It’s estimated that organizations spend anywhere from 3 percent to 7 percent of their revenue on technology. If technology is not implemented correctly or if you don’t adequately prepare your employees for change, it can be a huge drain on your company. It can cost you millions of dollars as a direct result of loss of productivity, and that’s not to mention the technology spend itself. If the expensive new toy that your employees need sits unused, nothing will change; employees will still complain that they don’t have the tools necessary to be successful.
The truth is that this happens more than you might realize, and knowledge management platforms are no exception. Organizations invest in knowledge management platforms so that employees, whether it’s across an entire organization or within departments, can find and share the information they need to do their jobs. Successfully implementing a knowledge management solution requires a great deal of preparation, patience, and a willingness to learn.
That’s why we’ve put together 11 tips to help you implement your knowledge management platform. Before you know it, your employees will be sharing and collaborating like you’ve never seen before.
1. Define Your Goals and Objectives
The first step with any technology implementation is to define your goals and objectives. While this might seem obvious, this is probably one of the biggest reasons why implementations fail. When you define your goals and objectives, you need to take into consideration each group who will be affected. Meet with each of the department heads and other company leaders to discuss and clearly define the goals and objectives for your knowledge management solution.
Setting your goals early will also help you determine how you’ll measure performance and define success. The more specific you are, the easier it will be to track your progress.
“Think about the specific business goals you are hoping to achieve, and which metrics you’ll track to determine whether or not you achieve those goals,” says Emma Galdo, Manager of Implementation Services at Bloomfire. “It’s important that you set yourself up to measure ROI down the road.”
2. Identify and Articulate Your Motives
Second to defining your goals and objectives is transparency. This step is critical—especially considering one in three projects fail due to poor stakeholder engagement, according to research conducted by the Project Management Institute. So, once your goals and objectives are established, communicate this information back to the team so no one is left in the dark. Everyone should understand the purpose of the change, how it can benefit them, and their responsibilities in ensuring the implementation is a success. Take time to illustrate exactly how the new platform will improve their day-to-day. By making it more personal, they’ll be more inclined to push through the learning curve.
“If nothing else, defining and communicating your goals with the platform helps end-users to distinguish it from the other ten platforms your organization uses,” says Betsy Anderson, Implementation Project Manager at Bloomfire. “I see many companies that have what I call ‘new software fatigue.’ The best way to cure software fatigue is to communicate the specific purpose of your knowledge engagement platform clearly and often.”
Don’t be afraid to address some of the knowledge management problems your organization faces right off the bat. Explain the productivity and monetary losses that happen when your customer success team can’t find the information they need to service customer requests, when your sales team takes too long to onboard new reps, and what happens when marketing notices a lack of consistent branding. Help them see the pain of not using the platform compared to the massive benefits the entire company will experience when the solution is fully implemented.
3. Develop a Change Management Strategy
Even though you’ve established your goals and objectives, it’s imperative to understand that change doesn’t happen overnight. This is why it’s important to recognize and develop a strategy and tactics for continuous change management.
“To a certain extent, it doesn’t matter how good your software is if you don’t have a solid plan for adoption,” Betsy says. “Change management is the human side of process improvement. You can’t have one without the other.”
We recommend providing updates on engagement metrics and other knowledge sharing KPIs during department or company meetings. And don’t stop after your implementation—make sure to keep the platform top of mind post-launch by mentioning it frequently and reminding others of the benefits. These not-so-subtle hints will make the transition more comfortable for your employees and can have a huge impact on their overall engagement and success of the program.
In other words, you need to normalize the new platform and help all teams recognize the value it’s bringing to the organization in real-time. Change is always hard, but the more you loop the new solution into everyday conversations, the more comfortable employees will feel using it, asking questions to improve their understanding, and evangelizing it to others.
4. Identify and Recruit Internal Champions
Employees will most likely use your knowledge management platform if they see their peers having success with it. This is why it’s important to identify one or multiple members of your organization to be your internal champions. These individuals are driven, upbeat, and eager to drive organizational change. Your internal champions will play an important role in generating excitement around the launch of your knowledge management platform and also have a role in the soft launch (we will discuss this more in a little bit).
Of course, not everyone will be thrilled from the get-go. And, as Betsy points out, it’s crucial you pay attention to those not-so-positive evaluations, too.
“Resist the urge to get feedback only from the folks who are excited about the new initiative,” she says. “Early naysayers and critics can provide some of your most valuable feedback throughout the implementation process. And once you’ve converted them, they’ll be your best advocates.”
Allow everyone an opportunity to be heard. If people are unhappy or frustrated, take time to understand exactly what’s bothering them and identify ways to overcome those obstacles. By showing you value their opinion and involving them in ironing out the kinks, they’ll be more likely to engage with the platform more going forward.
Also, keep in mind that although only a few employees may be willing to speak up, if one person is having challenges, others are likely experiencing the same difficulties (but just doing so in silence).
