6 Critical Features for Knowledge Management Tools

6 Critical Features for Knowledge Management Tools

Selecting a knowledge management tool can be an extremely complicated process. As we mentioned in our previous blog, Knowledge Management Tool Selection: 7 Critical Questions, there are organizational issues to determine if there is a compelling business case for implementing knowledge management tools. Assuming there is, and that a cross-functional team has been charted, then a critical part of the project will be defining the key features that the knowledge management Tools must have in order to make employees more productive and efficient. Here are six features that we consider extremely important.

1. Appropriate for the Job

Knowledge management is a very broad subject which covers many industries and functions. KM tools must be selected based on knowledge area or job function. For example, knowledge management may be required for HR management, Sales CRM, project management, help desk, or supply chain management. Enterprise Content Management (ECM) applications such as SharePoint can also be configured and tailored, but may require third-party plugins to be effective.

2. Knowledge Management

The lifecycle of knowledge management includes identification, capture, development, sharing, and effective use. One of the main features that every KM tool must have is the ability to manage content and documents. This capability has been the core of KM tools since its inception. While a majority of content is in the form of documents, audio and video data is growing exponentially and must be managed effectively to avoid expensive storage and minimize broadband costs. Search capabilities such as Google, Bing and FireFox are necessary in order to find information as quickly as possible versus attempting to navigate vast complex hierarchical structures.

3. Collaboration and Communication

Collaboration and communication among employees is a must-have feature. The capability to support both asynchronous and synchronous activities is vital. The emergence of social media has influenced KM tool providers to mimic many of their most popular features such as groups, profiles, forums, blogs, and instant messaging.

Synchronous capabilities must foster natural communication such as live communication, simultaneous presence of participants, and chat rooms, as well as group and private messaging. Hosting and recording online meetings for seminars and presentations is very effective in sharing knowledge when it is difficult to have 100% participation.

Asynchronous capabilities include blogs, discussion forums, wikis, workgroups, news, and announcements. Blogs allow for comments, multiple authoring, subscription to post and updates, and aggregation from other relevant blogs. LinkedIn-like capabilities enable employees to grow their network and connect with the appropriate knowledge experts.

Collaboration for team projects is a highly-sought-after feature given the realities of a global workforce. Effective KM technology capabilities can facilitate and accelerate team forming, storming, norming, and performing (a.k.a. Tuckman Model) stages. Team based features facilitate project team activities such as decision-making, meeting schedules, action item tracking, and document management.

4. Personalization

Personalization allows the employee to configure and customize the user interface to his or her preference. This also means information can be accessed on any hardware platform (desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone), as well as on private or public networks. Many web-based applications are device aware. This means they display content based on the type of hardware platform being used.

5. Integration and interoperability

KM tools are often required to integrate or interoperate with other mission-critical applications such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Enterprise Resource Management (ERP), and Enterprise Content Management (ECM). Looking for information across multiple IT applications and systems can be very inefficient and frustrating for employees.

In addition, IT infrastructure considerations such as hosting, security, single sign-on, and technical support must be addressed. Integration may or may not drive up the cost of implementing KM tools, depending on complexity of the applications. Having in-house IT experts working with KM tool vendors during the requirements gathering stage is critical.

6. Total Cost of Ownership

While the benefits of implementing KM Tools take precedence over costs, organizational budgets are more limited than ever, so the cost of KM tool options must be weighed against the priority of features required by the organization. Total cost of ownership (TCO) includes project implementation, software acquisition, maintenance, technical training and support, and hosting.

In reality, decision-makers must weigh the strategic value of knowledge lost, employee productivity, and improved organization capability against the cost of keeping the status quo.

Are you evaluating Knowledge Management Solutions?

If you are evaluating knowledge management solutions, then contact us for a free consultation. Our KM technology, RapidMapper, can be used at an enterprise level or a functional level such as human capital, project management, or any other process that needs employees to readily access information. For the last decade, we have helped Fortune 1000 companies create a smarter and more effective workforce. We do this by helping clients increase their effectiveness in integrated process design and delivery, people development and engagement, and talent management.

