Fully embracing knowledge management (and doing it well) can be transformative for growing organizations and the people they serve.

For one, it makes teams more productive across the board.

Effective knowledge management ensures that employees have quick access to the information they need, reducing time spent searching for answers — and leaving more time for them to focus on core tasks. Cross-team functionality also becomes more streamlined, which in itself can lead to major breakthroughs for your organization.

Moreover, effective knowledge management (KM) allows you to enhance your customer’s experience in many ways, such as:

In short, strategic knowledge management can turn your growing company into a powerhouse within your industry.

But…it’s not exactly easy to get it right.

The reality is, it’s a rather involved process that — for a variety of reasons — can easily go awry.

(Unfortunately, when knowledge management goes off the rails, it can often be a devastating blow to the organization. More on this throughout.)

That said, today we’re going to dig into the most common challenges small businesses face when adopting and implementing knowledge management into their operations. We’ll then take a look at the key things successful teams do to overcome these challenges as they optimize their approach to knowledge management.

7 Common Challenges to Implementing Knowledge Management (and How to Overcome Them)

Without further ado, let’s dive into the seven key challenges of successfully introducing knowledge management into your organization as well as what you can do to overcome those challenges.

KM Challenge 1: Lack of Executive Buy-In

Despite the fact that knowledge management has been steadily gaining in popularity in recent years, a 2023 report from eGain shows an overall need for “greater executive understanding of the value of KM to sponsor and support knowledge initiatives."

And if your exec team doesn’t “get it”, any effort you put into knowledge management will be hamstrung.

It’s up to you, then, to champion knowledge management in order to generate buy-in amongst your executive team.

Showcase the Business Benefits

Most importantly, you need to answer the all-encompassing question as to why your executive team should care about knowledge management.

You can start by teasing apart the ways knowledge management will increase productivity and minimize inefficiencies throughout your operations. Focus on specific performance data and other relevant information to point out where strategic KM will have the most impact — then tie these improvements to the company’s bottom line.

From there, discuss with your executives the connection between knowledge creation, management, and innovation. Highlight how creating new knowledge and effectively managing it will enable your team to fill both operational and service-related gaps that typically plague your industry. This proactive approach not only fosters innovation but also sets your team apart from the competition, providing a significant strategic advantage.

It’s also important to point out how beneficial it will be to their decision-making processes to have all organizational knowledge at their fingertips. Along with providing a comprehensive view of all relevant data, this KM-centered shift will keep all execs on the same page at these most crucial moments.

Lastly, bring all of this together to enable your executive team to realize the ROI of your knowledge management initiatives. We’ll come back to exactly how to do this in a bit.

Have a Clear Plan

As with all plans for operational improvements, you’ll want to come to the table with a clear plan for how you’ll be implementing and/or improving knowledge management within your organization.

To begin with, you want to ensure your exec team that implementing KM will not disrupt your current operations in any substantial way. Ideally, you’ll be able to point out the quick wins you hope to experience — along with a clear roadmap for how to get there.

On that note, you also want to have a clear plan for how to manage the risks involved in managing knowledge, and of implementing a more cohesive KM plan altogether.

Overall, the goal is to create alignment with your executive team from the onset of your knowledge management initiatives. That way, it will be much easier to not just generate buy-in from them — but to also maintain true alignment moving forward.

KM Challenge 2: Lack of Team & Employee Buy-In

Unfortunately, it’s often just as difficult to get your on-the-ground employees to buy into your new KM initiatives.

While a solid approach to change management is an essential first step here, there are two key things you’ll need to do when introducing your team to knowledge management.

Showcase the Operational Benefits

As with your executive team, you’ll need to show your employees “what’s in it for them” here.

This means explaining to your teams how implementing knowledge management will minimize (or completely eliminate) operational roadblocks, bottlenecks, and other major sources of frustration. Be sure to tailor these discussions to the specific issues faced by different teams, and to each role within these teams.

(Pro tip: Survey your employees beforehand to identify the key problems they’re facing in their day-to-day to make these discussions more relevant.)

Beyond these surface-level issues, discuss how effective KM empowers your employees to be more productive and innovative with their time on the clock. This can not only bring more value to their current efforts, but also motivate team members to seek additional ways to further their career.

Build a Knowledge-Centric Foundation

Strategic knowledge management involves more than just implementing processes.

The other key factor is a strong, knowledge-centric foundational culture.

In other words, your team should be driven by your collective organizational knowledge — obtaining it, harnessing it, sharing it, and improving upon it.

Building this foundation starts long before you implement knowledge management. It’s in how your business operates, who you recruit to your team, how you harness their abilities, and how you train them. At all times, the intrinsic value of knowledge should be one of the main things driving your operations at every level.

