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5 Top Tips for Knowledge Transfer within Software Companies

16
Nov 15

Posted November 16, 2015 by  Tim Pat Dufficy

Cope with SaaS Business Growth and Knowledge Transfer

AKA How to Avoid Having 2 Jobs at Once

When ISVs become successful, they often undergo periods of rapid growth. When speaking to clients undergoing a big transition, we find that a lot of people, from CTOs and CIOs to Systems Administrators and Support Services teams, are facing the same issue: As your company grows around you, it can be easy to get trapped by your legacy knowledge.

After a promotion, or a change in business structure, being pulled away from your core tasks to assist a colleague on a process you handed over months or even years ago can be a drain on your time and focus. What’s more, it undermines both you and your colleague’s ability to perform well in your own roles: people perform better when they have a sense of ownership over a task and aren’t being subjected to unnecessary distractions.

Download our guide to scaling up your infrastructure to cope with business  growth here

So how do you let go of the reins? Luckily, we have some suggestions that will help you make the process of transferring your knowledge to your colleagues as quick and painless as possible, allowing you to focus on your new responsibilities.

1. Handover Notes Are Not Dead

If the thought of creating endless notes on systems, processes and key points of contact fills you with dread, it can be easy to question whether you need documentation at all. After all, you’re just across the office, or at worst a phone call away. You may even be the new person’s line manager, or head of department.

It’s so easy to put documentation to one side when you’re busy, but it’s essential to free you up from the responsibility of being the font of knowledge for a vital system or process.

Luckily these days, there are better tools available for creating documentation than endless Word documents. Depending on the task, or the people you’re handing over to, commenting out your work on Github, or creating a wiki could be a much better solution for than endless pages of screenshots and bullet points that are difficult to sift through.

If that’s still too much work to consider, why not look into…

2. Screen-Recording Software

If it takes too long to explain it, why not just make a recording while you’re completing staff training? There are plenty of lists of free screen recording software available online. You may need to buy a microphone for your computer, but if a small (£10-£15) spend can save you hours of frustrating note-making, then the overall cost-saving is clear.

Your trainees will have the recording available whenever they need to go over a step in the process, but they’ll benefit from the memory of having to put it into practice themselves.

3. Break it Down

With the best will in the world, no trainee is going to get every step of a new process right on their first attempt. An effective training process breaks down into roughly 4 stages:

  1. Theory: Either by reading or listening, the trainee is given a sense of the theory behind a process or system.

  2. Shadowing: A trainee watches a trainer go through a process.

  3. Reverse Shadowing: The trainee completes the process under supervision/guidance from the trainer.

  4. Questioning and Mastery: As the trainee puts their new knowledge into practice, they begin to ask more in-depth questions about the process that indicate they are beginning to gain mastery/see scope for improvement.

4. Practice Makes Perfect

There’s no such thing as a standard training process. Some of the above stages might need repeating, such as if a trainer finds during reverse shadowing that the trainee is making basic mistakes. Alternatively, the order of the stages might change depending on an individual’s learning style. If, for example, the trainee is struggling with a theory, they may find it easier to apply the relevant concepts once they’ve got a more practical understanding of the task if they’re a pragmatic learner.

It can be difficult to remain patient if you’ve been using a process for so long that you could do it in your sleep, but try to be objective. If someone only completes a task once a month it may take longer for them to master the basics.

Ultimately, you will need to know when to draw the line. If you’re constantly supervising and correcting a colleague’s mistakes, however minor, rather than challenging them to correct them themselves, you’re still effectively performing their job for them. Motivating a trainee to achieve mastery of a task may require objective setting, or more opportunities to practice, but in the long run it will reduce frustrations all round.

5.Out-source for the Time You Don’t Have

If your company is growing quickly, you may have a lot on your plate at the same time as you are handing over business critical processes. While finding budget to pay for outside training for your colleagues may be a difficult sell, the cost of your time may actually work out more expensive, depending on the requirements.

As an alternative, if there are software packages that you use in-house, why not see if your suppliers can provide training to your new hires? If you’re a valued customer, they may be willing to provide extra support, especially during a growth period.

Finally, the time you spent putting together training may be better channelled into sourcing free training materials available online. The sites and resources you used yourself should be a good start, and any communities you use may have good suggestions on where to find the most reliable content.

Conclusions

So there you have it – a range of tips to help you hand over the reins to your team and focus on the tasks at hand. From documenting and recording processes, to training and outsourcing, with a bit of forward planning you can transition into your new role smoothly, and start to see results more quickly.

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