One of the spookiest facts about knowledge management systems is the failure rate. It’s estimated to be around 50 percent. Even more discouraging, 75 percent of businesses abandon new knowledge management systems within three years.
There are many reasons why knowledge management fails. We’ve come up with seven deadly sins that can cause your knowledge management system to become a ghost town.
I worked at a company where the owner sent us a link to Yammer and expected everyone to dive in and engage with each other about work. As you can guess, the response from the staff was to not use Yammer, and could you blame us? Employees didn’t want to spend time on something the leadership team spent no time explaining.
Implementing a knowledge management solution is no different. Companies that are most successful with knowledge management systems spend a lot of time on the front end of things, making sure 90 percent of the content is uploaded and organized before other employees can even access the system. They also dedicate time to training employees on the system and making sure they understand how the technology will benefit their work.
Lack of Executive Buy-In
In my Yammer example above, one big reason we dismissed the app so quickly was because the rest of the management team was not included in the discussion and therefore were not advocates of the software themselves. When it comes to knowledge management, this executive buy-in is even more critical. All department managers need to be champions of the new system and encourage employees to use it during implementation and after.
Giving customers tools without guidance sets the tone for a system that may not make it off the ground and certainly won’t be sustainable over time. Finding a vendor with a solid onboarding process is critical to the longevity of your knowledge management system.
No Cultural Buy-In
It’s no surprise that companies with a culture of knowledge sharing tend to utilize knowledge management systems more. On a more frustrating note, businesses that lack a knowledge sharing culture will have a harder time developing one, even with the best solution.
Using a knowledge management system needs to be built into the cultural foundation of the company. One of our customers with excellent knowledge management uses the mantra, “Look for it in Bloomfire.” This type of connection with the app ensures a long knowledge management future.
No Reward For Engagement
I worked for a company that focused on adaptability as a core value. And this was exemplified from the top of the organization down. However, it can be exhausting constantly embracing new products and processes, even for the most adaptable people. Introducing rewards or games can help keep the learning process feeling fresh.
A few weeks ago, my colleague wrote about how gamification can be a great motivational tool in company culture. Competition and reward can be a powerful tool for gaining momentum with a new knowledge management system.
Who owns the knowledge management system? If you can’t answer that question, it’s only a matter of time before the usage rate plummets.
The owner should monitor all new content and regularly review existing content. They should also work with all department heads to confirm that nothing important is being left out. If the tool has analytics built in, it’s also valuable for the owner to review which individuals are not engaging as much. If necessary, the owner would see that those individuals receive more training or become re-engaged in some way. Typically, when businesses leave a responsibility to everyone, no one will be accountable for it, which is why an owner is important to the longevity of knowledge management.
“It’s alive!” Keep it that way. If the content in your system becomes outdated and is no longer relevant, employees will slowly stop using the knowledge management system. Even the most promising implementations can rapidly disappear without ongoing maintenance. Automated content reminders can be helpful to maintaining content. But the team owning the knowledge management system needs to ensure all of the content in the system is valuable.
As you can see, poor planning and lack of regular contributions are some of the biggest reasons why knowledge management fails. Failure often has more to do with the people and processes surrounding the systems than the systems themselves. Avoid the seven deadly sins above, and you can look forward to many happy years of knowledge sharing.