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7 Challenges to Mentoring Millennials and How to Overcome Them

7 Challenges to Mentoring Millennials and How to Overcome Them

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 2020, nearly 50% of the U.S. workforce will consist of Millennials. It is also estimated that approximately 60% of Millennials leave their companies in less than three years. Additionally, it costs between $15,000 and $25,000 to replace each lost Millennial. The consequences of not managing Millennials are costly, and human capital managers need to respond quickly to the changing workforce in their organizations.

Can mentoring help with the retention of Millennials? We believe so, if organizations can overcome these seven challenges.

1. A Flexible Mentoring Program

Mentoring programs can be informal or formal. The challenge with informal programs is a heavier reliance on mentees finding good mentors and no incorporation of best practices. Larger organizations typically have mentoring programs but they have not adapted to Millennials who are looking for more flexibility and balance in their careers. The good news is that they want to be mentored and coached.

Our solution is for organizations to reassess their mentoring programs from a Millennial workforce perspective.

  • How can we make our mentoring program valuable to Millennials?
  • Can we align our mentoring programs to our talent development strategy and process?
  • Should we reevaluate our goals and objectives?
  • Are our mentoring programs flexible to Millennial needs?
  • Do we need to re-engineer our mentoring process?
  • How will we measure results to know that the program is effective?
  • Do we have support and commitment at all appropriate levels?

Putting a cross-functional team together of key stakeholders is critical, and recommendations need to be incorporated in the organization’s strategic plan for proper support and funding.

2. Proof that Mentoring is Good Business

If human capital managers can’t prove the success of mentoring programs, then they are at risk of losing funding in the next round of budget cuts. Unfortunately, training and development budgets are constantly under scrutiny so these programs must show business value to the organization.

We suggest developing specific and relevant measurements of program success in the planning stage. Metrics should tie back to organizational goals, be reported on regularly, and drive continual improvement. Presenting information to decision makers on how mentoring programs are working ensures long term management support and funding.

3. Senior Managers Aren’t Necessarily Qualified Mentors

The assumption that just because senior managers have had successful careers makes them qualified to be mentors is a faulty one. The skills required to be a successful manager need to be supplemented with mentoring skills. It is also dangerous to assume that all senior managers want to be mentors to Millennials.

While we recognize that there may be a shortage of good mentors, we don’t recommend allowing just anyone to become one. Mentoring programs need to qualify both mentor and mentee candidates. Assessments should determine if participants have the right skills and experience, but more importantly, mentors should have a desire to mentor others and be willing to commit to a mentoring partnership. Mentoring programs should then equip them with the right skills to effectively interact and communicate with Millennials.

4. Who’s on First?

While mentoring programs should and often do define roles and responsibilities, they need to factor in the changing roles of mentors, mentees and managers. Does it make sense for managers to be formal mentors? Where should the line be drawn between the manager-employee and mentor-mentee relationships?

Roles and responsibilities should be clearly defined and made accessible to all stakeholders. Eliminate employees dropping out of mentoring programs by creating proper training materials for mentors, mentees and manager. More importantly, make the materials easily accessible so that they are used often.

5. Mandated Mentoring

Motivating people to change is often rewarded by creating incentives to achieve corporate goals and objectives. However, when mentoring programs are unilaterally mandated, change efforts can be perceived as punishment, instead of an opportunity for growth. This can result in a failed program.

Mentoring programs need to be voluntary. Those that participate should be recognized and rewarded appropriately. Having the right incentives to create the right behaviors is critical.

6. No Value to Millennials

Without understanding what motivates Millennials in general or their mentee specifically, mentoring programs can be driven by what mentors think Millennials should learn – not what the Millennials feel they need to learn. We recommend that mentoring partnerships be mentee-driven. Mentors should guide, but the Millennial as the mentee must drive the partnership for it to be effective. Processes need to put the Millennials in the driver’s seat, and training should reinforce the need for partnerships to be mentee-driven.

7. Management of Mentoring Programs

With so many types of mentoring programs available such as one-on-one, peer, group, and reverse mentoring, etc., it can become difficult to manage them.

We highly recommend the use of technology to make management of mentoring programs more efficient and effective. An Enterprise Content Management system such as SharePoint can help if organized properly. Tools such as RapidMapper can make mentoring programs easier to administer and more accessible.

