We are often asked about the difference between our knowledge management system and other popular tools like forums, wikis, and email. So, let’s take a look.
AnswerHub Knowledge Management
First, let’s look at the intended purpose of these two systems. The purpose of AnswerHub is to:
- Capture and store knowledge.
- Provide a system for knowledge dissemination
- Make knowledge retrieval and discovery easy-to-use
- Enhance team productivity
We specifically built AnswerHub to help bring knowledge out of the minds of experts and into a publicly visible and easily accessible place that everyone in the organization can use. The Q&A methodology is an efficient system for accomplishing this goal because it’s a system everyone understands.
This knowledge capture and dissemination process directly addresses important enterprise problems, such as:
- Employee departure — where expert knowledge would otherwise leave the organization
- Employee onboarding — where the new employee needs to absorb knowledge as quickly as possible
- Team knowledge distribution — where many people on a team need to acquire the knowledge of a single expert
AnswerHub is designed specifically to address these key functions. Specific advantages include:
- The best answers rise to the top through voting, making them instantly obvious to users.
- Users can find answers to already-answered questions immediately.
- The system avoids duplicate questions and guides users to related material quickly.
- Experts gain reputation from the audience, which frequently improves expert and user engagement.
- Questions can be directed toward experts to speed responses and improve answer quality.
- Poorly-formed questions can be detected and easily improved.
- The Q&A format works better with search engines and improves SEO.
- AnswerHub contains important features frequently absent from forums, such as spaces, tagging, related answers, etc.
- AnswerHub promotes an “Accepted” answer to the top of the page, directly beneath the question, making it easy for users to find.
Forum software, on the other hand, is designed to foster free-form human conversations of all types. That is fine if what the enterprise needs is a conversation system. Unfortunately, conversations are not an effective way to address the enterprise knowledge capture problem that AnswerHub specifically intends to solve. Human conversations, especially on the internet, are known to have problems, such as:
- Conversations often meander or go off track, diluting the information stream (often to the point where the stream becomes useless). What starts as a question about CPU performance can quickly devolve into a conversation about anything under the sun. For example, Bob’s vacation if Bob is just returning to the forum from a two-week break.
- Conversations, because of their meandering, frequently waste readers’ time. In a large forum, the aggregate amount of time wasted can be measured in decades.
- Conversations on the internet can often provoke drama, arguments, and offensive behavior. The idea of a “troll” is something that frequently occurs in a forum. Bullying, ganging up, and other off-color behaviors are also common in forums. These forms of behavior are generally not found in Q&A systems because they are purpose-built to gather answers to questions rather than to log conversations.
- Because of the drama, arguments, trolls, and bullying commonly found in forum conversations, forums require moderation to erase posts and sometimes full threads, and also to discipline and ban users. Paid moderation can become a significant cost of maintaining a forum.
Here you can see an example of how long threads can become. This thread has more than 700 replies that users would have to wade through to find the information they are looking for.
These problems can make forums expensive. There is the direct cost of moderators as well as the indirect costs that mount as employees write and read the meandering, off-topic material so common in forums. In addition, a forum can be a source of ill-will and job dissatisfaction, as arguing and bullying rarely promote a professional working environment.
So Which Is Best Suited for Enterprises?
In other words, the core values of a Q&A system — values like sharing, collaboration, acceleration, insight, focus, understanding — are positive, productive, team-oriented activities. A forum system frequently devolves toward the opposite value set, at great cost. A forum might enable people to ask questions as a subset of their conversations, but it in no way supports that modality. In fact, it may discourage dialogue and knowledge sharing — and certainly makes it inefficient. A system like AnswerHub encourages and empowers the Q&A methodology of knowledge sharing with a wide variety of specific Q&A-enhancing features.
For these reasons, we believe that an enterprise Q&A system is a much better fit for the enterprise than a forum system.