—  Originally published by Akhona Damane on LinkedIn Pulse (June, 2 2015) —

Yesterday (27 May 2015) I was participating at the SAKMS (Southern African Knowledge Management Summit) in Pretoria, as a panel member at the Discussion on Knowledge Leader workshop. We had fun, and lots of learning with KM experts including Patrick Lambe of Straits Knowledge (Singapore), Prof. Adeline Du Toit (University of Pretoria) and Dr Andrew Kok (Western Cape Government).

Central to the deliberations was the question of the future of Knowledge Management. Earlier in 2015, one of the prominent KM expert in another conference raised the pertinent question of the future relevance of KM. He asked the question, “Is KM dying?”

This is the question that requires a well thought out response. In my response I am taking the South African context in mind given the initial adoption (excitement), followed by disappointments (due to slow returns on investment (unmet expectations), and indifference (an attitude held by some executives on the existence of KM in their organisations).

Some executives argue that they do not need KM. Reason being that they confuse it with HR or IT, due to lack of understanding and misconceptions. In some organisations, they have already made significant investments in other management interventions such as Continuous Improvement, Lean Six Sigma, etc.So they don’t see the need for KM.

Some early adopters have not seen the real benefits of KM since it was well marketed but the badly implemented. In some instances, a limited view of KM was introduced. For instance, KM was introduced as Records Management, or as Document Management System, or as Mentorship. These are instances when KM is presented with a single view; KM is a multi-faceted discipline.


Personally, I am of the view that KM is at high risk of extincting if we continue to take a single approach to it. However, if implemented holistically KM has a bright future. KM is not about to die anytime soon.

I have raised three points to support my argument:

(1) One of the ways we can ensure that KM remains relevant is when it answers strategic questions or business problems. One should have a meeting with the CEO / Executives and ask the proverbial question, “what are your top three business challenges or strategic issues?” And then devise a plan of how KM can assist in addressing such strategic issues.

(2) Innovation Management. The principles of KM must be applied in introducing or reviving the culture of Innovation within the organisation. There are limitless opportunities in operating Innovation with the KM principles of knowledge-creation, knowledge-sharing, in view.

(3) Customer Knowledge Management. KM needs to harness customer interaction opportunities, especially that the existence of the organisation depends on the customer. When you engage customers by sharing your knowledge as well as gathering their knowledge; this can assist in improving your service offerings. One of the most practical aspect is Co-Creation of solutions jointly with the customer as you engage in purposeful knowledge sharing.

Lastly, in future the KM professionals may need to consider changing the name  “Knowledge Management” to something like “Strategic Knowledge” discipline.