How to Effectively Manage Information During the Time of a Crisis

We all know that knowledge is power. Having a colleague around, whose shoulder we could tap on and ask for help, is also something that is very powerful. However, the whole tap on the shoulder for help option hasn’t been available since most of us shifted to a work-from-home setup – the best alternative we have is reaching out to a teammate on our internal collaboration tools. 

But having a lot of people pinging you to ask questions can be really overwhelming, making it hard to get your actual work done. So, how do you handle knowledge management better?

In this interview, Elisabeth Powell, Senior Manager of Product Marketing at Guru gives us her recommendations on how you can make your information accessible and useful, both for your team as well as your customers.


Hi Elisabeth, how are you doing? How’s the situation today?

It’s going alright. We are all adjusting to this weird new normal. I’ve been trying to get outside for walks a little bit as I can. Luckily, I’m at home with my roommates who are amazing, and my team has been super supportive. So all things considered, I feel like things are going alright.

What is the role you believe knowledge management plays in making remote work easier?

We actually did some surveys with our customers to learn how this transition has been for them and where they are challenged the most. From the results of the surveys and from my own experience, I think collaboration and communication are two of the most important and most challenging things, particularly when you’re working from home. 

Usually, when you’re working and you have a question, you can just turn to your colleague next to you, tap him or her on the shoulder and get the answer. You can’t do that in a virtual context. When people don’t have the information they need right at their fingertips, they’re forced to turn to their teammates. In a virtual context, this translates to reaching out to your teammates on Slack. When you’re working from home, you already have so many distractions. To top it off, having so many people pinging you can be really overwhelming, making it hard to get anything done. 

So the right knowledge base management system will ensure that you have all that information you need right at your fingertips. I think what’s really cool, and what’s made our transition a lot easier is that with Guru, we have a trust score and a verification functionality. So not only do you have the information right at your fingertips, but it’s also up to date. You might have something in some Google Docs somewhere, but you’re not sure if it’s accurate, especially with things changing as quickly as they are. With the right knowledge management tool, you can have the confidence that the information you’re looking at is accurate. 

The other thing I’d like to say is that knowledge is really a team sport. It’s deeply cross-functional. For instance, the customer support teams also require information from the marketing or legal or product team. So, having one place where different teams can communicate and input knowledge, saves all of those DMs and all of those pings that go – “Hey, it’s me again!”

Knowledge management tools also help in saving time. Especially now, a lot of teams could be working out of different time zones. It can get really tough if you’re trying to help a customer and you need information from your product manager, who is in Europe. This means, you will have to wait till the next day for that.

So how is your organization dealing with the transition to remote work? Have you already worked remotely before? 

It’s been pretty interesting actually. We, at Guru, feel very privileged to be a part of an organization that is extremely value-driven and focused on making sure that every employee is set up for success. So, we’ve had a flexible work from home policy in the past. That said, our main office is in Philadelphia and we have a smaller office in San Francisco. Most people go into the office most days of the week. If you need to stay home, you can. My team is in Philly, but I live in San Francisco. So I work from home a bit. However, what’s been really neat is seeing how surprisingly smooth the transition has been for us to be fully remote. Guru, Slack, and Asana have been very critical tools to us. We were already kind of set up to have all of the tools and resources we needed at our fingertips, especially with Guru and so it didn’t really matter where in the world we were working to do that. 

Of course, this work from home is different from work from home before and I think everyone is coping with that in their own way. There’s a lot going on. Working from home and also trying to cope with all of these other anxieties and uncertainties in the news can get very difficult. So, it’s beyond just having the tools and resources you need to be able to do your job from home. 

We also have an amazing IT professional. Inevitably, half the people’s Wi-Fi isn’t working, and he has helped solve that problem. Those pieces have definitely been an adjustment but I think that we’ve really been set up for success with IT support and then also the tools that we have.

I know that Guru has set up some resources for businesses during the crisis. Do you mind sharing a little bit about that?

We’re super committed to making this as painless and seamless as possible for our customers, and for folks who don’t already have Guru. One really cool thing that we’ve done recently is that we’ve created an entirely free version of our product. We know that it’s really hard right now to make any case for an investment. Companies are trying to figure out their finances and there’s so much uncertainty. So, we really didn’t want that to be a blocker. We wanted to help teams have what they need to work from home and make this process a bit less painful and stressful. So, I think that the free version of our product is just an incredible gift to anyone who needs it. It is also a really cool way to try Guru out and see if it works for them.

