Knowledge Management (KM) is a critical area for small business managers in today's competitive environment. However, there is a general consensus in relation to the fact that the benefits of KM have not been fully exploited by small firms. In fact, des[ite the wide literature on KM, there is an abundance of research describing how large companies are successfully practising KM, but little contributions on the critical success factors for KM adoption in SMEs. Indeed, empirical studies have been rarely conducted on this topic. The main aim of this paper is to shed light on the KM practices in small firms. To this purpose, the paper presents the preliminary results of an empirical investigation carried out in a cluster of 25 high‑technology SMEs located in the eastern area of Naples City (Italy). The methodology adopted is based on the following two main stages: a) a literature review on knowledge management and its usage in small business has been carried out; b) a semi‑ structured questionnaire has been set up and validated in a number of focus group discussions. The questionnaire survey has been conducted through interviews with managers of small firms belonging to the cluster investigated. Survey findings highlight the following points: â€” the surveyed companies show significant KM needs, but they adopt mainly internal KMSs that involve relatively simple ICT tools; â€” knowledge exchanged is mainly tacit and it requires KM tools based on personal relationships and interactions such as work teams; â€” ENS firms express the need for both internal and external KMSs enabling collaborative relationships with other firms for developing common projects; â€” there are some relevant factors motivating the adoption of internal and external KMSs in firms investigated (such as innovation, operational management and market features) but also significant barriers (such as the protection of intellectual capital and cultural barriers).
Keywords: knowledge management practices, small and medium sized enterprises, high-technology sectors, empirical survey