On knowledge transfer

In the last 8 years of my work experience I was part of different software development teams and all of the initial steps for each individual team consisted of a knowledge transfer phase.

With each team and project, the knowledge transfer phase experience was different, but not completely new. So, a couple of common “good” practices (I rather name them “good” instead of best practices) were observed and improved over time (you know what they say: inspect and adapt). The “good” practices compose a knowledge transfer plan, which is consumed in a couple of iterations until all subtopics are covered.

My top 10 suggestions for a successful knowledge transfer phase are:

  1. Always start with the big picture (system architecture document);
  2. Identify the enterprise architecture components;
  3. Have knowledge transfer sessions per component;
  4. Time box the knowledge transfer session depending on the component complexity. Keep in mind that if the software system is complex, it will take much time to understand it completely. Moreover, the longer it takes, the less efficient the knowledge transfer sessions will be;
  5. Prioritize the order on which the components are discussed: one approach is to “tackle” first the components with the largest complexity. Another approach is to start with the components which are on the top of the product road map;
  6. Keep a time-boxed interval between learning and implementing. If the software development doesn’t start in one month after the knowledge transfer phase was initiated, then the team enthusiasm will decrease for sure;
  7. Check the existing functional and technical documentation and compare it with the production version of the software system. Don’t be surprised if you will find differences between the functional and technical documentation and the actual implementation;
  8. Use the knowledge transfer phase as an excellent opportunity to enforce the knowledge management topic. It is essential to document the topics discussed, as when you deal with much new information there is a high chance to forget about things or misunderstand them;
  9. There will be times when topics are difficult to be understood at first glance. Create a list of these items and revisit them at the end of the knowledge transfer phase for the proper clarifications;
  10. And last but not least be disciplined and structured in following your knowledge transfer plan until it is completed;

The Take-Away

Like most of the things in business (but generally speaking in life) the better you are prepared for a situation, the more chances you have to obtain a great result. However, no matter how prepared you are or how extensive your knowledge transfer plan is, always leave some room for the unexpected.

Knowledge transfer is a key component of the knowledge management service, which is included in my services catalog.

Let me know if you need help with the knowledge transfer activities in your organisation.

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