Proving the Value: Getting Internal Buy-In for a Knowledge Base

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1 Proving the Value: Getting Internal Buy-In for a Knowledge Base Ask business leaders in almost any industry what their biggest challenges are as their organizations grow, and the answer will almost always include some variation of the concept of silos. Silos, according to Investopedia, result from an attitude that occurs when several departments or groups do not want to share information or knowledge with other individuals in the same company. 1 WHAT IS A SILO? an attitude that occurs when several departments or groups do not want to share information or knowledge with other individuals in the same company. from Investopedia Most leaders know that a silo mentality reduces organizational efficiency, which in turn reduces productivity and revenue. And if silos happen because groups can t easily share information internally, facilitating internal communication and knowledge sharing helps break down barriers and gain efficiencies across the entire enterprise. It seems obvious, and yet many organizations struggle to implement an effective knowledge management solution. It requires changes in processes and technology as well as a shift in the internal culture and attitude regarding open cross-functional communication among employees throughout the organization. The way to get any enterprise-wide solution off the ground is by selling the idea to internal stakeholders, from C-level executives to departmental leaders to individual employees.

2 Page 2 The Ten Factors of a Successful Knowledge Base Launch The following best practices are critical factors to the successful implementation of a knowledge base: 2 1 Define project goals and objectives 2 Secure executive endorsement 3 Recruit energetic champions 4 Encourage a range of use cases 5 Launch with hands-on activities for new users 6 Focus on repeated activities 7 Complement existing systems of record 8 Track and reward engagement 9 Capture and report key findings (early and often) 10 Leverage and expand the community These steps may seem simple and straightforward, but each one can present multiple complexities and hurdles that you must address in order to affect true organizational change. In this paper, we will focus primarily on steps two and three, which pertain directly to strategies for gaining internal buy-in. Securing Executive Sponsorship In very large organizations, the demand for enterprise social solutions often comes from the top. The CEO, the board of directors, or another high-level leader will establish the initiative, fund it and see it through. For other organizations, though, the quest for more effective knowledge sharing tools usually begins in one of three functional areas trying to address common pain points: Sales and Marketing Enablement Pursuing a way to drive topline revenue growth by standardizing effective practices across the sales team The most effective way to win over business executives and owners is with numbers. Customer Service and Support Looking for a tool that provides information and assets to rapidly answer customers questions and/or enable customer self-service Human Resources and Training Seeking more efficient methods for new employee onboarding and ongoing training initiatives Departmental leaders wanting to implement new technologies that impact other departments as well as their own typically need executive sponsorship to evangelize the idea on a wider scale. Depending on your company s culture and where its executives place institutional knowledge on their list of priorities, this could be an easy sell or a very challenging one. Regardless, the most effective way to win over business executives and owners is with numbers. You must show them the return they will see on their investment if they buy into the solution you propose. Proving Return on Investment One reason executives might resist investing in multimedia knowledge sharing software is because every business already has multiple digital tools to communicate internally: , instant messages, web sites, blogs, social networks, intranet, digital conferences, mobile, and more. And yet communication remains scattered across many channels, often repetitive, static, stale, and uncatalogued.

3 Page 3 QUICK STATS Use of a powerful and centralized platform for employee-toemployee sharing can increase productivity by 20% and employee engagement by 25%. Use of integrated knowledge sharing technology has shown a 10% increase in overall deal size and a 15% increase in revenue per sales representative. When you empower customers to selfserve, you can decrease support call volume by as much as 30% and overall support costs by 35%. In the absence of a single, easy-to-use, searchable repository of an organization s knowledge, employees spend about 20 percent of their time trying to find information they need to do their jobs, said Jordan Wood, Vice President of Sales for Bloomfire. New employees spend even more time getting their questions answered. 3 The use of a more powerful and centralized platform for employee-to-employee sharing, therefore, can increase workforce productivity by 20 percent or more and employee engagement by 25 percent. 4 Showing executives these kinds of numbers and tying them to increased revenue is a good start; revenue is often the surest way to a business owner or executive s approval. However, remember that ROI is not measured solely in profits. There are soft benefits as well. Address both when selling your idea to executive leadership. Sales and Marketing Enablement Of the three most common points of entry for organizations seeking a knowledge sharing platform, sales and marketing enablement has perhaps the clearest ties to increased revenue. It is relatively easy to show how, if top sales performers could easily share their most effective pitches and practices, and if lower performers and new sales representatives could easily access those insights, any gains in effectiveness among lower performers translate directly to increased revenue. Moreover, since top performers would no longer have to answer the question, How are you doing it? one-on-one, over and over again, they could spend more time doing what they do best: selling. Consequently, your top salespeople would have increased productivity as well again, translating directly to increased revenue as well as brand value and equity. In addition to phenomenal employee engagement rates, use of integrated knowledge sharing technology has shown a 10 percent increase in overall deal size and a 15 percent increase in revenue per sales representative. 6 Soft benefits in sales and marketing include improved employee morale and stronger commitment to best practices. Perhaps most importantly, though, organizations implementing cross-departmental knowledge sharing see rapid adoption the rate of engagement may be as high as 80 to 90 percent. 5 A smooth customer journey depends on engaged, empowered, and informed employees. Customer Self Service and Support In the area of customer service, use of enterprise content-sharing software can also have a direct impact on the company s bottom line. If customer service representatives have fast access to the right information at the right time, it can shorten the duration of customer calls significantly by reducing time to resolution of customers support issues. If the company makes information available to consumers in a searchable, interactive, living platform, you empower customers to self-serve, thereby decreasing support call volume by as much as 30 percent and overall customer support costs by 35 percent. 7 Moreover, the soft benefits of greater customer satisfaction and increased customer lifetime value (CLV) have tremendous payoff potential in the form of customer retention and positive word-of-mouth marketing. That s significant, and it s highly persuasive when it comes to winning executive sponsorship for your idea.