As you introduce KM to your team, you’ll want to identify certain employees as your knowledge champions — that is, those who will lead the charge into this new knowledge-centric era. While they’ll play a more integral role once KM processes go live, their job here will be to generate buy-in on an individual level, while also collecting feedback from team members to help streamline the future rollout.

KM Challange 3: Outdated Knowledge Management Tools

Surprisingly, another one of the biggest challenges teams face when implementing knowledge management is in finding the right tools to do so.

(Umm…have they not heard of our knowledge base software?)

In all seriousness, eGain’s report lays it all out:

“Overall satisfaction with KM tools is lukewarm at best. More than one-quarter, 26%, say they are not satisfied with their knowledge management solutions. Only 18% express a high degree of satisfaction with their solutions, followed by 55% indicating they are only “somewhat satisfied.”

As the report says itself, this is not a glowing endorsement of the legacy tools teams are typically using today.

So…what’s the solution here?

Invest in a Modern SaaS Solution

Again…have you heard of Helpjuice?

To be fair, there are a number of knowledge management tools to choose from. While legacy solutions are great for larger teams with established KM practices, the go-to SaaS tools on the market are specifically built for small, growing businesses with evolving KM needs.

In contrast to legacy systems, SaaS KM solutions offer:

  • Scalability and upgradability, ensuring teams can keep their KM efforts full throttle as they grow
  • Cost-effectiveness via tiered pricing and subscription-based fees
  • Hands-on customer support and dedicated customer success teams

And, modern SaaS solutions typically integrate much more easily into your existing tech stack.

Speaking of that…

Integrate Your Tech Stack

While your SaaS-based knowledge management tool of choice will likely integrate with most other tools in your tech stack, you’ll want to go beyond technical integration here.

That is, you’ll need to ensure your team understands how your new KM tool works with your other software in order to get full value from it. Moreover, they need to know how these other tools fit into your overarching KM processes.

A few examples:

  • Integrating KM with your helpdesk ticketing software allows support agents to quickly access relevant knowledge articles and documentation, reducing response times and improving the quality of customer support. The best way to achieve this is by making use of a knowledge base with your helpdesk, which not only empowers customers to find solutions on their own but also decreases the volume of support tickets, freeing up your agents to handle more complex issues.
  • Sales and customer service teams can access product information and best practices directly within the CRM interface, leading to more informed interactions and better customer relationship management.
  • Integration with communication tools (e.g., Slack, Microsoft Teams) ensures that employees can easily share and retrieve knowledge within their preferred communication channels, fostering a culture of knowledge sharing and collaboration across the organization.

KM Challenge 4: A Haphazard Approach to Knowledge Management

Inconsistent and unstructured knowledge management processes can lead to inefficiencies and missed opportunities.

(And, in some cases, cause more harm than good.)

Again, eGain’s report illustrates a “lack of strategy that deals with knowledge, data, and IT infrastructure on the one hand, and process mapping on the other (e.g., the process to capture, share, develop knowledge).”

The point:

Even amongst teams that understand the value of knowledge management, many aren’t getting it right.

The good news?

If your team can, you’re almost certainly ahead of much of your competition.

Standardize Your Knowledge Management Tasks

Standardizing your KM processes, workflows, and tasks is your top priority here.

Start by establishing clear roles and responsibilities for team members, such as:

  • Knowledge Leader: Those working to identify new knowledge and KM-related ventures
  • Knowledge Creator: Those in charge of developing new knowledge content and improving existing assets
  • Knowledge Manager: Those tasked with keeping all knowledge organized, maintained, and under control

With these stakeholders, you can then begin creating standardized processes for all KM-related activities, from document creation, to approval, publishing, sharing and archiving.

By standardizing these processes, you’ll ensure that all knowledge management tasks are performed consistently and efficiently — reducing the variability and increasing reliability of all existing knowledge content.

Reinforce (and Build Upon) Your Knowledge-Centric Foundation

As you roll out these more standardized KM practices, it’s important to keep the “why” behind this knowledge-centric shift top-of-mind throughout your organization.

The goal is to reinforce the benefits of the additional KM-related tasks team members are now responsible for. Pointing out these specific benefits as you start to actually experience them will reduce any resistance to change that persists amongst your employees — and can be the key to getting stragglers more fully onboard with the shift.

You can do this by…

  • Acknowledging and sharing top-notch knowledge content (and its creators)
  • Celebrating those regularly using knowledge content to enhance their performance
  • Pointing out quantitative and qualitative improvements related to KM regularly and often

As team members embrace knowledge management more completely, allow them to take more complete ownership of the initiative as well. Whether it’s taking on additional knowledge creation responsibilities, mentoring others in best practices, or offering suggestions for further process improvement, you eventually want all members of your team to become involved with your KM efforts in time.

