Before I entered the glamorous world of IT administration, I served for 6 years in the US Air Force as a meteorologist. (It was a great opportunity to channel my inner Al Roker.) After I became a Non-commissioned officer in year 4, I was placed in charge of the weather knowledge repository for my duty station at the time – a collection of all the necessary information regarding meteorological, climatic, technical and logistical data needed to fulfill our mission as weathermen at the installation.
I’ll get to the point: it was a tremendous pain. There was a ton of data and information to be maintained, but it was spread across a huge number of documents in different file systems and networks. Difficult to navigate, difficult to find what you needed.
I did the best I could to streamline and organize the system during the rest of my time in that position. I succeeded to some extent, but I still found the knowledge base to be more complicated than it should have been, not to mention difficult to maintain. Had I known of Microsoft OneNote at the time, everything would’ve been different – and maintaining the knowledge base would’ve been far easier with a fraction of the effort involved!
OneNote is, as Microsoft Support describes, basically a “digital notebook”, which Wikipedia also describes as an application for “free-form information gathering and multi-user collaboration.” Like a notebook, it’s meant for storing whatever information you deem fit – what you need, whenever you need it, where you can find it. Being digitized, this includes far more than just text; pictures, video, dynamic content, hyperlinks, you name it.
Shareable across the net and with multiple users, OneNote is an extraordinarily effective way to not only share information with team members but also to collaborate on projects. The interface is highly intuitive, based on simple tab and page conventions for dividing information into relevant sections. The application includes an enormous array of layout options, allowing you to tweak your OneNote notebook to whatever format fits best for your needs. The application conforms to you, not the other way around.
If I had known of OneNote during my tenure as Keeper of Weather Knowledge at my last duty station, I would’ve integrated our entire knowledge database into a OneNote notebook. No need to travel all over the network, no need to open file after file until your desktop is cluttered to the brink of ruin. A tab for climate info, a tab for aircraft info, for airfield info, contact info, standard operating procedures, and so on. This would have made navigating our knowledge base and completing routine mission tasks far more simple and less labor-intensive, not mention less time consuming. When engaged in time-sensitive activities, this is especially key.
I’ve had the opportunity to put OneNote to extensive use in my new life as an IT administrator outside the military, and it has revolutionized the way I practice knowledge retention and collaboration on a daily basis. I highly encourage you to experiment with OneNote as your go-to knowledge repository. If you can develop a system that works for your organization’s needs, I have no doubt that you’ll like what you find.
Perhaps best of all – OneNote is now completely free! You can download the full 2013 retail version for Windows or Mac from the Microsoft website totally free of charge, no restrictions or holdbacks. And if you’re a member of Office 365, then you already have access to the application through that platform. Either way, take control of your knowledge base and collaborative spaces and give OneNote a shot!