Title page for ETD etd-11112008-111744

Document Type Doctoral Thesis
Author Kruger, Cornelius Johannes
Email neels.kruger@up.ac.za
URN etd-11112008-111744
Document Title Knowledge management maturity from a strategic/managerial perspective
Degree PhD(IT)
Department Informatics
Advisor Name Title
Prof M M M Snyman Supervisor
  • Information and Communication Technology
  • information management
  • knowledge management
  • knowledge issues
  • knowledge management strategies
  • strategic management
Date 2008-09-02
Availability unrestricted

The shift in the strategic role that knowledge plays in business is forcing business managers to actively participate in, if not lead, knowledge management for decision making. Unfortunately there are not enough generic models or even guidelines for incorporating the management of knowledge into business and especially business strategy formulation. This leads to business managers considering knowledge management as being separate from business, leading to an inability to align knowledge management goals with corporate goals.

The goal of the study was therefore to investigate the interdependency between knowledge, knowledge management and business from a managerial/strategic perspective rather than from a technological perspective. This was done to supply practitioners and managers with guidelines for successful institutionalization and management of knowledge.

In order to achieve this goal, research focused on the following objectives:

  • Heightening awareness of the critical role knowledge plays as a strategic corporate resource.
  • Determining the issues/models/methods and perspectives available, to guide strategists in the quest to efficiently and effectively manage knowledge, within a strategic/managerial perspective.
  • The progression of knowledge management maturity from a strategic/managerial perspective.
  • Knowledge managementís performance in relation to the objectives and measures that determine the overall efficiency and effectiveness of an organization.
  • Formulation of guidelines (a knowledge management maturity questionnaire) to aid practitioners and strategists to successfully assess knowledge management maturity.

Finally, to expand the research beyond purely theoretical and/or academic value, i.e. to validate all propositions made in the scholarly review as being valid and applicable in a real world scenario, the knowledge management maturity questionnaire was tested in South African industry. Although not directly supportive of the aim, the knowledge gained from conducting research in industry supply knowledge management practitioners with a baseline of data to benchmark knowledge management maturity upon. The thesis therefore concludes with a summary of the main findings of the knowledge management maturity in 86 South African-based organizations.

In focusing on the evolution of strategy, it was determined that knowledge has played an enabling role in the formulation of strategies. It was proposed that the evolution of strategy will continue not by replacing previous notions, but rather by building knowledgeably upon previous thought. The proposition was made that in order to set the stage for the successful institutionalization of knowledge management, organizations should decide upon issues that are proven to lead to the implementation of a knowledge management culture. In order to ensure uniformity in the institutionalizing of these issues, it was proposed that not only should issues be encapsulated within policy, but also that the strategic management process be used to determine the priority of issues.

In placing knowledge management issues, policies and strategies in a chronological order, a new maturity model was formulated to reflect the progression of knowledge management endeavours from within a strategic/managerial perspective. Differences in opinion with regard to innovationís role as measurement criteria for knowledge management were also critically reviewed. It was found that although numerous authors support a link between knowledge management and innovation, empirical evidence is not supportive. It was argued that the link between knowledge management and innovation is blurred, primarily due to the interdependency between knowledge, strategy and knowledge management. Owing to the complex nature of managing knowledge as a strategic enabler, the argument was proposed that the sum of the input will not equal the output. It was therefore proposed that knowledge management enables strategists to formulate winning strategies. The key to determining the value of knowledge management therefore lies in the extent knowledgeable reasoning leads to organisational growth, profitability and sustainability and not purely within the amount of innovation it sparks.

As mentioned earlier, building on the inductive reasoning followed in the literature review, a questionnaire of six sections, constituting 101 descriptive questions, was developed and used to empirically test the knowledge management maturity of 86 South African-based organizations. With regard to the level of knowledge management maturity reached it was found that Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and Information Management (IM) are fairly well institutionalised within South African industry. A large number of South African organizations still consider ICT, and especially, IM to be knowledge management. Most organizations understand the concepts and issues surrounding knowledge management. Organizations agree on the benefits of knowledge management.

Findings also indicated that there are differences between the scores forwarded for small, medium, large and extra-large organizations. Also, it was found that there are significant differences between the score by the different managerial levels present within organizations. Organizations in general struggle with the successful institutionalization of formal knowledge management endeavours beyond their borders. Not only is there a strong indication that middle management (supported by senior management) hold the key to successful implementation and diffusion of knowledge management, but knowledge management maturity achievements seem to be more dependent on a deliberate, conscious and calculated managerial effort, than on factors such as organizational size, the industry competing within, number of managerial levels present and resources available such as ICT.

The study not only commented on the knowledge management maturity of the 86 South African-based organizations, but also identifies the extent of maturity in South African organizations and industry groupings. It was found those organizations in the construction, building materials and mining sectors, banks and insurance, consulting, auditing, and service delivery and consumer goods and utilities were the leaders regarding knowledge management maturity. Score differences between groupings could mainly be attributed to the consistency of achievement over maturity. It was noted that sector leaders achieved higher than average scores in maturity sections, and in particular regarding the management of ICT and information, the formulation of knowledge management issues, plus policy and strategy.

© University of Pretoria 2008

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