KM in small & medium enterprises (SMEs)Systems & complexity

Best practices for implementing a knowledge management system in small and medium enterprises (SMEs)

This article is part of a series looking at knowledge management (KM) in small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

To help small to medium enterprises (SMEs) with the challenges they face when implementing a knowledge management system (KMS), a recent literature review1 focuses on the best practices for implementing a KMS.

An initial keyword search identified 6,898 results, which was narrowed down using reference evaluation criteria from the University of Florida Centre for Public Issues Education guide Evaluating Information Sources. Five criteria are identified in the guide: authority, timeliness, quality, relevancy, and bias.

The evaluation step reduced the number of references to 15, which were then placed in one of three categories depending on the information they contain:

  1. Challenges in implementing knowledge management systems.
  2. Best practices and key success factors in implementing knowledge management systems.
  3. Knowledge management in small and medium sized organizations.

Challenges in implementing knowledge management systems

  • a lack of training and development is a major setback in the successful utilization of knowledge management systems
  • the main driving force in the implementation of a knowledge management system is the incorporation of staff involvement
  • project managers and upper management need to focus some of their efforts on maintaining staff training and developing knowledge management practices
  • companies possess or need to develop three resources in order to enable innovative knowledge management: human resources able to grasp and manage knowledge; effective organizational structures that support individual and group work; and technology, which includes information systems, intranets, and web portals
  • a company needs to do more than embrace knowledge management to reap the benefits; the company needs to be unique and creative to produce superior results
  • there is a correlation between business productivity and success and the proper implementation of a knowledge management system
  • knowledge integration and training and insufficient capture of process and legacy knowledge from the past are substantial challenges in successful knowledge management during the implementation of an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system

Best practices and key success factors in implementing knowledge management systems

  • 14 key factors that determine the likely success of a KM project are: leadership, top management support, culture, strategic focus, budgetary support, communication, formalization, collaboration, content quality, KM processes, top management involvement, technology infrastructure, measurement of results, and formalization
  • the main driving factors in building a successful KM effort are top management involvement, KM leadership, and the culture of the organization
  • three leadership power types influence knowledge management implementation success: position power – PO (referent power, coercive power, legitimate power), personal power – PE (expert, connection, and reward power), and information power
  • the personal power of leaders is the most effective in influencing knowledge workers
  • information and knowledge management play a significant role in leadership
  • there is a strong correlation between variables in leadership perception and the importance of organizational performance
  • favorable perceptions of leadership can also be effective in acquiring resources for knowledge management projects and getting the commitment and acceptance for key decisions
  • several factors affect the success or failure of knowledge management projects, including: culture, information and communication technology (ICT), the use of a project management methodology that encompasses the five phases or processes of project management (define, plan, launch, manage, and close), and organization, including the existence of defined standards and quality requirements
  • a strong knowledge culture was the most important enabler in a knowledge management implementation
  • organizational culture is particularly important in the early phases of the knowledge management implementation, whereas in later phases the established culture allows for better interpersonal communication throughout the projects
  • organizations with clear project processes and strong project knowledge have a positive impact on the success of knowledge management implementation
  • processes used to generate, store, and retrieve knowledge could not form in a temporary organization, while permanent organizations construct routines that handle many of these tasks
  • ethical climates having a positive impacts on knowledge management in an organization, listed in order of positive impact, are: company rules and procedures (CRP), characterized as principle oriented and local; laws and professional code (LCP), characterized as principle-oriented and cosmopolitan, and team-interest (TI), characterized as benevolence-oriented and local
  • enterprises achieve better knowledge management performance by prioritizing CRP, LPC, and TI to create a suitable ethical climate
  • for the most part, the fields of technology and communication have the most consistency in implementation and retention of KM systems
  • the three most important factors in the successful implementation of knowledge management systems are top management support, strong understanding of the organization’s culture, and organizational structure
  • the collaboration of the knowledge workers in developing the knowledge-capture process provided more effective results than using a standard predefined knowledge management procedure
  • there is a correlation between leadership social power and the three main factors of LCKMS (the degree to which leaders in the organization are believed to be committed to the success of the knowledge management system), knowledge use (KU) and knowledge quality (KQ)
  • expert and reward power were shown to be positively correlated to LCKMS and KU, coercive power was negatively correlated to LCKMS, referent power was negatively correlated to KU, and referent and legitimate power were determined to not be correlated to LCKMS as the study results indicate no significant influence on knowledge management
  • expert leadership social power is positively correlated to all three of the knowledge management factors
  • leadership commitment will produce better results if there is some form of reward system to enhance knowledge use

KM in small and medium sized organizations

  • it is vital that the organizations harness an even balance of culture, technology, and structure, together with the precise capabilities to acquire, combine, apply, and create knowledge
  • the focus and intention of a knowledge management system should not be to focus on any single one of these areas, but to make sure that there is an even consideration of each
  • factors that are important when considering a KM implementation include leadership and support, processes and activities, motivational aids, resources, culture, information technology, strategy and purpose, measurement, organizational infrastructure, training and education, and human resource management
  • the top three factors are senior management support and leadership, having a knowledge friendly culture, and having a clear strategy for managing knowledge
  • the lowest ranking three factors are development of technological infrastructure, incentives to encourage KM practices, and measuring the effectiveness of KM
  • some form of organizational success, such as increased productivity, process improvements, increased sales, and fewer losses result from the implementation of a knowledge management system
  • implementation of a knowledge management system contributes to employee development, innovation, improved customer satisfaction, creativity, and improved external relationships with other companies


  1. Aiken, D. (2016). Best Practices for the Implementation of a Knowledge Management System in Small and Medium Enterprises (Doctoral dissertation, University of Oregon).
5/5 - (2 votes)

Bruce Boyes

Bruce Boyes ( is a knowledge management (KM), environmental management, and education professional with over 30 years of experience in Australia and China. His work has received high-level acclaim and been recognised through a number of significant awards. He is currently a PhD candidate in the Knowledge, Technology and Innovation Group at Wageningen University and Research, and holds a Master of Environmental Management with Distinction. He is also the editor, lead writer, and a director of the award-winning RealKM Magazine (, and teaches in the Beijing Foreign Studies University (BFSU) Certified High-school Program (CHP).

Related Articles

Back to top button