5. Inventory and Organize Your Knowledge Assets
Even if your knowledge management platform has AI-driven search, establishing a knowledge hierarchy can help new users browse and discover new content and can aid in curation down the road. Take the time and really think about a knowledge structure that makes sense for your organization. Gather feedback from team leaders and then work with your knowledge management platform provider to learn how other customers have structured their information and why it works for them.
“During this step, I always recommend that you ‘Marie Kondo’ your content,” says Emma. “Select only the most relevant and recent information to migrate into the community. Outdated research, obsolete policies, and peripheral documents will clutter your community and make it difficult for users to find the most current and up-to-date knowledge.”
By making the process of using the platform as easy and streamlined as possible from day one, you can reduce friction and immediately foster better engagement.
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6. Hold a Soft Launch
The best way to work through all of the potential kinks in your knowledge structure is to gather the internal champions you previously identified and hold a soft launch. Start off your soft launch with a quick training surrounding best practices on how to use the platform. This is also a good time to reiterate the goals and objectives. It’s recommended you let your internal champions (and a few tough critics) use the platform for about two weeks as a test period, but any amount of early assessment will help.
“Whether your soft launch is a full-blown beta test with a User Acceptance Testing assignment or a one-hour meeting where future users can play around with the new tool, this is a great opportunity to gather and address initial feedback,” Emma says. “It’s important to get ahead of any potential friction points before you officially launch.”
7. Listen and Respond Proactively to Feedback
After the soft launch period is over, meet with your internal champions and critics and gather as much feedback as possible. Ask them to relay the good, the bad, and the ugly. Remember, these individuals will most likely be using the platform on a daily basis, and all feedback is warranted.
Strategize ways to fix the issues that might have come up during the soft launch to ensure a successful rollout to the rest of the company. When everything is all said and done, thank your internal champions for the participation of your soft launch with a gift or lunch to show your appreciation.
Then, as you move forward, keep the lines of communication open and consistently ask for more feedback to further optimize the user experience.
“Make sure all end-users have a consistent way to share feedback, either in real time with an on-demand form, or by sending biannual surveys,” Emma says. “This will not only help you improve the platform as the needs of the organization evolve, but it will also allow you to build trust with your user base.”
8. Link Knowledge to Your Employees
When an employee has a question, there is often a chain of people they have to go through to find the knowledge expert. To reduce the amount of time it takes your employees to find the knowledge expert, consider setting up a knowledge directory as a bookmarked post within your platform. This directory identifies your subject matter experts (SMEs) in various areas, saving your employees time when it comes to searching for the knowledge they need to do their jobs.
The easier it is for your employees to access the information they need, the better the experience for everyone involved.
9. Get the Leadership Team Involved
Right from the get-go, your organization’s executive team should play a visible role in your knowledge management platform launch effort. Your leadership team should articulate the goals and objectives, play a role in the soft launch, and be active on the platform. Consider having your executive make the first post in your platform, welcoming everyone and outlining the goals.
“When you see an email from the CEO in your inbox, there’s no way you aren’t opening it,” Emma says. “Executive sponsorship is a really powerful tool to engage users during your launch and beyond.”
Active participation from the leadership team will show how serious they are about creating change, and this will be a direct reflection of how seriously your employees will take this change. (We’ve even had customers’ executives post selfie videos, which is a sure-fire way to drive engagement.)
10. Conduct a Contest
Who doesn’t love a little friendly competition? To get your team excited about the new knowledge management platform, hold a contest to encourage your employees to really dive in and get the lay of the land. (Some of our customers have had success with virtual scavenger hunts or bingo games inside their knowledge management platform and contests to choose a name for the new KM community.) The prize can be lunch with leadership, a cool new tech gadget, paid time off, or whatever is appropriate for your organization.
11. Support Continuous Training
Don’t let the hype of your new knowledge management platform die. Hold regular training meetings for your employees so they can stay on top best practices, as well as any important product updates or changes. This is one of the best ways to keep employees engaged and sharing company knowledge effectively.
“Any significant update to the platform is an opportunity for training and engagement,” says Betsy. “Whenever you hear from your Customer Success Manager about a new feature, take that as your cue to send out communication and help documentation.”
Bonus Tip: Choose a Platform that Offers Implementation Project Management Services
One of the best ways to ensure success is by working with a knowledge management partner that offers implementation project management as a service. Because these professionals are experienced in helping organizations roll out their solutions, they’ll be able to offer guidance on overcoming common challenges and maximizing the success of the platform. Additionally, they’ve likely codified and perfected the implementation process over time.
For example, at Bloomfire, our expert implementation project managers have developed a four-stage enterprise ignition service covering planning, configuring the platform, seeding content, and launching to end-users. Our team assists customers from establishing goals all the way through to managing a post-launch survey to ensure you’re prepared for long-term success.
Change in the workplace, no matter if it’s big or small, is never easy. However, if you follow these steps when implementing your knowledge management solution, the investment you made will pay off. Happy knowledge sharing!
This post was originally published on May 13, 2015. It was most recently updated and expanded on November 18, 2020 to incorporate best practices from Bloomfire’s Implementation Project Management team.