5 Common Knowledge Management Challenges You Can Overcome

by | Oct 20, 2022 | Knowledge Management

In their recent survey ” Workplace Habits & Hangups,” the workplace research company Glean found that the average employee spends two hours each day looking for the resources they need to do their actual job. That amounts to 25% of their entire workweek—a problem costing employers valuable time and money.

The survey went on to show that 43% of employees would consider leaving their job if they didn’t have an efficient way to access the knowledge necessary for doing their work—that number increases 57% for workers between the ages of 35 and 44.

If you’re reading this, these stats prove what you probably already know: Scattered knowledge resources are weighing companies down. Outdated, disorganized, unsearchable knowledge management systems keep employees from accessing the content they need, leading to low efficiency and employee morale.

Thankfully, the biggest knowledge management challenges can be overcome with some organization and the use of a tool designed to do the job. To help you clear the biggest hurdles, we’ve compiled 5 common knowledge management challenges and how you can overcome them.

Challenge #1

Managing knowledge silos

There are many reasons why a company’s knowledge resources can get compartmentalized into multiple silos; as valid as these reasons may be, more granularity means more difficulty keeping all those channels current.

Finance teams shouldn’t have access to R&D data, sales teams don’t need to see product development blueprints. The many different aspects of a company’s operations require that some knowledge be separated into different silos, but too often silos come in the form of dedicated software with a knowledge component, not a folder.

Without a unified knowledge management platform, it becomes too difficult even for enterprises to manage all those knowledge silos without their content getting stale.

Solution: Develop a single source of truth

A single source of truth for knowledge is the best solution to avoid knowledge silos. Employees should be able to access knowledge from one place, not look anywhere else, and have knowledge integrated where they need it.

Your knowledge managers and admins also won’t need to comb through multiple repositories to keep each one organized.

The best centralized location for knowledge in the enterprise is a knowledge management platform. Not only do KM platforms provide a unified location for knowledge managers, they can help automate content maintenance work, deliver answers, and help knowledge managers keep a well-maintained source of knowledge.

Challenge #2

Ineffective or legacy knowledge management technology

Another reason many knowledge management systems fail: an organization’s people and processes rely on outdated knowledge technology to solve modern knowledge problems.

For example, many small-to-midsized businesses and enterprises still depend on SharePoint as their knowledge management solution; as common as SharePoint is as an intranet solution, it was never designed to be a single source of truth. SharePoint has several drawbacks you can read about here that prohibit this tool from serving as a knowledge management solution of the future.

Legacy KM solutions like SharePoint (and even newer knowledge base software on the market) approach knowledge the same way: as a place to store and retrieve articles. The KM solutions of the future must take a different approach..

Solution: Use a modern knowledge management platform

Knowledge management platforms are designed to be a hub where all your information can be easily stored, organized, updated—and more importantly surfaced. For years, knowledge bases have been designed with basic search and retrieval capabilities.
Unfortunately these legacy knowledge solutions simply won’t solve modern knowledge problems.

For more clarity on all the KM tools on the market, be sure to check out our post, 7 Types of Knowledge Management Tools.

Challenge #3

 Knowledge is difficult to find

If you work in an org where knowledge is all over the place (as it is at many organizations), findability is a common knowledge management problem that leaders struggle to solve.

You may be dealing with a knowledge base that has poor search functionality, an improper folder structure, or too many knowledge bases to begin with.

When the right information isn’t available at the right time or in the right place, expect work productivity to suffer…you may even run into compliance issues if agents resort to memory.

Solution: Surface knowledge (or make searching easier)

Even though searching for knowledge isn’t ideal, knowledge management tools shouldn’t rely on keywords or titles alone. Search engines have come a long way…using big data and algorithms to return great answers. Why shouldn’t your KM solution?

Only enterprise knowledge solutions will offer pinpoint or full-document search capabilities, because most knowledge bases weren’t designed to use data to influence search results.

More than returning search results, the best knowledge management software should return answers on-demand: The ultimate solution to poor findability.

Challenge #4

Knowledge management tools are frequently outdated

Knowledge management consists of three components: people, processes, and technology. In an ideal world, technology will make it easy to catch duplicate content, outdated content, and relay important feedback from knowledge consumers to knowledge admins.

Unfortunately, many knowledge bases on the market have limited maintenance capabilities and don’t use automation to help identify gaps in existing knowledge.

Without a process or technology to keep content fresh, employees often store documents and knowledge wherever they please. Sticky notes, personal folders…just about anywhere.

Solution: Create process and structure

You need a well defined and documented structure to sustain a business, and knowledge management is no different. Even if you can’t hire a classically-trained specialist, ensure your knowledge management framework is complete with a clear set of protocols, regulations, and guidelines.

You should also have all processes documented, including tasks like:

  • Removing duplicate files
  • Deleting former employees
  • Updating legacy policies
  • Transferring misplaced files to their proper location
  • Applying software updates

By maintaining your system’s structure, you can resolve one of the biggest challenges of knowledge management: staying up to date.

Challenge #5

Lack of a knowledge management team

Knowledge management isn’t a spectator sport. It takes a team to ensure that the massive volume of information in a company’s possession is stored and accessed appropriately—and everyone must do their part.

Poor communication, employee turnover, and inadequate maintenance can all cause team members to forget their responsibilities within your knowledge management structure. Even the best systems can become scattered when employees don’t follow your policies, and without clear documentation explaining their role, it can be easy to fall into bad habits.

Solution: Put together a team

To keep everyone on the same page, create a knowledge management team where each person knows their place. The exact makeup may depend on the size of your company, but below are a few common KM team member roles and responsibilities:

  • Knowledge managers, who are responsible for taxonomy management, context mapping, and maintaining content standards.
  • Technical administrator, who oversee access management, managing integrations, product configuration, and data analysis.
  • Library SMEs, who serve as owners of knowledge domains and know all their product’s features inside and out.
  • Trainers and supervisors, who can explain where the knowledge gaps lie.
  • Content creators and agents, who use the knowledge resources in their day-to-day operations.

Creating a knowledge management culture internally starts with executive buy-in but is an ROI-positive project worth tackling.

Why knowledge management fails

Inefficient processes, outdated tools, and lack of organization are typically why companies struggle to deliver great knowledge to employees and customers. Sometimes, it’s a combination of all three.

Too many silos make it difficult to keep all documents updated and secure, and many companies are using tools that lack all the capabilities they need to serve customers. Knowledge management is changing quickly as customers expect answers on-demand and more and more knowledge becomes available.

To truly overcome these common knowledge management challenges, you must automate knowledge work using technology. Yesterdays solutions simply won’t solve for the complexity and volume of knowledge in today’s world.

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