The 5 barriers to knowledge management

Ah, we know what you’re thinking. “Knowledge management is overly technical, it’s not for me or my team. We just want to collaborate and share stuff together.” Not so fast, cowboy.

If you are sharing links or information via email, you’re doing KM. If you are writing articles on your company’s wiki, that’s also knowledge management. See what we mean?

The thing is, KM doesn’t have to be painful. In fact, it should be quite the opposite – knowledge management will help you and your organization be more efficient. It’s a matter of setting a process, selecting the right tool(s) and communicating your intentions with your people. Building the habit may be tricky in the beginning, yet the rewards are well worth it: increased productivity, higher engagement, less time wasted, just to name a few.

However, more often than not, people fall into one or more traps – and the whole KM process is compromised. Here’s what to avoid to ensure your knowledge management initiatives are successful.

It's a trap!

1. Lack of a clear ROI

Although tons of white papers, research documents and articles over the web will give you stats and figures, actual ROI depends on many variables and is difficult to measure, therefore hard to sell to management. Perhaps you will find that “KM lowers time spent searching for files by 9.33%” (sorry, we just made that up!), but each organization is unique, so you may experience different results.

Instead, draft some objectives that you hope to achieve through a specific knowledge management process. Suggest some key performance indicators (KPI) that you would like to measure and start out small, as a pilot project. Run your experiment and compare numbers, analyze your KPIs. This will help you show the value of KM to management.

2. Resistance to change

Depending on where you are now regarding KM, properly managing knowledge may require small changes (like getting a tool to support it) or a complete revamp of your organizational culture. Overcoming resistance to change can be a painful and lengthy process, we feel you in this one. Get your opinion leaders involved early on to champion the initiative, and communicate as much as possible with your people to ease their fears. The more you talk about the change and the more you involve your colleagues, the less scary it becomes. Hopefully, this can be an opportunity to further instill a culture of innovation within your organization.

In fact, at Crowdbase, we believe that change is good, and that it should be treasured. Our CEO bought each and every one of us a copy of the infamous motivational book “Who Moved My Cheese?”, so that we can understand why change should be embraced.

You see, change is always an opportunity to adapt and do great things, so don’t let resistance take that away from you. Enjoy it – and savour it!

3. The irritating tendency to transform KM into IT projects

A culture of sharing what matters to your organization won’t be “achieved” by a project manager with a 500 000$ budget and a 6 months schedule for software development and server setup.

"Project Manager"

In fact, many companies are doing great with very simple KM processes in place – just having a proper folder/file-naming convention and planning frequent meetups can do the trick for some! Allowing employees to take time to discuss various subjects and getting higher management to be more transparent is a good way to show a desire to change the culture. Buying computers or more server space is meaningless.

So what you need to remember is that KM works when you focus on establishing a simple process that’s embraced by everyone – it’s not about turning the whole endeavour into a costly IT project.

4. Ruining KM with a bad tool

As more people start sharing more stuff, you might want to start thinking about getting a tool that will make it easier for them to collaborate and find information quickly.

Imagine you’re seeing great progress towards a culture of sharing important content, critical information and learning. Teams who once worked in silos now see value in collaborating. Departments even communicate with each other! Impressive. But soon, email and other methods will show their limits. The sales document you received last week is buried in your inbox – but you need it stat! Once you start sharing knowledge often and with many players, it’s probably best to get a real tool that will suit your needs.

Involve people in the selection process to ease adoption and please (please!) try to not set your sights on some horrible piece of software straight out of 1998 that nobody wants to use. Outdated tools are great to hold outdated knowledge. Look for tools that can be deployed easily, with great UI/UX, and that are simple to use.

We’ve covered this before, so if you’re in the process of picking a KM solution for your team, we highly suggest you give our previous posts a quick read to learn how to introduce a new tool in the workplace (part 1) (part 2).

5. Lack of Accessibility

KM is most useful (and thus helps with the ROI) if knowledge is available exactly when needed. Make knowledge accessible anywhere, anytime. Be it on the web, on your mobile devices, over a chat network. The possibilities are endless. Just ensure access to your knowledge is convenient and simple or your people will give up very quickly, thus effectively killing your KM initiative.


Don’t despair – knowledge management can be done properly and it will help your organization’s bottom line in the long run. Avoid falling in the above traps and you’ll do great!

So, tell us, which of these barriers have you experienced in your organization before? How did you navigate around them? What worked when trying to successfully implement KM processes?

4 thoughts on “The 5 barriers to knowledge management

  1. Pingback: The 5 barriers to knowledge management | Learni...

  2. Pingback: The 5 barriers to knowledge management | Simply...

  3. Pingback: The 5 barriers to knowledge management | Future...

  4. We have experienced all. How we got around them? By identifying and overcoming the real problems that where hiding behind the five barriers and many more issues, and by creating a solution in which the KM process, tools and human aspects operated as a single entity.

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