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There are seven reasons that knowledge management systems become a graveyard of incomplete and outdated documents.
I worked at a company where the owner sent us all a link to Yammer and expected us all to dive in and engage with each other about work. As you can guess, the response from everyone at the company 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 the need for and didn’t train the company how and when to use. 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.
Lack of Executive Buy-In
In my Yammer example above, one big reason we dismissed the app so easily is 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 advocates for the new knowledge management 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 sustained over time. Find a vendor with a solid onboarding process is critical to knowledge management system sustainability.
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 need to improve knowledge sharing will have a harder time even with the best solution. Using the 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 for a long knowledge management future.
No Reward For Engagement
I worked for a company that focused on adaptability as a core value. And it was exemplified from the top of the organization down. However, for even the most adaptable, it can be exhausting constantly embracing new products and processes. A few weeks ago, my colleague Eleanor 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 no one is using it. The owner should monitor all new content and regularly review existing content. He/she should also work with all department heads to confirm nothing important is being left out. If the app shows analytics it also would be valuable for the owner to review which individuals are not engaging as much. If necessary the owner would see to it those individuals receive more training or re-engaged in some way. Typically when businesses leave a responsibility to everyone, no one will take accountability for it, which is why an owner is important to the longevity of knowledge management.
Content Becomes Stale
“It’s alive!” Keep it that way. If the content in your system becomes outdated and 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 there are a lot of ways for a knowledge management system to fail. You may have also noticed that I have not listed features of knowledge management systems that customers find valuable, but you can find that list here.. Failure often has to do with the people and processes surrounding the systems than the systems themselves. Avoid these sins and with the right knowledge management system, you can look forward to many happy years of knowledge sharing.
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