Human Capital Management is Our Core Competency

If you are facing similar challenges with your mentoring program, then contact us for a free consultation. For the last decade, we have helped Fortune 1000 companies create a smarter, more effective workforce. We do this by helping clients increase their effectiveness in integrated process design and delivery, people development and engagement, and talent management.


Knowledge Management Tool Selection: 7 Critical Questions

Knowledge Management Tool Selection: 7 Critical Questions

When searching on the website for a knowledge management application over 80 software applications are displayed. Many of these focus only on a vendor’s specific CRM application of sales knowledge and not the organization-wide information management challenge. So how does one go about making the right choice when thinking about the right tools and technology for your organization?

Our perspective on KM tools comes from our experience, both good and bad, when using our customers KM technologies during project engagements. Even in very large organizations there are challenges with selecting and managing KM technology. Here are seven questions that can serve as a useful guide for making the best KM Technology choice.

1. What problem are we trying to solve?

Knowledge Management concerns typically manifest themselves in key business activities that are often not adequately addressed with core enterprise solutions. If problems like persistent mis-communication or conflicts in how a process is supposed to work occur too frequently then they are warning signs that better knowledge management is needed. The need for KM can span an organization or be specific to a function. Often the need for KM is identified at a department or functional area but in reality the need is a cross-functional challenge. If the problem with KM is pervasive, then an enterprise solution should be considered. While solving a KM problem at the enterprise level is more valuable for the organization, it also requires broad executive support.

2. Is there a compelling value proposition?

Once the problem has been properly identified, it’s important to establish what the benefits and value will be to the organization. While there are both qualitative and quantitative benefits to managing KM, the approval typically hinges on some return on investment (ROI). How will KM help the organization be faster, cheaper, and/or better? Fortunately, there’s enough data to support the fact that utilizing technology helps in all three areas. Technology allows employees to easily access information. Spending less time accessing information improves productivity reducing the processing or transaction costs. Finally, utilizing information creates insight (knowledge) that can be used to improve quality.

3. Who is the decision-maker and who are our stakeholders?

The decision on which technology is appropriate is often left to the information technology (IT) department. Although the IT Group plays and important role in these projects we believe the decision should be left in the hands of the group that expects to benefit the most from using the technology solution. If the KM technology solution is for the entire enterprise, then having a cross-functional steering committee comprised of key stakeholders helps to not only ensure everyone’s interests are considered but also makes the change management effort easier because stakeholders can be the voice for change within the organization.

4. Have we established business and technology requirements?

Because the KM need is often severe, there is a tendency to select a technology solution before really understanding the needs of all stakeholders. IT is concerned with security, reliability, disaster recovery, technical support, infrastructure, and total cost of ownership (TCO). End user requirement are primarily around ease of use, intuitive navigation, response time, accessibility, and improved productivity.

Common functional requirements for enterprise KM technology today include content management, portals, project rooms, community workspaces, social networking, contextual search, accessibility on laptops and smart devices. Some KM tools specialize in certain areas such as learning management systems (LMS), help desk support, and workflow. Our experience is that most solutions have many more features than are currently implemented and end-user training and empowerment are typically understated.

All requirements should be weighted in terms of importance. Categories that delineate “Must Have” requirement and “Nice to Have” requirements are necessary since KM solutions will have strengths and weaknesses around your requirements.

5. Which vendors are worthy of consideration?

Once a comprehensive set of requirements are developed, then an organization can issue a request for information (RFI) or proposal (RFP) to vendors they have identified. Many organizations can assist with this process and databases with requirements per solution are available to aide in narrowing down the vendors to a short-list of five or less.

6. Do we understand the total cost of ownership?

The focus on selecting KM solutions naturally highlights the cost of implementation. However, consideration needs to be given to long-term costs as well. In addition to the IT teams having to support the technology over the entire life-cycle, other costs needs to be understood and factored into the decision-making process. Maintenance, upgrades, infrastructure, technical training, ongoing training and customer support should be included in the business justification.

