here you go. You can probably talk for the next hours.


Tommy Ryan:Yeah, that’d be a couple hours long.


Danny Ryan:Yeah, okay. Today’s subject is using SharePoint as a knowledge base. I wanted to talk to you about some recent trends that you’ve been seeing with customers using SharePoint as knowledge base. I think this has been around for a long time as far using SharePoint as a repository for information inside of your organization. I guess what you’re seeing more recently is, how can we … Now this internal or external facing knowledge bases? Let’s start off with that.


Tommy Ryan:When you look at ThreeWill, in a sense as a portal it’s a knowledge base by default. It’s where you’re storing content and records and you want to go back and retrieve it. It’s a place to share things. That in a sense I think is a knowledge repository. Then as a organization you have certain lines of business and areas of specialization, in some organizations they have call centers, and so a knowledge base is a function of a call center that they need to answer questions for people that call in, and a way to way to have knowledge engineers collect the information needed to share with others or to be discovered by their call center representatives.


That can be an ‘internal’, quote, knowledge base. It’s customer facing but someone is aiding them on their behalf to get to that knowledge. Then you can take that knowledge base and make it self serve to your customers, making sure you have the right security and the right ease of use to make your customers happy when they come to look for that knowledge. You see that in different forms. You see it in documentation, in articles. You see it in forums or discussion groups. There’s different ways to collect and share knowledge and make that accessible to your end user.


Danny Ryan:What if you found has been the primary reason why people are thinking of SharePoint for doing this? Is it the built-in capabilities? Is it how you can extend it? What sort of things are people coming up with as far as why they’re using SharePoint?


Tommy Ryan:When someone goes to think about a knowledge base there are products specifically for that, that you have in a sense adopt, change your process to adapt to what that tool has to offer. The thing that we’ve always found with SharePoint and why we’ve picked it as a platform for us is it’s an extendable platform and allows you to do things, soften the edges of the solution. SharePoint gives you a great running headstart for a lot of the things that you need to care about as it relates to a knowledge base.


You need to have content management, kind of web content management or in document content management. Of course that’s a very, very strong area for SharePoint, document management through versioning and records management, and being able to publish and unpublish content and be able to control the flow of when content goes from ideation to revision to finale publicizing that information. Those are two very core areas, content management for web and document content. Then workflow is definitely an aspect that SharePoint has a lot going for it versus other tools that might be very limited in terms of what you could do with workflow.


Another very, very key area, search. What we found is a very strong aspect of bringing together a platform that has both search and content management, not a lot of those platforms are strong in both and SharePoint has a lot going for it as it relates to now that you’ve authored all this content when someone is answering a call and wants to get to that knowledge using search and search refiners and all the things that you can do to enhance that search experience.


Danny Ryan:I just published a blog post from Bo on managed metadata, that probably feeds into this as well.


Tommy Ryan:Yeah, that’s definitely a way to tune your search results, is through managed metadata, so you do have those refiners on the left. For those that don’t know what refiners are, think of Amazon when you start filtering down and selecting different attributes. Most of the commerce sites that you go to you see, is it men’s or women’s clothing? Is it a shirt, jacket or pants? Those type of attributes that help you drill down to a subset of information where you’re going to find what you’re looking for.


Danny Ryan:When prepping for this you were saying something about translation services, that you can also use that as part of SharePoint as well


Tommy Ryan:Yeah, a real cool aspect of SharePoint is the ability to send out content for translation and for that to be created for you and automated for you. That’s an exciting aspect. If you had to support Spanish as a language in your call center, you can submit that to Bing translation services and it comes back and is publicized in a Spanish version of the site.


Danny Ryan:Now, since this is customer facing, has branding come up? Where’s branding in all of this? Is it not really an emphasis, it’s just trying to get the information? Any branding topics come up?


Tommy Ryan:Yeah. I think it is. Branded in general, it’s not knowledge base specific, it’s more of, “I’ve got a company brand that I want to emphasize.” We’re seeing it where people put a very strong branding effort for internal because it’s part of their culture and their brand. Then also when it’s external facing you want to pay attention to those details. That definitely comes into play when we’re looking at knowledge basis to put the appropriate level of branding.


