In today's fast-paced world, where technological advancements and rapidly changing business landscapes have become the norm, the ability to effectively transfer knowledge has emerged as a critical skill. Whether it's sharing expertise within teams, onboarding new employees, or facilitating seamless transitions during organizational changes, mastering the art of knowledge transfer is essential for success.
But why write a blog article about something seemingly straightforward, you may wonder. After all, an experienced techie should be able to handle it without a hitch. But hold on, my friend, it's not as simple as it seems. This task goes beyond technical expertise; it calls for critical thinking, effective client communication, analytical skills, and much more. It's an intricate engagement that requires tackling multiple challenges from different angles, often leaving us feeling confused and frustrated. Without the right approach, it can result in utter failure. That's precisely why I felt compelled to share my insights. This blog aims to provide a starting point for anyone facing a similar engagement, helping them navigate the complexities and set off on the right path.
Let me take you to a recent experience of mine, where I had the exciting opportunity to lead a Knowledge Transfer for a distributed system. My main goal was to understand the system, ensure the tech team's stability and confidence in managing that system.
Now some background.
In a turn of events, one of our company's clients made an acquisition, bringing a smaller company into the fold. This acquisition introduced a complex distributed system comprised of numerous windows applications, console applications, web applications, and databases, all intricately working together to deliver the required functionality. As is often the case in such situations, job security concerns prompted several individuals from the acquired company to leave, creating a critical situation. With all four individuals responsible for maintaining the distributed system tendering their resignations, a new team needed to swiftly grasp the system's intricacies and effectively operate within it. The catch? We had a mere three-month notice period to achieve this monumental task. Tasked with leading this engagement were myself and three other developers, embarking on a race against time to accomplish the herculean feat before us. This blog is all about how I approached this engagement, and it's the heart of the matter.
The very first thing I did was ask for some sessions to get a good grasp of the client's domain knowledge. You see, the client was operating in the Supply Chain domain, which wasn't something I had prior experience with. I knew that understanding the domain was crucial because without it, our technical implementations wouldn't be on point. That's why I requested these sessions for me and my team to familiarize ourselves with the ins and outs of the Supply Chain domain. Let me emphasize an important point here: diving into technical implementations without a solid grasp of its intricacies is a recipe for disaster. Trust me, I've seen it happen before. That's why I made it a priority to ensure we understood the Supply Chain domain properly before proceeding further. Without that foundation of knowledge, our technical solutions would be like building a house on quicksand.
I was genuinely pumped up and couldn't wait to get a first-hand look at the application(s)/product(s) we were supposed to work on. So, I quickly requested a walkthrough where they would show us how these apps actually work.
During the demo, my main goal was to fully grasp the ins and outs of these applications. I wanted to know exactly who uses them, which departments rely on them, and how they contribute to the overall workflow. It was crucial for me to see these apps in action, as it gave me a clearer picture of their purpose and functionality.
Not only did the demo session allow me to understand the applications better, but it also helped me & my team prepare a set of well-thought-out questions. These questions were designed to dig deeper and gather more information about the apps, ensuring that we have all the necessary insights to proceed with our work.
Believe me, this first-hand experience was a total game-changer! It gave our team the knowledge and confidence we needed to execute our tasks effectively and make informed decisions.
Once I jumped into action, I made it a priority to gather essential information about the client's team. I proactively sought out details regarding the team's structure, departments, and anyone associated with the application in any capacity. Whether it was the current development team, finance team, billing team, HR team, or any other relevant stakeholders, I wanted to leave no stone unturned. My goal was to obtain a comprehensive understanding of all the individuals and teams involved, whether they had a direct usage, influence, or were key stakeholders with specific requirements. By obtaining these client-centric details, I could ensure a holistic perspective and effectively cater to the needs of everyone associated with the application.
In addition, I emphasized the importance of having a designated Point of Contact (POC) to streamline communication. I insisted on having a single contact person who could serve as the central hub for all our interactions. This approach aimed to enhance efficiency and ensure smoother collaboration between our teams. Having a dedicated POC would enable us to coordinate effectively, address concerns promptly, and foster a more seamless and productive working relationship.
