The Challenges of Knowledge Management

by | Mar 1, 2021

As early as 1957, Peter Drucker was discussing knowledge workers and management as the key to business success. By 1999, he had defined knowledge management as:

“…The coordination and exploitation of organizational knowledge resources, in order to create benefit and competitive advantage —”

– Management Challenges for the 21st Century

Twenty years later, most organizations view knowledge management as nothing more than documenting and disseminating information. Few use knowledge to drive value and continue to view knowledge management as a repository. If used properly, knowledge management could be an integral part of business operations.


Companies of all sizes are failing to use one of their most valuable assets effectively. They continue to struggle moving beyond the basics of knowledge management. It’s typical for organizations to wrestle with challenges such as:

  • Capturing business knowledge
  • Making knowledge accessible
  • Motivating employees to share information
  • Aligning knowledge management with business strategies
  • Implementing technology
  • Integrating knowledge management into business operations

A careful analysis of these challenges shows that two critical elements impact successful knowledge management: people and technology.


Effective knowledge management requires a change in mindset. Organizations must be willing to break down silos and demonstrate the importance of leader participation. They need to find ways to encourage employees to participate in the process. Without executive and employee buy-in, knowledge management will remain entry-level.


Despite efforts to breakdown silos, they still exist. Large companies may have offices across the globe with limited ability to share information. Even businesses with a single office can find it difficult to share data. As more workers become remote, deploying a centralized knowledge system becomes even more critical. Employees can’t drop by a coworker’s cubicle or ask a question over a cup of coffee.

Eliminating silos means overcoming the us-versus-them mentality. Organizations must prove that sharing information increases an employee’s value. Once they understand the value that comes from sharing knowledge, employees become more secure in their position and more willing to participate.


Without company-wide support, knowledge management stalls. Leaders must go beyond deploying technology. They have to demonstrate that the project is not another initiative that fades within weeks or months. Organizations have to prove to their workforce that this effort is different.

To be successful, company leaders need to have a broader understanding of what knowledge management can do for an organization. They need to envision ways to use shared knowledge to develop new products and deliver improved customer experience. Then, they must communicate the vision repeatedly to show employees that this mandate is not going away.


Employees live in a world that appears to give power to those who have specialized knowledge. They perceive that withholding information leads to job security. To overcome that perception, companies must find ways to reward employees for sharing.

Companies can reward individuals by highlighting their contribution to corporate-wide communications. Creating cross-functional communities can facilitate knowledge sharing, especially if employee efforts are rewarded. Measuring usage and identifying active participants are two ways to determine who to recognize.

Providing tools to facilitate the process of creating and storing data can help. At the same time, much of today’s workforce feels overwhelmed with technology. There are software updates that require learning new features. New equipment is being deployed that requires training. Then, there’s the steady stream of emails, text messages, and phone calls that people have to process. New technology and processes only add to their stress.

That’s why understanding the human component of knowledge management is essential to success. Company cultures have to reflect the importance of knowledge to the business objectives, and they have to reward those who contribute.


Technology companies such as Capacity have moved effective knowledge management forward. It’s no longer a search engine that requires precise criteria to return valid information.  Knowledge management solutions are a part of workflows. Employees can ask for the latest information on cloud migration written by a specific employee and have the results in minutes. They don’t have to interrupt their work to search multiple sources or walk down the hall to find the answer.

Knowledge management has advanced to include such technologies as artificial intelligence and natural language processing (NLP). Search engines can access unstructured data and support fuzzy searches. There are even ways to use the technology to receive feedback on how well the process is working. 

Collecting data.

One of the first challenges a company must address is how to collect all the information that exists throughout the enterprise. The data exists in PDFs, word documents, spreadsheets, and databases. Most of it is unstructured, making it difficult for computerized systems to access. 

Using technologies such as Capacity’s intelligent document processing, companies can convert unstructured data into structured data so that a range of applications can access it. Technology can also take unstructured or semi-structured data and add metadata to the document to make it easier to access the information. Solutions have advanced to the point that they no longer require perfectly structured data.

Accessing knowledge.

Once data has been collected, the problem becomes how to access it. Finding information should not interrupt an employee’s workflow. NLP enables employees to ask a knowledge system for the data in much the same way as people ask Siri or Alexa. Productivity doesn’t decline while employees spend hours trying to locate information across multiple applications and platforms. Technology is doing the searching for them.

Knowledge bases and helpdesks are additional ways for employees to access information. Today, search engines may auto-complete criteria or support fuzzy searches, so the initial request doesn’t need to be precise. Search engines such as Google or Bing are examples of this technology. Providing a central user interface gives employees one place to go for all their information needs. They do not have to have multiple applications open at one time.

Securing information.

After data is collected and accessible, it needs to be secured. Corporate knowledge is a valuable asset that must be protected against threats from both internal and external sources. Implementing strict credentialing and user-specific permissions is essential; however, managing user permissions can be time-consuming. Using a centralized system of cascading permissions can minimize the time required.

Most organizations have some form of compliance requirements. Sensitive data needs to be protected in transit and at rest. Complying with standards such as GDPR and SOC 2 can ensure data protection.


As organizations move forward on digital transformation journies, they recognize the need for knowledge management that can lead to innovation. That requires a different mindset and advanced technology to create a culture that understands the need for knowledge sharing in a collaborative environment.