Achieving best practice through knowledge management : benchmarking and competitive intelligence as techniques for strategic decision-making in small and medium sized enterprises
Thesis (MPhil (Information Science))--University of Stellenbosch, 2008.
SMMEs provide opportunities for employment and economic growth for South Africa. SMMEs need to be as prepared as their larger counterparts in the ever-changing local and global business environment. In order to become not only successful but also sustainable, the smaller enterprise must be aware of what is happening in both its external and internal business and operating environment. It is important for these smaller enterprises to take cognisance of changes in the political and legislative environments, as well as changes in customer expectations and competitor behaviour. Knowledge management tools such as competitive intelligence and particularly internal and external benchmarking are vital for the company’s survival. Concepts such as benchmarking for internal and external best practices, as well as competitive intelligence to gain important external decision-making knowledge, can be as beneficial to SMMEs as they are to the large corporate entities. However, knowledge management is largely ignored in the smaller company’s decision-making processes, due to financial and time constraints as well as a lack of the necessary skills to utilise knowledge management tools. Knowledge management can therefore be as important and beneficial to the smaller enterprise’s operations and decision-making mechanisms as it may be to corporations and large companies. The broad goal of this study is to review the literature on achieving best practice by implementing knowledge management in organisations. The examination of the literature and the subsequent description of the outcomes could be used to create awareness that, like larger companies, SMMEs need to process internal as well as external information in order to make strategic decisions. The utilisation of CI tools such as SWOT analysis, PEST analysis and benchmarking allow the company to systematically gather and interpret information. By using the Baldrige criteria, a systematic and continuous approach for learning and improvement is developed. This methodology (the literature review) provides a framework for gaining the knowledge that already exists (in books, journals and on the Internet). By disseminating this knowledge according to the methods described, it is hoped that the research will construct already existing knowledge into a new approach that might benefit the discipline as a whole. From the results of the study, it should become clear that certain aspects of enhancing CI in smaller enterprises require attention. Although there are organisations that assist SMMEs with relevant information, this information is scattered across various sources in different formats. Not much information and assistance is available to smaller enterprises that provides a clear framework of how to achieve internal CI practices by using the CI tools and business models such as benchmarking within the formal structure of the Baldrige criteria.