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Facing Safety Challenges Together in the KPA Flex User Community – an Interview

Facing Safety Challenges Together in the KPA Flex User Community – an Interview

In this episode of The Safety Meeting, KPA’s Emily Hartman, Senior Marketing Communications Manager, and Jade Brainard, Senior Director of Product Management, highlight KPA Connect. Launched in 2022, the customer community provides a space for user collaboration and discussion to take full advantage of KPA Flex software’s capabilities and impact future updates and improvements.

Today, we have with us two important members of the KPA team: Emily Hartman, the Senior Marketing Communications Manager, and Jade Brainard, KPA’s Senior Director of Product Management. Together, Jade and Emily launched the KPA Connect platform in 2022. Emily identified the need for a customer social platform to give customers the opportunity to share ideas, collaborate, and get more from their software. Jade, responsible for overall product direction, saw the potential in the platform not only as a tool for customers but also as a connection between users and the product team to drive improvements that our KPA Flex users wanted and needed.

Thanks for being with us today. Let’s jump right into the questions. So, Emily, what’s the scoop on the latest hot topics buzzing in the community? Anything catching fire that we should know about?


Honestly, there are always a number of discussions going on during the week. Right now, the hot topic we’ve seen a few conversations about is related to QR codes. That’s mostly about the capability of using them, but also some suggestions on different ways to utilize QR codes, such as scanning third-party labels. Mostly, it’s about how we’re using them to link to our employee badges and equipment.

Acknowledgments, another capability of the software, have also been a focus. It’s great for getting people to buy into new policies or for sharing important news within the company, like an outage or schedule changes.

Additionally, we have core discussions offering helpful tips and advice, especially for new users of Flex and KPA Connect, where we share experiences and insights. For example, we discuss advice for organizations implementing Flex for the first time, as well as unexpected uses of Flex, like new keyboard shortcuts or adding surveys to lessons.

For many new users, there are those priority things that they’re trying to accomplish at the very beginning, right after implementation. As you start getting into the software more and doing more with it, you realize that there are just way more things you can do than you initially anticipated.

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That’s super cool. It sounds like discovering unexpected uses and onboarding new users are great ways for people to connect and expand their use of the platform. Once you’re in a platform, you learn little things that you wouldn’t have known before, and I’m sure that’s very helpful to new users. It’s also an interesting way to learn how different people across various industries are using our platform. Speaking of which, what’s your take on the diverse personalities and interests that make up our KPA community? We’re fascinated by the rich tapestry of members and contributors to KPA Connect, so I’d love to hear from you on that.

Yeah, it’s honestly really cool, and it’s one of the things that I love most about the community itself. All of our diverse customers come together, whether they work for a construction company or an olive oil manufacturer, it’s really cool to see everybody interact. We have a lot of diverse backgrounds and interests, which is how we build a community. We’re all here to learn about the product and how to use it better. But the best way to do that is also to learn a little bit about each other, network, understand where everybody’s coming from, and create a community and a safe space to share, contribute, and feel heard.

We have challenges going on weekly for people to interact with, and they may be silly. For example, what’s your favorite Mario character? Or more like, what are your interests? What are your hobbies? And a lot of our customers actually tend to be pretty outdoorsy. We have a lot of folks who do hiking and gardening. They go fishing, kayaking, and camping. But we also have a solid group of people who are really into reading and gaming, and we have a solid group of people who really love animals.

You know, I think that’s a mark of a really successful platform. That people are sharing their interests, not just talking about how they’re using the platform. You’ve truly created a social platform here for the customers, and it sounds like a fun way to connect and learn how to use the platform.

I know that while customers can connect in many ways, those connections and conversations can also drive product discussions. So, Jade, when it comes to shaping the product roadmap, how do you tap into the collective wisdom of the community? We’re curious about the collaborative process behind the scenes.

Yeah, absolutely. So, first of all, I have to say I love KPA Connect. It might be my favorite tool for our customers here at KPA. When Emily first came to me with this idea, I thought integrating a social media platform specific to our product that our customers would enjoy sounded like a win-win. It has proven to be that. From a product standpoint, it’s a product leader’s dream come true because our mission is to create a product roadmap that keeps our customers happy, wanting to use the product and renew with KPA. We can’t do that if we aren’t listening to them. Without a tool like KPA Connect, listening to them means scheduling one-on-one interviews or maybe having group discussions. KPA Connect has increased the frequency of these insights to daily and even more than daily. We get real-time feedback about who our customers are, what they think, what their challenges are, and what feature requests they have.