7. What is our change management process?

A new KM technology solution means change for the people in an organization. Our experience with change is that resistance to change is natural. Planning for change ensures successful adoption of new KM technology and maximum benefit to the organization. Change communication needs to start early in the project and should continue throughout. Acknowledging and addressing concerns about the new technology will help reduce anxiety and stress for everyone.

Are you evaluating Knowledge Management Solutions?

If you are evaluating knowledge management solutions, then contact us for a free consultation. Our KM technology, RapidMapper, can be used at an enterprise level or a functional level such as human capital, project management, or any process that needs employees to readily access information. Over the last decade, we have helped Fortune 1000 companies create a smarter, more effective workforce. We do this by helping clients increase their effectiveness in integrated process design and delivery, people development and engagement, and talent management.

6 Steps to Better Onboarding

6 Steps to Better Onboarding

Today’s Reality About Onboarding

Onboarding studies reveal that up to 90% of employees will make a decision to leave a company within six (6) months of starting their employment.1 Statistics show that the cost of replacing an employee can amount to 3 – 14 times base salary. Executive ranks are also susceptible with 40-50% of new CEOs failing in the first eighteen (18) months2.

Despite these eye-opening statistics, only 37% of companies have had a formal onboarding program in place for more than two (2) years. Accordingly, in many cases, new employees receive little management support on their journey to become productive contributors as quickly as possible.

Onboarding is more than new hire training and setting up employee bank accounts and setting benefit plans. It should be a comprehensive introduction to firm culture, processes, communities, and strategies. It also takes longer than a week of introductory training. Here are our six (6) recommendations for creating a more effective onboarding program.

1) Engage with a Community of Practice

While employees are hired for their technical skills and experience, they can benefit from being connected and engaged with employees who have similar job functions or interests. By being part of such a community, their questions and challenges can be submitted to a community of practice to not only help the new employee, but provide new insights to the community at large. Innovation and new thinking can be shared with those who are in the best position to utilize it within the organization. Relationships that are developed accelerate the new employee’s sense of engagement and belonging to the company.

2) Connect to Content Management Systems

New employees need to be supported in their daily work by the collective knowledge assets of the organization. This content should be user oriented, well organized, and made available in a content management system (CMS). Latest technologies such as Microsoft SharePoint provide contextual search capabilities and easy access. These systems must be user friendly and contained functional and process knowledge. Tools such as RapidMapper can enhance CMS systems by providing user-oriented organization and quick access to information to help them become acquainted with established processes and content, and be successful in their first months onboard.

3) Receive On-the-Job Training

Formal OJT, particularly in the first months, has an immeasurable impact on employee productivity. There is so much knowledge that can be transferred when employees are engaged in on the job training. Though there are opportunity costs involved in having an experienced employee spend time with a new employee, the investment pays off in the long run. OJT helps new workers form close relationships which fosters teamwork and trust.

4) Tap into Experts

Orientation sessions and knowledge systems should identify key experts by functional and process area, and encourage new workers to access them when needed to help the company succeed. Online expert profiles should be created and accessible to new employees. In addition, knowledge systems should provide experts with easy to use processes for transferring what they know to those that can benefit from their knowledge.

5) Mentoring

The aging baby boomers in organizations represent an unprecedented fount of organization knowledge. We believe the best knowledge transfer technique for these veterans is a formal mentoring program. This not only helps speed up the learning process in employee development, it captures valuable knowledge from one generation to another. Failing to do this risks the loss of valuable institutional knowledge, and increases the risk of negative impact to customer service.

6) Integration is Key

While implementing systems and processes for each of these areas is necessary, it is not sufficient. Systems must be integrated to create a multiplier effect of onboarding and development benefits. Strategic planning and cross functional collaboration can ensure that the necessary processes, technology and tools provide for faster time to employee integration and engagement.

Experiencing Onboarding Challenges?

If you’re experiencing challenges with comprehensive onboarding and employee engagement, then contact us for a free consultation about your issues. For years, we have helped Fortune 1000 companies create a smarter, more effective workforce, and we do this by helping clients increase their effectiveness in people development and engagement, talent management, and integrated process design and delivery.


[1] – Bauer, T. N., 2010, Aberdeen 2006 Survey

[2] – Center for Creative Leadership