We’ve all felt the pain of needing a quick answer at work and spending hours checking different systems to find it — searching around for the right file, attempting to remember the right keywords to use, trying to get time with an already overburdened SME, and feeling frustrated by a lack of results. Then, once you think you’ve found the content you need, you spend more time reading through it, parsing the information to pinpoint the answer to your question. All the while crossing your fingers that the file is up-to-date and the information inside is verified.  

Sound familiar?  

You’re not alone. Pryon recently worked with Unisphere Research to survey a cross-industry group of enterprise leaders and knowledge workers on this problem. The survey found that employees waste hours weekly searching for information scattered across the enterprise. Yet, much of an organization’s content still goes unused. More than one out of five respondents estimate that less than half of the unstructured information in their organization is readily available. And only a handful (6%) reported the complete availability of their organization’s information.   

1 in 5 enterprise leaders report that less than half of their organization’s content is readily available.

What is knowledge friction and how does it happen?

Knowledge friction is the disconnect between enterprise authors and key content consumers. It is a constant consequence to productivity, operations, compliance, and revenue. Content authors — such as marketing, support managers, sales enablement, and product teams — invest high-quality time and effort producing informative content for end users — from salespeople and researchers to operations and customer support teams. Even after all this, end users still struggle to find and access the answers they need.  

While organizations invest billions of dollars every year in content management software and enterprise search systems to try and solve their knowledge friction problems, they’ve seen little to no results. In fact, introducing too many of these systems compounds knowledge friction. The 2024 Survey on Enterprise Information Discovery found that having multiple systems to search across is the leading obstacle to delivering necessary and timely information to employees, customers, and partners. 

Difficulties in searching across systems is the leading obstacle to delivering necessary and timely information to end users. 

Difficulties in searching across systems (56%) was followed closely by problems with information and data silos (55%) and issues with information and data quality (52%) as the leading causes of knowledge friction. Other top obstacles include challenges in finding the correct search terms to locate desired information (46%) and insufficient content sharing (44%).  

What are the symptoms and impacts of knowledge friction?

Knowledge friction can look different and have varying impacts depending on your industry and function. Here are some examples of warning signs to watch out for by department and the negative business outcomes that come with them: 

  • Customer service knowledge friction symptoms:  
    • Long resolution times 
    • Inconsistent answers provided to customers  
    • High rate of call transfers 
    • Failed first contact resolutions 
    • Business impacts: Low CSAT scores, high training costs 
  • Sales knowledge friction symptoms:  
    • Lots of time spent looking for sales enablement content 
    • Marketing and sales enablement content goes unused 
    • High new rep ramp time 
    • Outdated or off-brand information is referenced 
    • Business impacts: Limited revenue generating time, ineffective sales meetings, high onboarding costs, brand reputation at risk 
  • Operations knowledge friction symptoms 
    • Slow execution of projects or initiatives 
    • Overburdened SMEs and managers 
    • Conflicting answers to simple questions 
    • Difficulties maintaining multiple sources of knowledge 
    • Business impacts: Delayed releases, higher operating costs, slowed innovation 
  • R&D 
    • Limited cross-departmental collaboration and innovation 
    • Overburdened SMEs and managers 
    • No standard feedback process for documents 
    • Knowledge gaps and repeated mistakes 
    • Business impacts: Delayed releases, poor research productivity, decreases in market share 

Anyone can increase these truths from their point of need. And these symptoms and impacts are just the tip of the iceberg. The report from Unisphere Research identified 21 risks of stalled access to business-critical information: 

1. Higher operations costs  

2. Lost revenue  

3. Safety risks  

4. Security and privacy issues

5. Conflicting/duplicative information  

6. Poor decision making  

7. Siloed information  

8. Data gaps  

9. Poor client outcomes, unempowered/ill-equipped employees  

10. Competitive disadvantage

11. Loss of customer trust 

12. Customer churn  

13. Longer call times  

14. Fewer first call resolutions

15. Supply chain disruption  

16. Delays in important medical processes (life-saving test results, surgeon support, FDA filings)  

17. Compliance violations  

18. Workplace inefficiency  

19. Negative impacts on quality  

20. Longer project cycles  

21. Poor energy efficiency 

Eliminate knowledge friction with Knowledge AI

lSince legacy content management systems and enterprise search engines have fallen short, many enterprises are looking to Knowledge AI to tackle knowledge friction. Using cutting-edge technology like natural language processing (NLP) and retrieval-augmented generation (RAG), Knowledge AI swiftly extracts valuable knowledge from existing content, reading it like a human would, and transforming that knowledge into answers. This means no more endless searching through complex systems or wasting time on outdated information. Instead, teams can rely on a Knowledge AI platform for instant access to reliable answers, precisely when they need them.  

For more insights on how enterprises are tackling knowledge friction with AI, check out the full report. Or watch the highlights from our webinar with KMWorld, where we explore the report’s key findings and discuss strategies for getting started with Knowledge AI quickly and securely. 

Discover the latest insights on knowledge friction and learn how to get started with Knowledge AI