Danny Ryan:Were there any discussions on whether visitors might be using a mobile device? Any sort of designs around making sure it works well on mobile?


Tommy Ryan:Yeah, and that’s similar to branding, where any time we do something we talk about the mobile experience and what the customer wants to have as it relates to different form factors accessing the site. We have, we our knowledge bases, made them mobile responsive. You just have to pay attention to what functionality within the solution is appropriate for mobile and how do you resize and snap into a different form factor when someone accesses it from a phone or a tablet.


Danny Ryan:Are people doing it on SharePoint online or are they doing it on SharePoint on prem? Does it matter?


Tommy Ryan:We’re seeing it more on SharePoint on prem. Especially if it becomes mission critical and you want to control the response time, so you can scale your farm as you need it. Microsoft 365, it’s viable and we see it. Probably haven’t seen it as much at large scale and we’ve looked at Azure too as another option for that if you want to, quote, “have it in the cloud,” but have control over the scale of the operation. Because we look at designing these knowledge base solutions to have a very heavy search component, and if you do have a lot of load from incoming calls you want to make sure search is not a bottleneck and so you dedicate some of the front end servers to the search query processing.


Danny Ryan:Excellent, excellent. Anything else you’ve been noticing at all when people are looking at using SharePoint as a knowledge base?


Tommy Ryan:I think, and you talked about it before, the managed metadata, having an information architect as part of the team to drive out the taxonomy of your organization, understanding how do you name things and what are synonyms for those things that you name so no matter what someone searches for they’re going to have a fast path to finding that knowledge because you categorized it well. That managed metadata is a very key exercise. It’s going to influence your search experience, probably even your navigation experience to be able to drive down into the details. Another aspect that we didn’t mention, but when you’re thinking about knowledge bases, if it’s a internal knowledge base and you don’t have any SLAs on a response to getting to the answer in that knowledge base, then you might not care about how fast you get there.


If you can get there eventually you’re okay, but in a call center you’re really caring about that response time. So we’ve looked at different ways to get to knowledge, using things like decision trees to allow you to look at it as a script that say someone in the call center would have to ask the right questions to get to the right answer, but putting that in a visual flow where instead of you opening up a Word document and looking through the script we have visual big buttons that drive you through that flow and give you a breadcrumb at the top to say hop back somewhere in that flow if you went down the wrong path. We’re finding that’s a great way to enhance the user experience and increase the performance of your call center.


Danny Ryan:Excellent. Since we’re talking about customer service and self service, this reminds me of a lot of the recent conversations that we’ve been having about Net Promoter Score. As far as looking at doing this project is that one of the underlying key metrics that you’re trying to address is Net Promoter Score?


Tommy Ryan:Yeah. We’re on a really big knowledge base project today, and that is the driver. It’s a very poor NPS score that they’ve got a goal to raise that, and this is instrumental to that initiative to raise that NPS score.


Danny Ryan:Excellent. Anything else before we wrap up?


Tommy Ryan:I think that’s good. There’s more to talk about. Would love to talk to you about knowledge bases and how that can help your organization and what you can leverage out of the box. We think the beauty of SharePoint, there’s the ability to configure a lot of what you need to do as part of a knowledge base solution, and you’ve got control of scaling and to think about the power that you have in the search experience and the content management experience and the workflow and the managed metadata. There’s so many things that SharePoint has going for it to fit as a knowledge base solution.


Danny Ryan:Absolutely. Yeah, if you’re looking to do this please drop by our website,, contact us page is a great place to get started. Would love to continue this conversation with you. Thank you for doing this Tom.


Tommy Ryan:Sure thing.


Danny Ryan:Nice socks, are those the …


Tommy Ryan:Look at that.


Danny Ryan:Very nice, very nice. Thank you so much everyone for taking the time to listen today. Have a wonderful day. Take care, bye bye.


Tommy Ryan:Bye bye.



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