No one’s using your Google Drive knowledge base? Read this.

Here at atSpoke, we’ve spoken to people at many, many companies who at some point decided to use Google Drive as a knowledge base.

And from almost every one of those people, we’ve heard almost the exact same thing:

“We spent a lot of time creating and organizing documents in Google Drive so people could help themselves to useful information, but nobody uses it!

To be fair to Google, this is the curse of many knowledge management systems; it’s not just a Drive issue. Employees prefer to ask someone for help (whether via a tap on the shoulder, email, or Slack message) rather than dig through the knowledge base to find what they need.

So the folks in the company with all the useful knowledge end up getting interrupted repeatedly with information requests, even for the simplest of things. (Just ask someone on your IT team how often they get questions about connecting to the printer.)

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

With the right approach, Google Drive can become a knowledge base solution your employees will actually use. Which spares internal support teams like IT and HR from lots of interruptions and distractions from the work that keeps companies running smoothly.

In this piece, we’ll clarify Google Drive’s strengths and shortcomings as a knowledge management system, then lay out the proven and specific ways to make Google Drive a successful knowledge base for your company. (Spoiler: It’ll never work in its default, “out of the box” form.)

Why Google Drive is appealing as a knowledge base system

Why do so many of the 4+ million companies paying for G Suite consider using Google Drive as a knowledge base? It’s appealing for several reasons:

It comes “free” with your G Suite purchase.

When your company subscribes to G Suite, it signs up for email, calendars, shared spreadsheets, and all of the other helpful services Google provides to businesses.

But thanks to a combination of those services–specifically documents and shared cloud storage (Google Drive)–many companies realize that they’re also getting a bonus feature not mentioned on the G Suite website: a knowledge management system.

They figure, “Why pay for separate knowledge sharing software when we’ve got Google Drive?”

It’s easy to set up.

First, your G Suite administrator opens Google Drive, clicks “Team Drives” in the navigation menu, and then clicks the “New” button to create a new Team Drive.

Create a Team Drive

Then all there is to completing the setup of your knowledge base in Google Drive is to (1) add your company’s employees as members of the Drive and (2) create some folders to start organizing information.

That’s it. Not many shared applications are this simple to set up.

It’s already widely-used in your company.

It’s tough rolling out new software to an organization. Employees need to be trained, convinced, and reminded. Often repeatedly.

With G Suite, just about everyone in the company is already familiar with it, and it’s a part of existing workflows. So, theoretically, getting people to use Google Drive as a knowledge base should be relatively easy.

Admins can easily control access permissions.

Any good knowledge management solution allows company admins to restrict access to sensitive documents or information. G Suite makes it really easy to set view, comment, and edit permissions for each document.

So far, so good. Google Drive seems like a promising way to get a knowledge base going in your company, allowing employees to help themselves to the information they need, when they need it.

But let’s talk about why this self-service nirvana rarely happens with the default version of Google Drive.

Why the default version of Google Drive doesn’t work as a knowledge base

Unless knowledge base software makes it easy to find information, then it has failed at its job.

And that’s typically where Google Drive falls down.

It gets disorganized. Very quickly.

If you have 50 employees, you’ll have 50 different organization methods applied to Google Drive. Unless you create very specific guidelines for how and where to store different types of files (which people probably won’t follow), it won’t take long for your system to take the shape of a junk drawer.

Anyway, “organization” is an elusive goal in Google Drive (or any other shared, online document system). What makes sense to one person won’t necessarily make sense to the next.

Google Drive folder jumble

Now, would our technical security requirements for contractors be under Engineering, Compliance, or Company…?

The search functionality isn’t great.

Not what you expected to hear about a Google product, is it?

When you enter a keyword into Google Drive’s search bar, it searches for that keyword in file titles, document body text, and image metadata. Google Drive’s search is thorough, but not very smart. Unless you know the exact keyword to search for, the search functionality in Google Drive isn’t particularly helpful.

