So you’ve invested time and money into implementing PLM in your company with the hopes of getting a return on your investment through better and more efficient processes. That’s great! However, processes are only as good as the knowledge of the people using them, right? That’s where a PLM knowledge base comes in.
When introducing and sustaining PLM, there’s a lot of new information for employees to retain. And even once you have a well-oiled machine up and running, how will you onboard new employees so they can easily navigate your systems? If users are continually contacting those in charge for refreshers on how to handle specific situations, everything will get bogged down. Much of that investment in PLM will be wasted.
Why You Need a Knowledge Base
You’ve worked hard to find bright and effective team members. You don’t want their talents wasted answering the same questions over and over. At the same time, users are accustomed to platforms where they can easily find answers or refresh their understanding. A robust PLM knowledge base eliminates headaches, empowers users, and saves precious resources.
What Is a Knowledge Base?
A knowledge base is a centralized collection of information pertaining to your organization. Knowledge bases can include onboarding material, explanations of processes, training courses, articles, a support center, and much more. Whatever you choose to include in your knowledge base, the end goal is to make life simpler for you and your users. Here at Share PLM, we’ve created several knowledge bases for clients, so we’re happy to share our expert opinion.
What Should Be Part of a PLM Knowledge Base?
1. Getting Started
For new users who aren’t familiar with the knowledge base, a “Getting Started” section serves as an inviting place to begin their exploration. You can include explanations of the basics, videos demos, glossaries, links to training courses, and onboarding materials
2. Big Picture Overview
Before getting into the nitty gritty details, include a clear, overarching explanation of how the PLM system operates in your company. Use visuals like flowcharts and images along with jargon-free descriptions of why and how you integrate PLM in your systems. This is a good opportunity to convince the user of the importance of PLM. It will also motivate them to explore more of the knowledge base and all its useful resources.
No matter how robust your knowledge base is, there will still be cases in which users can’t find the answers to their question. Include an easy and accessible way to get help and make sure replies are clear and prompt.
Include a section with articles and posts highlighting what is happening in the company. This internal content is a great way to bring awareness to updates, new training, improvements, improved work processes, and so on. Think of it as a communal bulletin board and newsletter in one. Users appreciate consistent communication on company happenings that are centrally-located and easy to access.
5. Training Program
Keep in mind the learning journey of the user when planning your training program. Start with a lesson that goes through the basics like setting up a profile or exploring the dashboard. Then move on to more specific courses. Organize them in a natural progression in which one course builds off the information from the previous one.
6. Process Use Cases
It can be difficult to digest tons of theoretical information about a complex topic like PLM. Help your users by providing process use cases where they can see examples of how PLM is implemented in a variety of situations tailored to their roles.
It doesn’t help anybody if documentation is spread across several teams and sources, forcing users to spend time hunting down the information they need. A PLM knowledge base should include a centralized space to access documentation.
Make a list of the most-asked questions and provide clear answers to them. Providing answers to common questions will save time by avoiding multiple support requests.
How Can You Structure Your PLM Knowledge Base?
To start, use learning categories to organize your content by tagging PLM information as “Processes”, “Systems”, or “Roles”.
Perhaps it makes sense to divide your content by process. That way, your people are able to access the content by looking at the process they work in, whether it’s product development, sales, engineering, logistics or aftersales.
Another option is to organize information by systems, like CAD, PLM, CRM, ERP, MES or portals systems.
You may choose to structure your knowledge base by roles, such as product manager, R&D engineer, developer, etc., as it allows information to be found by discipline.
When deciding how to structure your knowledge base, think about your users’ learning needs, their behaviors and motivations, and the main problems they face. This goes hand in hand with the kinds of information you are structuring and how they can be the most accessible.
How Do You Build Your Knowledge Base?
You will need to decide what platform to use to build your PLM knowledge base. SharePoint is a popular tool from Microsoft that allows internal collaboration and knowledge sharing within your organization. This is a great option especially if you already use Microsoft applications.
Others prefer to use an intranet, which is a computer network exclusively for users inside the organization. These internal hubs are only accessible through a local area network (LAN) or via the internet using a login and password.
You may instead choose to host your knowledge base on your website. If you build your website through a Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress, it’s easy for users to contribute to and collaborate in the knowledge base.
Another option is to use a knowledge base software, also referred to as help center software. Some examples of knowledge base software are Help Scout, Document360, and Zendesk.
8 Tips and Tricks to Build a PLM Knowledge Base that Rocks
1. Make it look good.
It’s vital that your knowledge base looks organized, cohesive, and attractive. Impress and retain the user by including impactful visuals, clear infographics, and navigable icons.
2. Make it easy to get started.
Put a system in place to let new users know how to request access and login. Also think about the first steps users will take to begin onboarding and learning about the systems. Consider using tools like a new hire checklist or an onboarding eCourse.
3. Make it easy to ask for help.
How can users get help? Who can they contact? Make sure to include a section where users can ask for help if they aren’t finding what they need. You may provide an email or phone number to contact. You could also embed a feature where users can send help request tickets. No matter how you structure it, your knowledge base won’t always have the answer. You’ll need to have a way for users to get individual support.
4. Go from the big picture to the system clicks.
Start with an overview of the key processes and systems involved in your PLM environment and drill down to the system use cases and the clicks. Process overviews are good to include in the “Getting Started” section and at the beginning of a specific process training course which later goes into more depth. Users should get an overall understanding of how a process works before they can get into the weeds learning the step-by-step details.
5. Include case studies.
Real success stories motivate and inspire people to move forward. Add success stories in the form of written case studies, interviews or webinars with Q&As.
6. Spice it up with small bites of microlearning.
Keep your users engaged by consistently creating fun microlearning content. Post an article about new technology in the field or create a short video explaining a process used in one of your departments.
7. Highlight frequently asked questions.
A section answering common questions is essential to improving productivity and reducing time wasted repeatedly answering individual inquiries. It’s a good idea to include a search tool within the FAQ section and to group questions into logical categories.
8. Show what you are working on.
People love to see what their colleagues are up to. Make it a habit to include news and updates highlighting different departments and individuals. These could be release notes about a new product, development and training roadmaps, descriptions of work trips, or mentions of your organization in the news.
Excited about what a knowledge base could do for you, but don’t have time to get it started? Schedule a call with us, and we’ll discuss your current documentation and create a plan for you. We’ll take care of designing the base, hosting the page, and constructing a PLM knowledge base structure so that it’s up and running and saving you money in no time. Contact us today to get started!