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Efficient Knowledge Transfer in Software Development

If you want to build a great and efficient development team, knowledge transfer is essential.

In most development teams, the concentration of knowledge is unevenly distributed. This skewed distribution is further worsened by constantly swapping members of the development team.

If you want to build a super development team, first of all, you need to secure their loyalty and commitment. Without this, even with the best knowledge transfer structures, your team will not realize its greatest potential.

Using efficient knowledge transfer methods on a development team whose members are not constant, is like pumping water into a leaking vessel; It is a losing game.

What is Knowledge Transfer?

Knowledge transfer is the process where more knowledgeable members share their expertise with those who lack this specific experiance.

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According to Wikipedia, knowledge transfer in organizations is the practical problem of transferring knowledge from one part of the organization to another.

In software development, knowledge transfer is the process through which developers with a specific component knowledge share their experience with other developers. It’s an essential process in the acclimatization of new and less experienced members.

Types of Knowledge

Knowledge can be divided into two types:

Explicit Knowledge

Explicit knowledge is that which can be documented. Explicit Knowledge only makes up a very small percentage of the knowledge required to be competent. Common explicit knowledge sources are documents, records, and files.

Tacit Knowledge

Tacit Knowledge is the knowledge that cannot be quantified. About 95% of the knowledge needed to be competent belongs to this category. It mostly has to do with experience, thought process, skills, etc.

Why is Knowledge Transfer Important?

Without knowledge transfer, less experienced team members would take a long time to catch up with the rest of the team. This results in underutilizing the full capacity of the development team.

Knowledge transfer also ensures that your project does not have any potential weak links. For instance, having a team member who is so crucial that without him/her the project stops. These are the problems that knowledge transfer aims to fix.

4 Efficient Knowledge Transfer Methods in Software Development

Knowledge Transfer – Mentorship

Mentorship is the relationship when more experienced members take new members under their wing. They can either impart their knowledge/skills or provide guidance to their mentee(s).

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Mentoring is very useful and should be used more often in development teams. However, making mentorship mandatory is difficult. It should only be encouraged, not forced.

Although you should not enforce mentoring, you can give incentives to those who volunteer. For instance, mentorship might be among the promotion criteria during executive discussions.

Mentorship builds relationships and better communication between old and new members. It can also help new members adjust to their new environments.

In short, mentoring provides less experienced with a role model they can emulate; a goal they can work towards.

Knowledge Transfer – Paired Programming

Pair programming is an agile software development technique where two programmers work together on the same task. These two programmers often swap roles. With one doing the coding (the driver) and the other reviewing the code (the observer).

Pair programming can be a type of mentoring exercise. With a pair having an experienced member plus a novice. The junior member has the chance to see theory in action. This leaves a lasting impression during the learning phase.

Senior members can use various tactics to guide their junior counterparts. Some of these tactics are using indirect hints, explaining their actions, gradually adding knowledge, etc.

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The learner may do the actual coding whereas the experienced programmer observes and adjusts the process.

Paired Programming is an effective way to transfer tacit knowledge.

Knowledge Transfer – Mutual Code Reviews

A code review is when team members go through the code written by colleagues for errors and its compliance with set standards.

Less experienced team members can learn new techniques by studying other members’ code. New team members can also get used to the code base and uncover hidden knowledge by reviewing other members’ code.

Making every development team member familiar with the project is important if you want to fully exploit your team’s potential. Having several people who are experienced with your project reduces its fragility.

Mutual code reviews effectively transfer knowledge about the project across the whole team. At the same time, code reviews serve as an extra quality check before the code is merged.

Knowledge Transfer – Resting and Recreational (R&R) Events

Taking the time to relax and deescalate tension within the team is a necessary tool for the team’s health and to facilitate knowledge transfer.

Activities like lunch, game days, hackathons, etc. help team members socialize and serve as a platform to share knowledge in a relaxed atmosphere. It can also help build trust, synergy, and rapport among the development team.

During these informal sessions, junior and new programmers feel more free to ask questions so it’s an effective way to transfer tacit knowledge among team members.

Hackathons are also great tools to use in these settings as members can be productive, share their knowledge, and have fun all at the same time.

Conclusion

A development team is like a mini-community therefore it is crucial to grow a feeling of togetherness and a unity of purpose within the team. A team where each member works towards the good of all is the humble beginning of a super development team.

In conclusion, knowledge transfer is instrumental in maintaining the productivity and efficiency of a development team.

Without proper knowledge transfer, a team will take a long time to recover from any staffing changes. Therefore, you need to choose the right combination of knowledge transfer methods to ensure your team always operates at a high level.

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