4 Page 4 Employee Onboarding and Training Employee onboarding and training is perhaps the most obvious application of internal knowledge sharing, but it s also the most difficult to tie directly to revenue. Though there are clear quantifiable benefits in the realm of human resources management such as measurable gains in employee productivity, reduced loss of expertise through turnover, fewer headcount required to do the same or more work, and reduced costs associated with training and onboarding the soft ROI in this area may be even more significant. Organizations that implement a comprehensive internal knowledge sharing solution can realize a 26% decrease in employee onboarding time and a 14% drop in employee turnover. There is the potential for a huge payoff for the organization in terms of the employee journey. Effective collaboration has a powerful impact on employee satisfaction, which leads to better retention, improved morale, optimized use of resources, and a stronger sense of professional value within the organization. After implementing a comprehensive internal knowledge sharing solution, organizations can realize a 26 percent decrease in employee onboarding time and a 14 percent drop in employee turnover. Remember that employee turnover includes many hidden costs. There s the cost of recruiting and interviewing replacement candidates; you have to pay the recruiter and the interviewers for their time, and for upper-level positions, you may have to pay travel costs as well. Then you have to pay for the new employee s training. Formal training can cost thousands of dollars per employee. And as Suzanne Lucas writes in Inc., even when there are no training classes to attend, there are still costs. Someone has to sit there and show [the new hire] what to do. Someone has to double check work until the employee has proven himself. And that all takes the trainer away from her regular job. Which means you re paying two people to do one job. 8 So retaining good employees is a tremendous cost-saver for the company. Moreover, employees who feel valued and well taken care of tend to express their satisfaction outside the company, which helps to attract highly qualified applicants for future hires, increasing the quality of talent and commitment company-wide. All of this is quite attractive to top-level executives in any organization. Evangelizing Employee Engagement Once you ve made the business case to your company s owner or top executives and earned their support for your knowledge base initiative, the next step is to get buy-in from departmental leaders and then employees throughout the organization. According to Bloomfire s Jordan Wood, The secret sauce is simplicity. The software s user experience has to be highly intuitive, easy, and efficient. If it is, and the organization is actively encouraging and rewarding employees use of the knowledge base software, you will see off-the-charts engagement in very little time. 9 Once a few high-value stakeholders and knowledge holders begin using the tool, Wood says, the spread is highly organic. First it takes hold in one or two departments, and when other departmental leaders see how it s working and perceive the obvious and intrinsic value of the solution to the business as a whole and to individual employees, the habit of open knowledge sharing and consumption becomes very sticky. Just as social networks targeted for personal use have a snowball effect as more and more of a person s friends, family and colleagues join and use the network, the sense of camaraderie and teamwork engendered by an internal tool for professional sharing can build rapidly and exponentially across an enterprise. This is how people actually work and learn, and that s the real value of the proposition.

5 Page 5 What Doesn t Work If you don t earn buy-in from top to bottom by showing real value in both hard returns and soft benefits, no technology initiative will stick. In 90 days, you should be able to see whether or not a solution is right for your organization. Launching a big global rollout of a solution chosen at the top without input from the employees who will actually be contributing to and interacting with the knowledge repository on a daily basis is typically a failing strategy. Engagement starts off strong, as employees are under orders to adopt the new tools and processes, but then it spirals rapidly down from there. If you don t earn buy-in from top to bottom by showing real value in both hard returns and soft benefits, no technology initiative will stick. Getting Started It helps tremendously if someone in your company acts as the champion of investing in employee collaboration and knowledge sharing tools. If there is a person or group that is passionate about the need for such a solution and is willing to become educated about the options on the market, that person or group can lead the charge in selling the solution internally and evangelizing it across business functions and departments. If you are that champion, evaluate software options carefully before proposing your solution to influencers, weighing capabilities against your company s particular needs and culture. Look for a tool that is highly intuitive and easy even fun to use. The key is engagement. The most expensive and expansive software package in the world will be a waste of time and money if your employees do not use it. A good rule of thumb for any new technology initiative is to conduct a pilot program say, 90 days in a key department to see if it serves your needs. In 90 days, you should be able to see whether or not a solution is right for your organization. If it s not having a positive impact in that time, perhaps there s a better answer out there for your particular needs. And if a vendor does not support you trying a pilot program if it s an all-ornothing proposition you should probably shy away. You lose buy-in and credibility, if you call for a huge investment that never gets used. In summary, find a solution and make your case for how it will be used, the results it will drive, and your pilot program strategy. Your company can do more to break down organizational silos with internal knowledge sharing tools than virtually any other method you could try. It s all about effective communication and collaboration. About Bloomfire Bloomfire exists to organize knowledge and expertise, and make it accessible and shareable with the people that need it most. Our easy-to-use, elegant software is used by thousands of employees at leading companies for social learning, customer service, and sales & marketing alignment. With Bloomfire, collaboration is easier, work gets done more efficiently, and employees and customers are more satisfied. Bloomfire is headquartered in downtown Austin, Texas. References Calculating the ROI of Enterprise Collaboration Software. Bloomfire (2014). White paper

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