KM Challenges in Small KIBS Companies: Multi-case Analysis in Two Countries


  • Ettore Bolisani University of Padova, Padova, Italy
  • Tomas Cherkos Kassaneh University of Padova, Padova, Italy
  • Anna Lis Gdansk University of Technology, Gdansk, Poland
  • Enrico Scarso University of Padova, Padova, Italy
  • Ewa Stolarek-Muszynska Gdansk University of Technology, Gdansk, Poland
  • Malgorzata Zieba Gdansk University of Technology, Gdansk, Poland





Knowledge Intensive Business Services (KIBS) – i.e. companies like e.g. computer services, consulting, engineering, business communication, and R&D support - are key players in the modern economies. They stimulate the innovativeness of businesses and societies. Their competitiveness is based on knowledge, which is their key production factor and also the kind of “goods” they sell. The large majority of KIBS companies have a small or medium size, which leads to major challenges because they manage their cognitive assets in a substantially informal and undeliberate way. They face several obstacles to managing knowledge, partly due to their limited resources, but also to the knowledge-intensive and intangible nature of their business processes and outputs. Such challenges, when not successfully identified and faced, may negatively impact competitiveness. The paper illustrates the findings of a qualitative investigation aimed at exploring the main KM challenges that KIBS SMEs face. These challenges were analysed with specific reference to the key KM processes, i.e.: knowledge acquisition, knowledge documentation and storage, knowledge sharing, knowledge application, and knowledge protection. The research is a multiple-case study based on interviews to key informants of 23 Italian and Polish KIBS SMEs of different sectors. The analysis made it possible to find recurring issues and highlight differences. The study provides food for thought for researchers and practitioners willing to clarify what KM processes need proper solutions for the effective management of knowledge in small KIBS.