As part of our knowledge management platform, we have a functionality called Templates, that is basically information that is in a card form on Guru. We’ve created a library of templates that can be used by any team. It is a library of templates specifically focused on work from home, like policies your team needs to know, some tips on taking care of your emotional or psychological side. You can actually head over to our blog and download it from there.

We also have some incredible customers who have fully distributed for years. One example is Shopify. Since 2014, they have had over two thousand support team members. Shopify has built an incredible business with a huge amount of customer love. So we’ve pulled some tips and tricks from Shopify and a few other brands who are our customers, and those are publicly available. This way, teams can learn how to make the transition from best practices of companies that are already fully distributed.

So, those are some examples of what we’re doing for other businesses. But, what I think is important to remember is that we want to help in any way we can. This is a small thing, but I think our outbound sales team is really cool. We’re not asking you to schedule calls because honestly it feels a bit tone-deaf right now, but what we are doing is offering $25 to be donated to someone’s small business of choice, which I think is really neat and speaks to the fact that – yes, we’re a business, we’re trying to make money, but we really care about the people that we serve.

What are some tips that you would give companies who are putting together a knowledge base for the first time right now?

I have a couple of tips. So first of all, I would say – be brief. You shouldn’t have long-form articles because frankly, it’s too clunky an experience for any of the users. It should be bite-sized knowledge. For us, it lives in cards. But here is an easy way to think about it – if a friend texted you and asked you a question, how would you text a response to them? Be that brief. Because that’s really how we consume now. If your content is bite-sized, it’ll be easier to find in use. 

Another thing is, when in doubt, create a card on it or create a knowledge article on it. Right now, all of those little informal conversations and a lot of questions that you answer at home aren’t getting captured right now. So it’s really important that all knowledge is getting shared. Everyone deserves to have access to the same information. So, when in doubt, just create the article. Worst thing that can happen is that it is not used. But that won’t be a problem. It’s way better to create it than to have the same question being asked multiple times.

Also, another thing that is super important, as I mentioned before, we have the trust score and the verification functionality to make sure that the information in our knowledge base is trusted. In a remote world, this is absolutely critical. If the information in your knowledge base is easy to find, but the users don’t have confidence that it’s accurate, then they might end up reaching out to you with their doubt. So making sure that the information you put out is trustable and up to date is critical. 

I touched on this as well before, but creating some kind of remote work resources for your team, especially right now with things changing as fast as they are, can be very helpful. You can create one overview card or article that links to all these key resources for your team during this crisis time. This will save a lot of questions for the people on your team as well. We have examples of this on our blog and also if anyone wants to reach out, I’d be happy to share some more.  

This is kind of Guru specific, but I think it’s really important, especially right now to ensure that your team has all the most up to date information right at their fingertips. So, we have something called knowledge alerts, which is really cool, particularly for leadership and management. If you create a new card with new information, you can send out a knowledge alert, which allows you to track who’s seen it because they have to check off that they have seen that piece of content. You don’t have to be checking to make sure everyone did the deal, but you have the date data so you know that your team has seen it, absorbed it, which I think is really neat. 

Pairing the rollout of a knowledge base with a few activities that involve the leadership talking about why you’re rolling out a knowledge base and how it’s going to help, can be really in terms of buy-in and adoption.

The last thing I have to say isn’t really about rolling out a knowledge base, but just something that is super important to bear in mind right now. Take care of yourself and take care of your colleagues right now. I’m grateful that this is something that Guru is very focused on. We’re all humans, and we’re employees, and we’re workers. We also have a lot going on and everyone’s coping in their own ways. So something that my team does is have a daily stand up. It’s nice to see people’s faces and we don’t always talk about work stuff, but we do one to five personal and one to five professional. We ask each other how well we’re doing. Also, since last week, we’ve been doing little workouts, and I did a dance cardio class for my team. And then, the week before we did a little mind teaser game. These little check-ins, and morale boosts, I think, are more important than ever during this time.

Key Takeaways

#1 Creating FAQs cards or bite-sized content in the right knowledge management tool will ensure that you have all that information you need right at your fingertips.

#2 A trust score and a functionality to verify and authenticate the information in your knowledge base will help your users consume your content with no inhibitions.

#3 Creating some remote work resources for your team especially right now with things changing as fast as they are, can be very helpful.