So we can now gather feedback globally and make decisions more quickly based on real-time feedback. We even gather feedback before implementing something, testing design prototypes, and asking for input to ensure what we deliver is what customers want and need.

We’re getting insights into what the customers would enjoy and what would really impact their day-to-day lives that we never could before if we didn’t have a tool like this.

So we use all that information to put together a timeline, put together a roadmap of what we’re going to be delivering. And we have confidence that what we’re delivering is what the customers are asking for because we have it right there. In plain words, customers are talking about this feature, that feature, or what challenges they’re really faced with, and where there’s an opportunity to solve that with the product. It just gives us a lot of confidence in what we’re building and that it will work.

I think that the fact that KPA Connect is one of your favorite parts about KPA, as the senior product manager, speaks volumes about what KPA is willing to do to ensure that we’re putting something together that is not only what our customers need but also what they want.

It works in a way that makes it easy for them and is something that they can count on to know that if there’s something they need, our product team is on it. Let’s dive into that nitty gritty. What are some common hurdles or challenges that the KPA community members are banning together to overcome or let you know about?

Yeah, if I could summarize the challenges, they’re typically general business processes that could be solved through a combination of things. But typically they’re thinking about a problem that they have that maybe they’re doing manually today, and it’s causing a lot of headaches, and they have a lot of Excel spreadsheets or written copies of forms, and they know that they have to provide daily reports on something. And they’ve thought, “Oh, I’m sure that there’s some other person in the community that’s handled this before, and I’m just gonna pose a question out there.”

So some examples of this might be daily vehicle inspection records. This is a really common business problem. Any customer that has fleets of vehicles and every single driver of every single vehicle, is required to do an inspection.

If they’re pulled over by the DOT, large fines can be imposed for not having this. However, it is a challenge to overcome if you’re using a manual process. KPA doesn’t necessarily have a specific module for this or an application that we sell, but it’s certainly a problem that we solve, and it’s a good example of how the community has helped each other.

It is a big problem, something easily solved, but it’s not obvious that KPA can be my solution for this. By asking the community, they’re able to solve things like that. There are so many examples of customers helping each other solve different business problems.

Probably my favorite discussion board in KPA Connect is one that Emily put together, and the title is: What was a new or unexpected use for KPA Flex?

As she mentioned earlier, there are many different discussion boards. Clients can start them, and KPA can start them. Emily started this one, and it has been really popular. I love it because it really speaks to the value of the product.

There’s a reason we call it Flex—it’s a flexible tool. The core business problem we’re trying to solve is around EHS, but because the system is so flexible, customers have recognized the solutions it can solve outside of EHS. Some examples are preventative maintenance, fleet management, HR processes, performance reviews, and other similar things.

In this discussion board, customers will respond, “Hey, our operations team is using it for this,” or “Our service team is using it for this.” They’ll even share, “Here’s how we built a form, here’s a workflow that we’ve created.”

I just love that because it gives, from a KPA standpoint, some insight into what this product can be and how we can expand it beyond EHS to really integrate it as a more operational management system than just safety or EHS.

Yeah, it sounds like such a powerful platform for facilitating customer communication, driving product roadmap decisions, and understanding what changes, whether big or small, could impact these businesses.

And I know you touched on this a little bit in the previous question about the product roadmap, but considering the wealth of information available, how do you actively engage with the community to gather insights for refining the products? Do you follow a specific process, or do you keep an eye out for emerging trends?

Good question. There are numerous approaches. It essentially boils down to what we discussed earlier: this platform gives us an opportunity to receive daily insights, and that’s a unique opportunity that we wouldn’t have without a system like this.

First and foremost, it’s listening. A good product manager is a good listener.

So it’s reading what customers are discussing, what challenges they’re facing with the product, and what questions are they asking for help on? Is something not that clear? Is there a feature that is really used frequently by people that find it, but. It’s hard to find. Can we make things that are highly valuable more visible? 

Listening is a daily activity. 

Other strategies that we have to help refine the product roadmap are things like conducting surveys. So maybe we recognize a trend, or maybe there’s a regulatory initiative that’s come up. Maybe our customers aren’t really discussing it, so we might pose the question and start our own discussion board. We might even facilitate a survey, which we can do through Connect.

