Throughout my career, I have worked with dozens of public and private organizations who want a holistic understanding of their knowledge assets. Organizations seek new ways to manage, find, and take action on their knowledge, whether through a content management system, search tool, or GPT chatbot.
At EK, we’ve identified a common challenge faced by many of our clients: the presence of siloed data sources and dispersed information, which both internal and external users require access to on a daily basis. This observation led us to the idea of Knowledge Portals.
Knowledge Portals are a compelling solution for organizational findability and discoverability.
What is a Knowledge Portal?
EK defines a Knowledge Portal as
the hub to integrate your organization’s KM assets, including your information, data, and people, into a single highly contextualized environment where real business can get done.
This definition touches on the three main differentiators between knowledge portals of the past and today. Knowledge Portals:
- Contain all information from an organization’s domain. An organization’s domain includes the people, content, data, events, webinars, courses, policies, and more.
- Contextualize information based on the entire organization’s domain. Bringing together information from disparate data sources lets users get a complete view of how that information ties into an organization’s work.
- Understand who users are and what they need. Whether the user is a help desk agent, a sales engineer, or an investment professional, a Knowledge Portal personalizes what that user sees and provides the ability to take necessary actions.
Let’s look at some examples as we break down these three differentiators.
Knowledge Portals Contain All Your Stuff
The Knowledge Portal solution combines an organization’s knowledge, content, data, and people into a single view. Previously, Knowledge Portals surfaced content across repositories and provided links to each system. Now, Knowledge Portals contain experts, company events, projects, previously hosted training videos and webinars, and essential policies. On the Knowledge Cast podcast on Knowledge Portals, my colleague Rebecca Wyatt stated,
“…users need one place to [search] and get the information that they need.
You’ve already failed if they have to decide where to go to execute a search…”
Today’s organizations have a proliferation of systems and information as teams look to solve their own specific use cases. A Knowledge Portal breaks down those information silos and surfaces relevant information to users at query time. Additionally, Knowledge Portals provide the ability to intuitively navigate an organization’s domain. For example, from viewing a project, one can see related experts on that project and then move on to relevant training videos. Curating all of your knowledge assets in one portal enables more intuitive user journeys and more efficient work as users take action on the knowledge they find.
Knowledge Portals Contextualize Information
Knowledge Portals are designed to consolidate the most comprehensive information about a specific “thing” within your organization into a single, accessible location. Sometimes referred to as an entity, a “thing” is a key element in your organization’s domain, such as people, products, communities of practices, or subject areas. These entities are often so ingrained in an organization’s work that they appear across multiple systems. A Knowledge Portal effectively integrates this separate information into a cohesive view, which provides context to users, enabling them to see how these entities interconnect with and contribute to the broader scope of an organization’s work.
As we introduce Knowledge Portals to clients, a common question arises regarding how they differ from Enterprise Search. Indeed, there are notable similarities between the two. Both Knowledge Portals and Enterprise Search:
- Allow users to search across multiple systems,
- Enable users to explore various types of information, such as people and documents, and
- Provide dashboards or pages that aggregate and display results centered around specific topics.
However, despite these similarities, the unique functionalities of Knowledge Portals set them apart in significant ways, which we’ll explore in further detail.
Enterprise Search is a major component of a Knowledge Portal. The core differentiator of a Knowledge Portal is its ability to establish relationships between information across various systems and to identify the elements that comprise an entity. Consider this scenario: when you search for a company project using an Enterprise Search tool, you receive a list of individual items (such as people, documents, and projects) related to or mentioning that project. In contrast, a Knowledge Portal takes you directly to a comprehensive project page. This page not only describes the project but also details the team members, client contacts, project deliverables, and offers direct links to the profiles of each person, client, or other relevant entities associated with that project. That’s the key feature. Knowledge Portals connect your organization’s entities so that users can get away from a simple set of results and intuitively access and understand the information they need.
Knowledge Portals Personalize and Enable
In the process of assembling and contextualizing information, knowledge portals tailor the content and information displayed for each individual user. A crucial part of a knowledge portal is the underlying graph that maps out the relationships between the organization’s entities. This graph, based on shared characteristics and previously obscured connections, enables us to connect users to other organizational entities in that graph. For example, if the graph includes a user’s job role, the portal can then tailor the display of upcoming events or courses on the homepage or within search pages to suit that role. Similarly, if the graph includes information about a user’s department, we can boost search results related to projects or deliverables from the same department.
Additionally, by considering a user’s role, we can provide targeted actions along with the information provided. For instance, project managers viewing employee profiles could benefit from an “add to team” button when identifying subject matter experts. Similarly, customers browsing a product-focused knowledge portal could have access to a “talk to an agent” option, whereas support agents would see solution guides to assist them in walking customers through various issues. This level of personalization, combined with action-oriented opportunities empowers users to take action quickly and successfully.
We encourage scheduling a few workshops focused on action-oriented search and knowledge graph design to better understand what users would find most beneficial as they interact with the Knowledge Portal. The potential for personalization, along with the ability to deliver targeted messages and actions are endless.
Knowledge Portals have become increasingly critical for organizations in the face of growing user information demands and the rapid expansion of knowledge. If you’re interested in learning more about Knowledge Portals and their successful implementation, I recommend some insightful blogs and case studies authored by my colleagues:
- Five Lessons in Developing and Deploying a Modern Knowledge Portal
- Knowledge Portals Revisited
- Knowledge Portal Architecture Explained
- Knowledge Portal for a Global Investment Firm
If you want to collaborate on the development of your organization’s Knowledge Portal, or if there’s a specific topic you’d like us to explore in future discussions, don’t hesitate to contact us!