The biggest barriers and enablers for knowledge Management

This post is an update of an earlier post in 2014, brought up to date with new survey data.

As part of our global surveys in 2014 and 2017, answered by over 700 KM professionals, we asked respondents to rank a number of barriers in order of the impact they had had on their KM programme, ranking these from 1 to 8 (Knoco 2017).

 The results are shown in the table below, with high numbers representing high ranking and therefore high impact.


Average ranking

Cultural issues 5.8
Lack of prioritisation and support from leadership 5.0
Lack of KM roles and accountabilities 4.8
Lack of KM incentives 4.8
Lack of a defined KM approach 4.6
Incentives for the wrong behaviours (inability to time-write KM, rewards for internal competition etc) 4.3
Lack of support from departments such as IT, HR etc 4.1
Insufficient technology 4.0

They were then asked to prioritise the main enablers for KM which had proved powerful, ranking them from 1 to 9. The resulting figures are shown in the table below (high numbers being high ranking).


Average ranking

Support from senior management 6.2
Championship and support from KM team/champions 6.2
Evidence of value from KM 5.9
Easy to use technology 5.6
A supportive company culture 5.6
Effective KM processes 5.5
Clear KM accountabilities and roles 5.4
Personal benefit for staff from KM 4.6
Incentive systems for KM 4.2
So what does this tell us?

  • The number two barrier and the number one enabler are support from senior management. Without this, you will struggle. With this, you will succeed. This blog contains much advice about gaining senior management support (see here for example, or here), and if you need more help, we will be happy to advise. Get this support, all else will be much easier.
  • Although culture is the number one barrier, it is much lower in the enablers table. I think this is because the highest enablers – leadership support, champions and evidence of value – are all means by which the culture can be changed. Culture is therefore not the enabler; culture change is the enabler. 
  • Although roles and incentives are seen as major barriers, they are much lower in the enablers table. These are perhaps not the barriers that they might seem to be, even though they are a key part of your Knowledge Management Framework. 
  • Technology is seldom a barrier, nor is it at the top of the enabler list. Anyone thinking that the solution to effective KM is technology alone is ignoring the lessons from the past 2 decades of successful KM.

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