But also, it’s where we get real-time feedback on things we’re currently working on. So if we’re working on a larger project, we can get design feedback. We can ask customers to raise their hands if they want to participate in beta testing. Do they want to get early access to a tool before we go to production to give us some feedback to refine it so that by the time it hits the live application, it’s really ready to go? Customers have had a chance to beat it up, and we know what we’re delivering is going to actually be utilized. So in a lot of different ways, we use it every day. 

It sounds like this provides endless opportunities for improvements for the customers. Whether it’s the customers connecting and telling each other about how to use it, getting this information to you, or being able to beta test, I just can’t imagine how valuable it is for the customers to be able to shape the direction of the product that they’re using.

So thank you for sharing that! I think that’s really interesting to hear.

As we wrap up and discuss these customers and how they’re helping to shape the product, Emily, can you share some standout examples of collaborative efforts within the community that have left you feeling particularly inspired? I’d love to hear some more about the magic happening behind the scenes. 

Yeah, there are a lot to choose from. The way that our discussions work is that anytime someone posts a question or comment, it’s searchable. So there are so many things that you can do to interact with and find previous discussions.

We had something come up this past October. Someone had posted a question about how everyone’s using the acknowledgements. And it’s just really cool to see people give their perspective on what they’re doing. That was something that was maybe a few months old, but it has just resurrected itself recently in the past couple of weeks.

So, I just think that is really cool. Another one I think that’s really nice is somebody posted a dashboard question, like, “Hey, I’m a new user. I’m just setting up my dashboards for our managers to use. Do you have suggestions on how and what you have displayed to help them work really effectively?”

There were about 30 different responses from people on what they like to display and show. Sometimes, it’s typically OSHA dashboards and injury metrics. It could also be visuals for different locations. There are a lot of different things that people weigh in on.

The other thing that’s really cool about the discussions is that if people find them helpful, they can vote on them. For Jade and her team, the more votes you may see on a discussion, for example, about something that’s not currently a capability, the better; that helps prioritize.

It can provide feedback on an item that needs attention, whether that’s for Jade’s team or it’s something that might be something useful for us to feature within the community.

Outside of just product-specific software-specific use cases, last month, we ran a discussion about Women’s History Month and asked people who the women are who have really impacted their professional lives as well as their personal lives. The responses we’ve gotten from that kind of give you the fuzzies because people are talking about previous bosses that they had, talking about their mothers and their grandmothers.

And that’s the sort of thing that I love: being in the community and just seeing everybody’s stories and thoughts on different topics and issues. That one, in particular, really has been resonating with me right now.

It’s so nice to hear that. I think it’s interesting that we see such a great community rallying around each other in different ways. As you said, last month was Women’s History Month, and knowing that we can talk about these things and share stories is really powerful. So thank you. I love that. That was great.

Before we close out, is there anything else you’d like to share with our listeners, either of you? 

I want to say that I appreciate all of our customers who have joined KPA Connect and made it a living, breathing thing. I can’t wait to see what else we can form within this community and what else we can do together.

And I’ll just add one other thing to that. I think at the beginning of this podcast, I referred to Connect as our social platform, but really Emily said it best: It is a community, and it has become that, and that’s evident by the example that Emily just gave about Women’s History Month and who’s been an inspiring woman to you, and they’re interacting in these discussions, and also so willing to help each other out with the use of the Flex software.

They’re very proud of the program they’ve built using the product, and they can’t wait to share it with others. So, the community is invaluable to KPA and to our customers. And like Emily said, I can’t wait to see where we take it next. 

Great! Well, Jade and Emily, thank you so much for joining us today.

We really appreciate hearing from you on this. It was a great discussion about understanding the KPA Connect community, how customers can help each other out, and how engaged these people are. And  I think it’s very interesting that there are so many people that are so interested in the safety of their teams and that they are willing to not only get a software that’s gonna help them to raise the bar for the safety of their team, make it easier for them, but also connect with others to make sure that everyone is getting the best out of it that they can.

I think that’s really cool and speaks to our audience, the users of our platform, and the listeners. If you’re listening to this podcast, you definitely are one of the best people on the planet! So thank you both.

Great, thanks. 


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About The Author

Toby Graham

Toby manages the marketing communications team here at KPA. She's on a quest to help people tell clear, fun stories that their audience can relate to. She's a HUGE sugar junkie...and usually starts wandering the halls looking for cookies around 3pm daily.

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