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Contextual factors affecting knowledge management diffusion in SMEs

Hsiu-Fen Lin (Department of Shipping and Transportation Management, National Taiwan Ocean University, Keelung, Taiwan)

Industrial Management & Data Systems

ISSN: 0263-5577

Article publication date: 7 October 2014




Based on the knowledge management (KM) perspective, innovation diffusion theory and technology-organization-environment framework, the purpose of this paper is to develop a research model to investigate the influence of technological (information technology (IT) support and IT effectiveness), organizational (top management support, sharing culture, and reward system) and environmental (competitive pressure) contexts on the two-stage KM diffusion (KM adoption and implementation) in small and medium enterprises (SMEs).


Data gathered from 119 SME senior managers (including owner, vice president, and business manager) in Taiwan were employed to test the relationships between the research model constructs using the partial least squares approach.


The results showed that technological, organizational, and environmental factors have different effects on KM adoption and implementation stages. Specially, IT support has the strongest effect on KM adoption stage, while sharing culture has the strongest effect on KM implementation stage.

Practical implications

IT support continues to be positively related to the level of KM implementation after adoption. KM diffusion requires managers to invest time and effort to link specific IT support and knowledge-based work activities, since effective IT deployment for KM can help SMEs move toward a knowledge society, which is vital in the contemporary knowledge economy.


Theoretically, the findings of this study contribute to empirical research on contextual factors that influence KM diffusion using a broad data set rather than a few isolated SME cases. From the managerial perspective, given the importance of KM diffusion in modern SMEs and also in the future, the findings of this study are designed to enable owner-managers and practitioners to understand how SMEs KM diffusion is influenced by contextual factors, and how the effects may vary across different stages.



The author thanks Mr. Yu-Chi Chen for his great help in this study's empirical data collection.


Lin, H.-F. (2014), "Contextual factors affecting knowledge management diffusion in SMEs", Industrial Management & Data Systems, Vol. 114 No. 9, pp. 1415-1437.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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