The typical experience of companies adopting Google Drive as a knowledge base

Here’s how all of these factors play out for many companies:

The typical knowledge base software adoption experience

  1. Optimism: Support teams and subject matter experts get excited about Google Drive’s appeal as a self-service knowledge base. They look forward to more uninterrupted time to get work done.
  2. Investment: One or more of those teams subsequently invest a lot of time and energy populating a Team Drive with useful documentation and information. They announce the availability of the new resource to the company.
  3. Disappointment: It turns out employees would rather ask a support person or expert for help than have to dig around in Google Drive to find what they need. It’s faster and easier for them to ask a person, so who can blame them? Support personnel and experts continue to experience lots of disruptive interruptions, even for really basic questions.
  4. Apathy: Support teams might continue to use the knowledge base to manage information for their own purposes, but there’s very low adoption among employees. Information in the knowledge base becomes stale because there’s not a lot of incentive to keep things updated.

We’ve seen this happen time and time again in many companies.

But there are ways to overcome Google Drive’s inherent shortcomings as a knowledge base.

Using the approach described below, you can replace the “disappointment” and “apathy” stages of adoption with positive outcomes for employees, support teams, and experts alike.

How to make Google Drive a successful knowledge management solution for your company

The key to making Google Drive effective as a knowledge base is to overcome its shortcomings: It’s annoying (at best) and difficult (at worst) for employees to find what they need in Google Drive, so make it easy and painless.

When self-service is easier than asking a real person for help, then employees will finally start using your knowledge base.

We know this because we’ve seen it happen over and over again.

Here’s what it looks like for self-service to be truly easy and painless: Knowledge retrieval functionality should be simple, intelligent, and convenient.


At a minimum, simplicity means no training is required. There are no special commands to learn, and the search functionality just makes intuitive sense.

At best, people can ask for information of the knowledge system using natural language like, “What’s the guest wifi password for the Chicago office?” or “How do I get a copy of Photoshop?” or “How do I add my new baby to my health insurance?”


When search leverages artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), you don’t need to know the exact keyword to look for to find what you need.


Does your company rely mainly on email to communicate? Or do your employees spend up to 30% of their time using Slack? Maybe your salespeople out in the field use text messages to ask for support?

Regardless, a successful knowledge management system will make information easily available in your organization’s preferred channels. Because the more knowledge retrieval can integrate into existing workflows, the more likely your knowledge system will be adopted.

Makes sense, right? But without the right tools, this is all easier said than done.

The apps that can make your Google Drive knowledge base a success

Here are the apps that can quickly and easily enhance your Google Drive instance into something that makes knowledge retrieval simple, intelligent, and convenient.


Spoke’s goal is to make it easy for your organization’s employees to get the information or assistance they need to be happy and productive at work.

Employees can atSpoke for whatever they need in natural language in any of their preferred channels–email, Slack, SMS, or Web. atSpoke uses AI to respond right away with the best information or resource, whether a link, file, or–thanks to its integration with Google Drive–a G Suite document from your Team Drive.

atSpoke on Slack GIF

atSpoke is specifically designed to make knowledge retrieval simple, intelligent, and convenient.

Plus, it doesn’t just improve the accessibility of information in your Google Drive; it can provide information to employees that lives in any of the apps throughout your company. (At atSpoke HQ, we often atSpoke to point us to the right resources in our HR app, Gusto.)

With atSpoke, employees actually adopt self-service practices. They’re happier and more productive because they get what they need more quickly, and support teams and experts are happier and more productive because they’re getting fewer interruptions and focusing on their work.


File converter for Google Drive

Sharing files across the company only works if everyone can open and view the files in the first place. For example, if a designer uploads important company graphics as PSD files, other employees can only open them if they have Photoshop on their computers.

CloudConvert lets your employees convert more than 200 file types directly from Google Drive into formats they can open without having to install specialized software, bringing simplicity to this type of knowledge retrieval.

Save Emails to Google Drive

Save emails to Google Drive

CloudHQ’s Save Emails to Google Drive extension lets employees click a button and automatically save a PDF copy of an email or email thread to your Team Drive. This is a convenient way to improve the richness of information in your Google Drive knowledge base.


For many companies who already subscribe to G Suite, Google Drive has a lot of appeal as a knowledge base. But in it’s out-of-the-box form, it invariably fails to get adopted by employees.

With apps that focus on making information retrieval simple, intelligent, and convenient, support teams and subject matter experts can elevate Google Drive into a successful knowledge base system that makes everyone work happier, smarter, and more productively.

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