Clearly identify business problems and align knowledge management project with overall business objectives.
Like any other software project, KM projects goals and objectives must be aligned to high-level objectives. This will give visibility to management about how KM activity going to solve business problems.
Business goals, strategies, and corresponding software goals were made explicit. If Business Goal is “Improve customer satisfaction”. This business goal might have been made by the organization due to the business problem such as so many post-release issues in the recent deliverable. To achieve this business goal and to solve the business problems, software team could sets their goal to “Improve System test Effectiveness”.
For achieving software goal of “Improve system test effectiveness”, software project managers from their view point define their team’s goals, refine those goals down to specifications of data to be collected, and then analyze and interpret the resulting data with respect to original goals. Such goal is then refined into specific questions that must be answered in order to evaluate the achievement of the goal.
At this level, KM project measurements must be linked to the above metrics, so that KM project will be aligned with overall business objectives.
Define clear roles and responsibilities to lead KM practices.
For successful implementation of KM, a well-staffed team and strong leader, with clearly defined responsibilities are essential.
Normally, exists a KM team leader selected by based on individual’s expertise on project management skills, people skills. As a KM team leader, its responsibility of team leader to give guidance in organizing content and apply project management skills. In addition to this, he has the responsibility to improve his broad knowledge on various software sub-teams and start interacting with team members to contribute to KM.
KM team members will be subject matter experts from each sub-team within the software division. They include members from software development team, testing team, automation team, etc. As a KM team member, he/she must be familiar with content and process involved. It’s the responsibility of team members to categorize information efficiently. They must be monitoring content regularly and should assess the relevance of existing information. This is particularly useful if other teams looking for relevant information, they will be prevented from information overload.
If the required KM skill sets are available with-in the team or there is scope to develop these skills with-in the teams, it will be good to have KM roles integrated in project teams. Due to this, the gap can be narrowed b/w KM and rest of the teams. But, it will be hard to define what percentage of project activities should be used for formal KM, as it varies based on the size of team, amount of tacit knowledge need to be converted and the complexity of the required knowledge.
Implement KM in phased approach.
Similar to incremental approaches applied to various software development projects, KM also needs an incremental approach with different phases. This will reduce the amount of risk involved in these KM activities.
Divide the KM solution into various parts and address specific parts of KM solution in each phase. By laying foundation for next phase, each phase must provide immediate benefits and provide measurable ROI.
For instance, this can be made effective by addressing the need of unified access to existing information as part of initial phase. And in the later phases address the need of improving the way knowledge is captured from various software sub-teams and managed.
Customize KM technical infrastructure to make it user-friendlier.
An organization KM system is the collection of information technologies used to facilitate the collection, organization, transfer and distribution of knowledge between various teams in software division.
Software developers are using various technologies such as document libraries (ex: Google docs), Knowledge Bases (wiki, etc.), blogs, forums, SharePoint, organization intranet, etc.
For instance, the wiki is an extremely powerful KM tool for creating, maintaining, and accessing knowledge bases. Since the introduction of the wiki technology in the early 2000s, many organizations have adopted the wiki for many of their knowledge bases.But, there are few disadvantages to wiki, as wiki platforms have a bit of learning curve. Team members have to dig into learn how to use it. If it becomes complex, team members will be reluctant to contribute to KM systems.
This kind of pros and cons exist in almost all the technologies. For this reason, KM has to maintain/organize the technical infrastructure to make it user-friendlier. They can customize the KM system to rely on multiple technologies based on the team member’s convenience.
So, success of KM depends on how well we customize technical infrastructure to make it easy to find the information from the KM systems. That means, if development team members are looking for some information related to test teams, they should easily find the information about the test team and more importantly the relevant information.
Encourage employees to contribute to KM by knowledge reuse and sharing.
As discussed earlier about the model of knowledge conversion (Nonaka) between tacit and explicit knowledge, software teams must be encouraged to contribute to these conversion activities.
Conduct as much knowledge sharing sessions as possible within the teams and across the teams. This can be conducted in various instances such as whenever major issues noticed while development, new lessons learnt while carryout particular development/testing, discussion on show stopper issues and the way to debug it, etc.
The KM leaders are responsible to decide which topic and how frequently the knowledge session should be held based on work priority. This is to ensure that the sharing sessions will really benefit the engineers and suits to their interest as well.
Make knowledge acquisition process continuous.
KM is not an end itself. The knowledge acquisition process must be continuous in order to keep all knowledge up-to-date and ensure new knowledge is captured from time to time.
To support this, proper process needs to be defined as well, so that team members will record all related knowledge into the database. If a team member wants to share his tacit knowledge on a particular software, process, new methodologies, he should be given idea on the ways of sharing his knowledge with other team members, teams at organization level and ways of converting into explicit knowledge.
By doing this, knowledge acquisition task will be formalized within the software teams. This will help KM team to capture knowledge gained by the team members in a more effective way and continuously.
Another aspect of managing the knowledge in KM systems, involves handling special cases, such as team members who leaves the company. KM team needs to be able to make sure other team members do not waste time trying to contact that person while preserving the knowledge they have contributed.
Review the KM project regularly
KM projects must be reviewed regularly to assess what’s missing and finding ways to better organizing knowledge. The review begins by breaking the information into two main categories: What knowledge currently exists and what knowledge is missing
Once the location or source of the missing information is identified, KM teams can begin to structure the relevant information so that it can be easily found.
One of the common mistakes most of the teams do while review process is more emphasis on cataloguing existing explicit information assets or the information that is documented, transferable and reproducible (ex: test reports, project proposals etc.,)
But, during review process, there should be more emphasis on reviewing the cycles of knowledge conversion.
Balance between technology, culture and practice.
For KM to be successful, there must be balancing act between Technology, culture and practice. This can be achieved by placing the desire of people to use/involve in KM activities ahead of the technology. This needs cultural change within the teams and support from the management.
For team members, if given the required time, training and incentives, they will begin to capture, manage and share knowledge with enthusiasm.
Overall, cultural changes of this magnitude take time, so they have to practice this continuously to see the results of KM.
Share the success stories of KM practices at organization level.
Normally, two thirds of KM effort needs to focus on non-technical issues such as culture and practice. For making this effective, must use motivational approaches such as sharing success stories about KM implemented recently within their organization. These positive impacts could be how the tools development process has been improved, quick fixing of the tools issues, reduced attrition rates and shortening skills gap within the test development team. By doing this, it will stimulate the team member’s curiosity to involve in KM activities and help the KM team to apply KM methodologies in other parts of the organization.