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How to Find, Buy, and Launch a KMS, Part 2

Or Planning for Change Management & Running Demos

We left off Find, Buy, and Launch, Part 1 with a beautifully organized spreadsheet of research and two to-dos: plan for change management on the Marketing Team, and run demos on the top twelve tools.

Let’s just admire that spreadsheet for a minute more before getting back to work:

Another, more detailed screenshot of a spreadsheet with many columns visible. There are several columns of feature requirements and everything is highlighted either green, yellow, or orange.
I warned you about the color-coding obsession.

Planning for Change Management

Change management is something I’ve been following the last couple years as the term has gained traction in my circles, but never something I expected to use much. However, when you’re introducing a new tool to a team of nearly 200 marketers who only partially see the need for it, change management becomes vital.

I documented what I did know about change management and then sought out a few experts to review my notes and spot the gaps:

  • start sooner (like, NOW, ASAP, talk about it at every opportunity)

  • make it relevant (how the tool changes or improves their lives)

  • over-communicate

  • have fun!

  • offer training (custom, useful, team-specific)

  • follow up (start with MVPs, follow up with tips to help create superusers)

During training, keep the groups small, and tailor each session to the attendees’ needs and interests. Show the benefits of the tool, don’t teach the tool itself (because if it checks off that “intuitive interface” MVP, there’s no reason to). Watch for those who are excited and eager and trying it for themselves, and recruit them to help you own the tool — they’re your superusers.

Once the tool is live, clearly post tasks and first steps for people to try when they log in. Write out targeted assignments to help them get used to the system; try incentives for teams that accomplish a list of tasks first; build out a scavenger hunt.

And learn from my mistakes: rather than helping transfer the onus and responsibility of the tool onto the users (which is how a KMS really succeeds), I remained the single point of authority and contact. I also failed to plan for onboarding new employees in an effective fashion. I was herding all the cats, rather than recruiting more cat herders.

Demoing KMS Tools

I kept this section attached to “change management” because part of change management is managing your stakeholders’ expectations. And, as I learned, stakeholders are easily swayed by demos.

I scheduled hour-long demos with each of the tools I thought might work for our company and invited a list of key stakeholders to the demos. These included team leads, C-levels, decision makers, a few devs for technical support, and a few edge case folks: the guy who scoffed at knowledge management in our initial research meetings, someone from MarTech who might find value in the tool, a training manager from the sales department who may see a need for it to grow into their area.

I also provided each sales person who would be demoing to my team with three case studies:

  • a simple project flow, highlighting assets created and where the KMS would come in

  • a new employee case study, highlighting the things someone needs to know day 1, week 1, and month 1; and how we can build onboarding into the KMS

  • a complex project flow, including research, high technical requirements, and multiple teams’ involvement across the life of the project.

It helps to set your sales person up with a lot of information for demos — think about it: if you’re pitching your product, and you’re incredibly passionate about it, but you don’t understand your audience’s needs, how successful can you really be?

Needless to say, our first demo went SO well that nearly everyone in the room was saying, “This is the one!” by a few minutes in. It took a lot of convincing to get stakeholders to any other demos, so I learned to save my personal favorite for last!

Buying Your KMS

One of the hardest parts of buying software is overcoming old school sales tactics. I’m a Millennial and I have a really hard time using my phone for phone calls. [I summarized some of my thoughts on outdated sales tactics in another article.]

Basically, I learned a few things in the process that would have made the purchase go more smoothly:

  • Know what you want ahead of time. Write it down. Get it approved internally so you have more conviction talking to sales folk.

  • Be ok saying “no.” If the sales team won’t compromise or work with you or keeps pushing things you don’t want, say no!

  • Have budget, headcount, tech stack, licensing requirements, etc. figured out before you answer a single phone call.

  • Talk. Talk a lot. Run through options and plans and features. Voice your concerns. Voice your approval.

  • Bring in the big guns when you get stuck. I knew I wasn’t the final decision maker, and made that clear to every sales rep. But sometimes I had to hand them off to get past their questions and requirements.

Launching a KMS

Most SaaS companies have a training or onboarding track that they build out and offer as “customer support” in the initial stages of implementation. And honestly, it’s really tempting to go through this, think, “I’ve got this!” and just start retraining others the same way.

But as a UX specialist, I know that’s not a good way to introduce a new tool into a team of 200 marketers with complex needs and a wide variety of interests. I highly recommend taking a couple weeks to think through organization of the tool, document your process and reasoning, and build a customized training approach that fits your teams and your company culture.

Then start training, right?


Beta. Try your training out on a few teams, one at a time, and ask for feedback. Update and modify it to fit each team you’re presenting to. The SEO team’s needs and interests will be very different than the front end development team’s needs and interests. Use a little empathy, put yourself in the team’s shoes for a minute, take the time to collect a few common assets or a simple project flow, and make your trainings highly relevant to the teams you’re spending time with.

Not only will you build trust and rapport this way, but you’ll also set your teams up for success much faster by meeting their needs before they think to ask about them.

I’d also recommend setting deadlines and talking about them. Tell people when training will be complete, keep them updated on the progress as you go, and announce when training is done. The more you communicate, the better.

I even had a little fun with it and built a countdown to launch for our internal system:

Picture of a poster showing a construction paper rocket ship flying through clouds. Handwriting at the top says Countdown to Knowledge Management Launch. And the rocket ship is build of sections that show steps in the process. Each completed step has a green check mark next to it. An astronaut sticker floats next to the rocket ship.
Studies show we’re happier and more engaged when we have a little fun at work.

The rocket ship poster is shown stuck to a whiteboard. To the right of the poster are whimsical, handmade construction paper planets. Each planet has a flag on it with the name of a team.
Each team that completed KMS training got their own planet.

Let’s Recap

Finding, buying, and launching a KMS can feel really daunting, but broken down into steps makes it really do-able.

  1. Take the time to research. A KMS may not even be the right solution for your organization. Better to identify the problem and pursue the best solution early on.

  2. Hold out for the right solution. Not every tool will be a perfect fit — but the best solution is out there. Have awkward conversations, say “no” to the not-quite-good-enough, and pursue what will work for your organization.

  3. Plan ahead for everything. This is an impossible task, obviously. But the more empathetic and thoughtful you are in the research, launching, training, and implementation stages, the better chance your tool will stand up on its own and be well adopted.

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