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Knowledge management in learning software SMMEs in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

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The study investigated the nature and causes of software development failures and knowledge management practices adopted to mitigate the failures in small, micro, and medium software developing enterprises (SMMEs) in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The study adopted an interpretive, qualitative multiple case study approach to investigate the problem. Twelve software development SMMEs were involved in the study. Interviews were conducted with 12 information technology (IT)/software development project managers and eight software developers identified through purposive sampling. Qualitative content analysis was used to analyse and interpret the data. The findings reveal that software development SMMEs in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, experience software development failures. Ten causes of failure were identified. They are bureaucracy in IT departments, compatibility issues, complacency of developers, involvement of the wrong people in the planning stages of projects, a lack of detailed documentation, lack of resources, lack of user commitment/non-adoption of systems, miscommunication/misrepresentation of requirements, unrealistic customer expectations, and work overload. The results also indicate that software organisations and individual software developers experience knowledge gaps during the course of their work. Six knowledge management practices are adopted by the organisations and the individual developers to fill the knowledge gaps. The practices are knowledge acquisition, creation, storage, sharing, organisation and application. These practices are supported by Internet technologies such as blogs, Wikis, search engines, social networks, organisational databases and computer hardware such as servers and personal computers. The study reveals two important knowledge management practices that are ignored by software organisations, namely post-mortem reviews, which are essential in software development, and formal training of the developers. The findings further reveal that knowledge management has enabled the organisations and individual developers to save time, retain their intellectual property (IP), become more efficient and effective in knowledge reuse. Organisations face a number of knowledge management related challenges. The challenges are lack of formal knowledge management procedures, difficulty protecting knowledge, expensive knowledge storage costs, increasing information needs, lack of the time to fully adopt knowledge management practices, difficulty finding information, and the ever-changing nature of knowledge. The study concluded that software development failures are prevalent in software SMMEs and that the organisations have informally adopted knowledge management. Moreover, knowledge management has brought benefits to the organisations but the role played by knowledge management in eliminating project failures is not clear. It is recommended that software organisations should consider formally adopting knowledge management so that knowledge management specialists can be employed to drive the knowledge management initiatives and so help in conducting post-mortem reviews and the training of staff. In addition, further research is recommended to investigate the role of knowledge management in reducing or eliminating software project failures. Quantitative studies are also recommended to objectively measure the benefits brought by knowledge management. Such studies would measure how much time and which costs are saved by adopting knowledge management. The study contributes to theory and practice (software development industry). Theoretically, the study developed and used a conceptual framework developed from software engineering and knowledge management that could be used to investigate knowledge management activities in organisations. The study also contributes to the existing body of knowledge on the subject software learning organisations from a developing country perspective. It is envisaged that software development organisations will adopt the recommendations proffered to improve their knowledge management practices.


Doctor of Philosophy in Information Studies. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 2017.