A successful knowledge management solution boosts staff performance and productivity, product and service quality, and deliverable consistency by capitalizing on intellectual and knowledge-based assets. Unfortunately, the implementation of a knowledge management platform can be a challenge.

What are the key objectives of your knowledge management solution?

Eager to reap the benefits, many companies leap into a knowledge management platform without first evaluating the objectives they wish to fulfill. Many companies fail to consider the changes required to successfully implement the platform and follow best practices for managing knowledge assets long term.

With roughly 50% of all knowledge management initiatives failing, we’re often asked about our take on what organizations should do to ensure success. At the core of any enterprise productivity project is change management – the ability for an organization and its individuals to embark on significant behavioral changes – often cited as the most significant hurdle to adoption.

What is knowledge management software?

This is the age of Big Data. Cloud technology has made unlimited data storage affordable for any organization. There are many business platforms that facilitate the acquisition of that data. Data acquired from internal documents to industry knowledge to customer information.

Data storage and acquisition is no longer a challenge. The real challenge today is, to find ways to organize and search across the oceans of data.

This is the role of knowledge management software. Knowledge management software is to assists with the identification, creation, distribution, and organization of an organization’s knowledge pool. At its best, knowledge management gives a company a centrally unified pool of information that is readily:

  • accessible
  • discoverable
  • updated

With knowledge management software your company can run leaner, more efficiently, and operate more profitably. But a number of challenges exist which make knowledge software deployment easier said than done.

Considerations for a Knowledge Management Solution

If you want to successfully deploy a knowledge management platform, you should consider the following:

  • People – Your knowledge management solution should increase the productivity and effectiveness within the organization.
  • Processes – Simultaneously, implement best practices for the efficient and precise identification, management, and distribution of knowledge.
  • Technology – The technology should improve how you configure and use automation and tools to facilitate knowledge management.
  • Structure – Organizational structures should adjust to support and promote cross-discipline awareness and expertise.
  • Culture – Your company should institute and foster a knowledge-driven and knowledge-sharing culture for long-term success.

How to prepare for knowledge management implementation challenges?

Deploying a knowledge management solution is a complex project. Even with the best planning, expect to encounter and resolve various obstacles.

Some common knowledge management implementation challenges you may want to prepare for include:

  • Failure to articulate or recognize knowledge, applying implicit knowledge into explicit knowledge
  • Language and geographical distance barriers in an international company
  • Shortcomings of information and communication technologies
  • Incorrectly defined areas of expertise
  • Continually changing business
  • Company politics and internal conflicts (e.g. inter and intra-departmental territoriality)
  • Lack of incentives or performance management goals
  • Inadequate training or support programs
  • Cultural barriers (e.g. “we have never done it this way” mentality)

I want to share ways you can maximize your knowledge management project’s chance for success.

Establish Knowledge Management Solution Objectives

Before selecting a knowledge management platform, envision and articulate the ideal solution. To confirm the proper program objectives, understand and document the business challenges that need to be solved, and the business drivers that will give momentum and justification for the deployment.

Document both short-term and long-term goals that solve the business challenges and strengthen the business drivers. Short-term goals should prove that the program is on the right path while long-term goals will help to shape and deliver the big picture.

Prepare for Change

Knowledge management is more than implementing a new software platform — it requires a culture change. Your employees will need to rethink the way they share and use the knowledge they possess.

One common obstacle to increasing organizational knowledge sharing is that companies are set up to reward individual performance. This practice rewards a “knowledge is power” attitude that opposes a knowledge-driven and knowledge-sharing culture.

Successfully deploying a new knowledge management platform may require organizational changes. The values and norms of the organization must change. Some employees might resist or even attempt to sabotage the changes. To minimize resistance, make preparations to manage cultural change.

Recruit knowledge-management champions throughout the company to inspire knowledge sharing behaviors within their departments and bring valuable feedback to the implementation team.

Identify the Right Time

Timing is critical to success. More often than not, knowledge management projects are started when business processes start to break down. Symptoms of this breakdown include – employee onboarding is taking longer, Slack becomes a chatty place for shoulder-tapping, or links are shared in spreadsheets.

Planning out the implementation timing is critical. Therefore, project timing deserves special attention. The right time is to start thinking of knowledge management is as early as possible.

Stakeholder Buy-in – The Key to Success

Knowledge management projects fail when stakeholders fail to buy-in. To ensure success, organizations must find a path to a shared vision through stakeholder buy-in. Projects fail when organizations assume that buy-in happens automatically. First, understand who the stakeholders are and, at the same time, identify clear roles and responsibilities. Ask questions such as: “What are the needs of each stakeholder?” and “What are stakeholder concerns?”

Engage stakeholders on various levels and through different stages. To succeed, you must secure buy-in from top-level decision-makers with sign-off of budgetary approval, through to the end-users who will be adopting the final result. Keeping the stakeholders motivated potentially increases the likelihood of overall project implementation success. Focus on how the stakeholders benefit as a way to motivate them. Find ways to show organizational benefits to be gained from the knowledge management platform. For example, the sales department will benefit from time saved on searching and recreating information and improving sales efficiency. Stakeholder buy-in leads to greater levels of adoption and a higher likelihood of implementation success.

Work with IT from the beginning.

Without a doubt, your IT department plays a critical role in your knowledge management implementation. Your knowledge management system can’t achieve its full potential with buy-in from IT. If you fail to get your IT team on board, your transition to a knowledge management solution can be fraught with issues.

Your IT department can provide support for technical and security implementation. The implementation doesn’t end with deploying the knowledge management platform, and it isn’t complete unless you train users on the platform.

Implementing a knowledge management solution can help your organization be more productive, and foster continued growth. However, getting that software up and running and training your users takes time and internal resources, especially your IT department.

Create value quickly.

Your knowledge management will boost efficiency. Your team members gain access to organizational expertise, creating a smarter workforce. Empowering employees to make quick, informed decisions that benefit your organization.

Time to value is a critical element of a successful project. A knowledge management solution that offers the shortest time-to-value ensures that users get to the “Aha!” moment fast. The value gained from a knowledge management project begins after the “Aha!” moment — the moment when customers first realize the value of the knowledge management platform and are aching to come back.

Define KPIs

KPIs are useful for evaluating the value of a knowledge management platform. Leveraging KPIs, you can clearly define success and measure the effectiveness of your knowledge management platform. You can compare new results to old results to see how performance improved. The key here is to set measurable goals. Instead of reducing the backlog of help desk tickets, “reduce help desk tickets by 30% within 90-days.”

There is no single KPI that can represent the success of your knowledge management deployment. You need to identify and track multiple metrics to enable you to make timely adjustments. It is the collection of the right KPIs that represent the success of your knowledge management deployment.

Set goals and get baseline measurements of adoption metrics that best align with your organizational goals. Look at the same metrics again after you have implemented your new knowledge management platform to see what has changed.