Walmart’s Content Management Journey

How Walmart developed and implemented a content management strategy roadmap to provide their associates with useful content and personalized learning experiences.

Speakers: Amber Simpson (Senior Manager, Learning & Development, Walmart) and Todd Fahlberg (Senior KM Consultant, Enterprise Knowledge)

[These are my notes from the KMWorld Connect 2021 Conference. I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session so they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]


  • Initial Challenges
    • They needed efficient ways to create, maintain, and sunset content
    • BUT there was a lack of accessibility and awareness of existing content, they saw a lot of unnecessary time and money spent recreating, manually managing, duplicating, and searching for content. PLUS there was an overliance on the “powers” of Excel. They were using Excel to do more that it should.
    • How to create associate experience and learning data as a service
      • enabling the delivery of learning to Walmart associates before they know they need it
      • providing recommended content and personalized experience
      • needing a single centralized location for indexing learning content
    • How to align their taxonomies so that machine learning could ingest and parse the language(s) of Walmart.
  • Lessons Learned
    • “If we’re going to do anything, we first must be able to show value and how we’re giving back to the organization.”
    • “Have to stop referring to KM as a separate entity, should instead align with Ways of Working.”
    • “Keep things Sesame Street Simple”
  • Their Initial Content Management Strategy Roadmap had several work streams:
    • LCD MVP & taxonomy implementation
    • Findability (Solr implementation)
    • Knowledge Graph implementation
    • Analytics reporting platform
    • Business process improvement
    • Content governance
  • Their Simplified Implementation Roadmap:
    • Product discovery and analysis
      • define and validate product vision
      • conduct environment analysis
      • update architectural design
      • update content data model
    • Agile adoption
      • consolidate requirements and backlog to Jira
      • Modify agile processes to fit Walmart culture
    • UI/UX Improvements
      • conduct user interview
      • update site map and consolidate application screens
      • design and develop new search interface
    • Findability (Solr implementation)
    • Taxonomy (PoolParty implementation)
  • Digital Library — Their Learning Content Database (LCD)
    • Learning content database
      • Their LCD became the one source of truth. This enabled them to deliver high-quality learning content in the most efficient and reliable way, which resulted in time and cost savings.
      • Their LCD connects skill badges to learning content so they can track associate development, provide targeted learning to upskill employees, and identify gaps in content.
    • PoolParty
      • The LCD is their metadata hub
        • User-contributed metadata (manually added)
        • Derived metadata (harvested metadata)
        • Provenance & lineage metadata (metadata added by users and technology) — this is GOLD — it shows relationships, change history, and dependencies
      • PoolParty automated tagging, taxonomy/ontology management
        • the controlled vocabulary is stored in the LCD and applied automatically by PoolParty
    • Solr
      • indexes content from Walmart’s repositories
      • provides customizable options
  • Future Vision
    • They are transitioning from a relational database to a graph database
      • Their goal is to provide a semantic search experience. Solr, powered by Walmart’s Knowledge Graph and taxonomies, provides US Learning and its internal and external facing systems a Google-like search experience. 
  • Recap of Lessons Learned
    • Keep it simple. What is understood is supported
    • Meet people where they are. Explain WIIFM — what’s in it for me — for them
    • Training, training, training.
    • Don’t try to boil the ocean
      • Clean data is a must but waiting for perfection will delay your start
      • Find a place where you can make an impact. Identify the problem and jump in.
    • Identify a trust partner/advisor who is willing to teach, mentor, and provide guidance
    • Stakeholder, business, and tech alignment
    • Know your organization’s culture and understand your customer
    • Show yourself GRACE!
  • Agile Content Management — They use agile methodology to ensure the millions of content items in their Learning Content Dabase are regularly reviewed and updated.

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