Tata steel KM Symposium

Its been a while since I blogged. The past three weeks have been hectic. I somehow managed to write a synopsis for a paper titled “Collaborative Knowledge Management” which I would be presenting with a couple of others in the TATA Steel KM Symposium to be held in December this year. Meanwhile I have been reading the Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen.Interesting book. A excerpt can be found here. This book set me thinking if Nissan will become the next case study on why great companies fail-Nissan has been ignoring the hybrid cars market.

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Global Distributed Development-Code and Context

Many organizations are trying to leverage the high quality and low cost of a global,diffused software talent.As they try to enable these global distributed development teams and achieve true 24*7 development cycles they face tremendous “knowledge centric” challenges.The central question is how effectively can project transitions be done across time and distance? Most of the inefficiencies that creep in are as a result of dilution of context as one team starts from where the other one stopped. What forms “context” in the software development?

  • Comments that get added to source code creates some context at a low level
  • Emails that were exchanged in relation to this artifact
  • Threaded discussions that refer to this artifact
  • Documents relating to this artifact
  • Other artifacts in the lifecycle that are related to the artifact under question(Traceability)
  • Bugs,Patches relating to this artifact
  • History of changes to the artifact itself
  • Recorded web conferences discussing this artifact
  • Instant messages,phone calls and face-to-face meetings relating to this artifact

All of these form an intricate web, a rich context around source code. Simply swapping source code in software configuration management systems back and forth between distributed developers is not enough.Companies like CollabNet brings in best practices in collaborative software development from the open source world and shows a lot of promise.This product goes a long way in “preserving context” around source code.

“Preservation of context” is the key prerequisite for successful collaboration to happen.
This will enable:

  • Global distributed teams to transition knowledge(and hence projects) across time and distance
  • Organizations have clear visibility into the entire application life cycle
  • Organizations retain the flexibility to mix and match multiple service providers/partners to co-develop,outsource applications.( Successful knowledge transition remains one of the biggest challenges in application outsourcing)

Knowledge Transfer-Outsourcing

A recent article in CIO speaks about the challenges of knowledge transfer specifically in the context of outsourcing. Here is a snippet from the article.

The following are key considerations for a successful knowledge transfer and mitigation of the risks involved in the start-up of an outsourcing arrangement:

  • Keep attention focused on knowledge transfer throughout the transition.
  • Recognize that reducing the knowledge transfer effort can affect the overall success of the outsourced support model.
  • Perform knowledge transfer planning independently of the selected provider.
  • Make sure the documentation process starts on schedule.
  • Require comprehensive and detailed documentation from the provider.
  • Retain the key legacy staff members.
  • Be aware of the effect of possible high turnover at the provider’s center.
  • Implement a knowledge management program following the transition.”

As the market gets increasingly commodotized outsourcing service providers who have a robust knowledge transfer process defined which goes beyond mere documentation would have an edge.Check out the comments at the end of the article as well-some of them are interesting.

KM Change Management

Change management for KM intiatives needs to encompass more than just demos, workshops,training and awareness sessions. Augmenting these with techniques like appreciative inquiry,narratives etc., would help people surface their assumptions, arrive at a common understanding of problems/opportunities they face and challenge status quo. Would appreciate any pointers to studies on the implications of narratives/appreciative inquiry in a huge organization from a change management perspective.