KM Challenge 5: Integrating Knowledge Management Into Operations

While standardizing KM processes in isolation is challenging enough, it becomes even more so when integrating them into your existing operations.

(Remember: You don’t want your team to see their KM-related tasks as “extra” on top of their “regular” duties. Rather, it should become an integral part of their regular duties — becoming the norm throughout your organization.)

Here’s how to make it happen.

Tailor Knowledge Management to Your Organization

Tailoring your knowledge management processes to your organization’s needs and circumstances is a crucial part of getting it right.

In other words, you absolutely cannot take a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to KM.

Some factors to consider here:

  • Why you’re adopting strategic KM in the first place (e.g., your business and operational goals)
  • Who will benefit most from your KM efforts: your customers, specific teams, your organization — or all of the above?
  • Your team’s capacity to create, manage, and share digital knowledge content

This will help you determine what type of knowledge content to focus on creating, and how different parties will create, manage, and access knowledge content.

For example, a healthcare organization that's looking to be more strategic with knowledge management might focus on making patient care protocols and treatment guidelines easily accessible during patient consultations — making the creation of these documents a top priority. A manufacturing firm, on the other hand, might emphasize capturing and documenting machine maintenance procedures and troubleshooting steps.

Be Agile When Prioritizing Knowledge Management

Of course, your priorities will shift as you begin to streamline your KM efforts — and as your company’s situation changes over time.

To this end, your team must always be prepared to change things up to ensure you’re leveraging all organizational knowledge to its highest potential.

This may mean:

  • Shifting roles based on knowledge content needed
  • Changing protocols for sharing knowledge
  • Introducing new tools for KM-related purposes

Being agile is also essential when it comes to actual knowledge content creation, too. The idea behind agile documentation is to see all knowledge content as continuously evolving — and never fully “done”. That way, you’ll be able to push content live once it’s “good enough”, while regularly going back to update it as necessary in time.

KM Challenge 6: Scaling Knowledge Management Practices

As your company grows, your need for more comprehensive knowledge management practices will grow as well.

So, in addition to remaining flexible on a smaller scale, you also need to know how to ramp up your knowledge management efforts as your organization continues to reach new heights.

Use Structured Authoring

Structured authoring involves using a standardized format for creating and organizing content.

It’s an XML-based protocol that can include templates, guidelines, and metadata standards to ensure consistency across all documents and knowledge assets. For example, a company might use a consistent template for project reports that includes sections for objectives, outcomes, key learnings, and next steps.

This standardization makes it easier to search for and retrieve information across the organization — and to update and repurpose existing content, as well.

Structured content can be modular, meaning that individual pieces of content can be assembled in different ways to meet various needs. This modular approach not only speeds up the creation of new content but also ensures that updates are made uniformly across all relevant documents — while only needing to make a change once.

Invest in Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence (AI) can greatly enhance the efficiency of KM by automating routine tasks such as data entry, content categorization and tagging, and even content creation.

Some of the key ways Helpjuice and other knowledge management tools utilize AI:

  • Subtitle suggestions
  • Automated keyword suggestions
  • Auto-translate

And, again, our AI Content Assistant helps create knowledge content based on the topic, along with the instructions your creators provide.

Yes, you do want to ensure that each piece of knowledge content generated by AI is reviewed and improved by your human team before publication. Still, these emerging tools can reduce your team’s workload to a fraction of what it used to be — giving them more time to focus on editing each piece to perfection.

KM Challenge 7: Measuring the ROI of Knowledge Management

As we touched on earlier, measuring the ROI of knowledge management can prove quite challenging for most teams.

After all, how do you measure the financial impact of a practice that weaves itself through nearly every aspect of your operations — often in rather intangible ways?

The most practical approach here is to analyze the various facets of the KM process in isolation.

First, break down your KM system into distinct components, such as content creation, content retrieval, content usage, and user feedback. For each component, design specific campaigns aimed at enhancement or problem resolution.

Using Helpjuice to Solve Common Knowledge Management Challenges

As we discussed earlier, a comprehensive and future-facing knowledge base tool is all but essential for creating, managing, and sharing organizational knowledge today.

With our software, your team will be able to:

  • Create knowledge content at scale
  • Provide reliable access to this content to all stakeholders
  • Analyze the impact of your content on both internal employees and your customers

In addition to our top-rated software, we also provide (ADD INFO) — helping you avoid the planning- and integration-related challenges of knowledge management right from the start.

The best part?

If you’ve got everything else ironed out, getting your executives and employees to buy into your new knowledge management initiatives should be a snap!

So, what are you waiting for? Contact us to book a free demo of Helpjuice today!