Knowledge Management across Agile Project Teams

If you happen to own or work for a software enterprise, you possibly have been asked a hundred times if you are agile. Although initially intended to upturn the accessibility of custom software development teams, in the recent times 'agile' has emerged as the default team-based working model for all enterprises, irrespective of their size, industry and location. Nevertheless, agility offers the prospects for a wide-ranging and persistent increase in team productivity and competency.

Understanding agile project management

Unlike traditional project management where a project manager bears most of the responsibilities, agile project management distributes all responsibilities of the project among team members. The workforce itself shoulders project management roles when defining the best strategies to attain the final objectives. Group members collectively select which individual would accomplish what task, which methodical practices are essential to attain specific objectives, and so on.

As appealing as it may sound, there exists a critical and more challenging situation: how do you manage knowledge among such an agile workforce?

Why is knowledge management needed?

In today's dynamic and constantly evolving business environment, organizations face a plethora of challenges related to retaining and utilizing the knowledge of their employees effectively. One of the major concerns is the loss of valuable knowledge when employees leave the organization, taking their tacit knowledge and experience with them. This results in a significant loss of institutional memory and can lead to a decrease in productivity and performance.

Furthermore, the arrival of new employees who lack the requisite skills and experience to use the knowledge and expertise of their predecessors can make it difficult to maintain continuity in work processes. They may not be able to handle complex problems and decision-making tasks, which can lead to inefficiencies and delays.

The situation becomes even more complicated in the case of distributed teams, where effective communication and collaboration can become a challenge. With team members located in different time zones and geographies, it can be difficult to ensure that everyone is on the same page and has access to the same information.

Effective knowledge management practices can help organizations address these challenges by capturing and sharing knowledge, promoting collaboration and learning, and enabling continuous improvement. By leveraging tools such as knowledge repositories, wikis, and social networks, organizations can create a culture of knowledge sharing and collaboration that allows them to tap into the collective intelligence of their workforce.

In addition, knowledge management practices can help organizations to identify and retain critical knowledge and expertise, even in the face of employee turnover. By documenting best practices, lessons learned, and other important knowledge assets, organizations can ensure that this knowledge is available to future employees and can be leveraged to drive innovation and competitive advantage.

4 ways to manage knowledge across agile teams

While it may sound tricky, managing knowledge across agile teams is not impossible. Here are 4 ways you can manage and share information in an agile workforce:

1. Creating a learning environment

Agile organizations generate corporate principles that inspire collaboration and learning from one another. Such companies have interactive communication at their core, that's mirrored as "persons and communications over procedures and tools" in an agile strategy. Businesses using agile approach develop their work practices to incorporate team meetings and continuous knowledge sharing between designers. All this aids in transmitting tacit knowledge from one employee to another.

2. Pair programming

Pair programming is a popular software development technique in which two programmers work together on a single workstation. This technique can also be applied to the agile project teams with regards to knowledge management. This way, employees who have faced a particular design issue in the past can educate their companions on how to best tackle it and resolve it in the existing setting.

Moreover, by means of pair alternation the whole team can share similar information, as associates will handover experience among one another every time they alternate. Consequently, it surges corporate learning and retains the business information as now if any employee chooses to leave the business, the knowledge would be sustained with the other employees.

This way, agile practices can reduce the obstacle of work-related procedures being detached from information management practices, as information management occurs concurrently with development in agile companies.

3. Transforming tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge

Transmitting tacit information between group associates may prove valuable. Nonetheless, to accurately retain all the information within the company, organizations would want to convert the tacit information of employees into explicit information accessible to everyone working in the company (such as, by publishing documents into relevant repositories).

Owing to their force and speed, agile practices do not offer much room for maintainable information generation and recovery. For instance, after some initial meetings are over, coding process starts straight away. Hence, there is not much space for examining earlier work to realize arrangements or methods that could be utilized in the existing task.

Agile teams focus at plummeting their product's time-to-market and do not have much capacity to concentrate on their learning during their job hours. Moreover, once the project is over and designers find time for assessment, the contextual nature of the product they produced does not permit them to appropriately share ideas and knowledge for prospective usage. Consequently, they would either have to adapt these into abstract forms appropriate for several contexts, which would be time-consuming, or share it in its existing form, which may not be relevant to impending ventures.

4. Using knowledge management tools

Agile organizations share information well within small groups positioned in the conjoint workplace. However, in case of distributed teams, they allow for feebler information transfer. For example, when one business has a small number of agile groups employed in discrete workplaces dispersed worldwide. Due to the absence of mutual repository for information, employees are only capable of transferring both explicit and tacit information between employees in their office and only explicit information (such as the version control types) with employees in dispersed locations.

In such a situation, using a dedicated knowledge management software that allows distributed teams to access information from any location, at any time and from any device is the best solution. Such software allows employees to share ideas and experiences not only by sharing files and documents but by also communicating with one another via discussion forums and chats. Equipped with robust reporting and analytics features, these corporate knowledge sharing tools make it easier to keep track of who is contributing what information and by rewarding the employees who contribute the most, information sharing practices can be highly motivated.

Final thoughts

The digital world is gradually shifting from sluggish "waterfall" practices to agile practices. Agile teams have better understanding of team structure and they comprehend how changing this structure can help benefit the project in the long run. While it seems to be a magical solution for most of the companies, implementing an agile approach without daunting the workforce is no easy feat.

Knowledge management is indispensable for the success of software enterprises. Companies are now handling knowledge in inventive ways to upsurge efficiency. In case of agile software development, cooperation and synchronization rely on the communication, which is essential for success.

This is a guest post by Ehsan Memari. Ehsan is a blogger for BoostHQ. The leading knowledge sharing platform for organization to share, centralize and discuss internal knowledge. Ehsan is a regular contributor to blog posts related to knowledge sharing, L&D and eLearning.