Access Requirements & Provisioning
This step, often overlooked but immensely critical, involves identifying the necessary accesses for the team to actively engage in the work. To ensure a managed approach, I categorized this step into the following bullet points and initiated communication and tracking with the client:
- Work/Development Machine: I inquired whether separate work/dev virtual machines (VMs) would be provided via VPN or if we should utilize our company's laptops. Typically, it leans towards the former, but confirming this was essential. Once it was confirmed that separate Dev VMs would be provided, I began tracking their status to ensure the team could promptly acquire these machines with all the required software installed.
- Access to the applications: I sought clarification on the types of applications we would be working on, such as Windows applications, web applications, or console applications. In my case, it involved a distributed system comprising multiple Windows applications, web applications, and console application schedulers. I requested the creation of the necessary QA/Prod credentials for web applications to facilitate seamless execution and understanding.
- Code Repositories: I sought information on the Code Repo URLs for each application the team would be working on. Additionally, I inquired about the number of environments, such as Dev, QA, UAT, Staging, and Prod, and the branches within each environment. Tracking the access status for each branch was crucial for the team's workflow.
- Database Access: I inquired about the number of database servers, specifically whether there were separate servers for each environment (Dev/QA/UAT/Prod, etc.). I sought details regarding these servers and their access status to ensure the team had the necessary privileges.
- Ticket Boards: I aimed to determine the number of work boards utilized and the access status for each board. This allowed us to effectively manage tasks and collaborate within the team.
By meticulously addressing these bullet points and actively tracking their progress, we could ensure that the team had the essential accesses and resources in place, enabling us to hit the ground running and deliver impactful results.
I inquired about the availability of system documentation that I could review. While there are instances where a comprehensive documentation exists, there are also cases where it may be lacking. Unfortunately, in my particular scenario, the system documentation was not readily available. As a result, I adopted an alternative approach by requesting specific details as outlined in the next step.
End 2 End Understanding
When I talk about achieving an end-to-end understanding, it essentially means comprehending the functionality and the necessary steps to implement and deploy changes. To ensure a systematic approach, I categorized this process into the following bullet points and began working on and tracking each of them:
- Functionality & Technical Understanding: I requested sessions to gain a deep understanding of the system's functionality and technical stack. This allowed my team and me to grasp the precise purpose of the applications and familiarize ourselves with the technologies and tools employed in areas such as development, database management, production monitoring, and logging. This step aimed to gather as much information as possible for our development, debugging, and production monitoring needs.
- Development Process: I sought sessions to understand the current process for implementing tickets. I wanted to know how code changes were currently being committed to the code repository, who reviewed and tested them, and whether there was a specific sprint process or any other methodology in place for ticket implementation.
- UAT Process: I specifically inquired about the existence of a User Acceptance Testing (UAT) process. I wanted to understand whether there was a dedicated phase for UATing changes before they were moved to production.
- Release Process: I endeavored to uncover the exact process for releasing changes in the production environment. Was a DevOps methodology followed for deploying code changes, or were the changes deployed manually? I also sought information on whether there was a dedicated team responsible for managing the release process or if it fell under the purview of the development team.
- Requirement Gathering: I emphasized the importance of obtaining details regarding the requirement gathering process. I wanted to know who provided the requirements and how they were gathered to ensure effective collaboration and understanding.
By addressing these bullet points and actively engaging in the sessions and discussions related to each area, we could establish a comprehensive understanding of the system, its processes, and the necessary steps for successful implementation and deployment.
In a nutshell, it's crucial to understand that every engagement is unique and may call for different approaches. So, as we wrap up this blog, I wanted to share how I personally approached the situation at hand. By giving you a glimpse into my own experience, I hope it provided you with some valuable insights and a fresh perspective. The key takeaway here is flexibility – being able to adapt your strategies to fit the specific circumstances you encounter. Remember, success comes from being open-minded, analysing the situation, and applying the best techniques to achieve your goals. So, as you embark on your future endeavours, embrace the challenges and let your innovative spirit soar!
If you have any queries or any specific topics you'd like me to write about, please feel free to email me at email@example.com.