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Transferring Knowledge

When you need everyone to be singing from the same hymn sheet, it can easily be a difficult time for an organization, whether you are starting a brand-new project or if you have been working on the same one for a while now. To provide that you hit the ground running, or keep delivery on track, you should learn to create a plan for knowledge transfer for your IT projects.

If you have decided to bring in an outsourcing team, we hope you’ve checked out the rest of this blog series on the challenges of outsourcing. In the opening issue, we took a deep dive into the best practices for hiring the right outsourcing vendor for you, and then, we broke down the different team structures available, comparing them so you knew what would work best for your project. Didn’t catch them? Well, luckily for you, the links are right here:

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Team Structure

In this edition, we’re going to look at the process of creating a fool-proof knowledge transfer plan for outsourced IT projects. Our aim is for you to be able to use this as your checklist for knowledge transfer at the beginning of a successful project. When expectations aren’t met on a project, the outsourcing team often gets the blame, but the unmet or misrepresented expectations usually have unclear causes. To make sure this doesn’t happen on your project, you must have a precise knowledge transfer plan. Such a plan in action helps to identify main responsibilities and checkpoints, both for the internal team and the outsourced team.

When knowledge transfer plans are brought in for IT projects, the procedure will appear different depending on the level of the organization. At the organizational level, the identification and the definition of their responsibilities must apply to all teams at all times during the process. We will go further into this over Stage 1 and 2, but put briefly, the company must flexible when dealing with questions like what are the tasks involved at the moment with the project, to whom does each process belong and, to calculate success of the transfer, what needs to be produced, much like a sprint goal or an Objectives & Key Results (OKR).

Then at the team level itself, objectives (also like OKRs or sprint goals) need to be provided to every team, which must be plainly defined so there is no misunderstanding as to their end target. Documentation and regular, scheduled stand-up or scrum meetings would be a common way to do this. Ideally, knowledge transfer should be treated in the same way as all projects or sprints, to keep teams synchronized and goal targeted. This approach then trickles down to the individual team member and any particular objectives or duties they have.

Stage 1: Roles and responsibilities; a full immersion

First, before any meetings with the outsourcing team take place and plans are put together, you must look internally. No, we don’t mean to have an x-ray, we’re talking about pragmatism. Over eagerness from the organization can mean tasks and duties are dished out to the outsourced team before roles and responsibilities become known. A lack of organization and clarity ensues and the costs rocket past the first estimates. To guarantee this doesn’t become reality, organizations and teams have to meet together.

The role each person or group has, and what they are responsible for, must be clearly established at the initial meetings. The working process and the amount of time to be committed must also be clarified, so the expectations of the outsourcing team can be understood. The planning can then move on to Stage 2 after the roles and responsibilities panorama has been viewed from every angle

Stage 2: Dismantling Silos

Every organization suffers from siloed knowledge. Yes, there are tools to battle back against this, such as confluence or document repositories, but even companies with the most transparent communication can fall ill sometimes to the effects of tribal knowledge. Some routines or repetitive tasks might be unearthed when meeting with contributors in the first stage, but these can eventually be streamlined or just eliminated once the outsourced team has been amalgamated.

The more you can avoid repetition, the less that will be asked of the outsourced group, and as a result, the project’s cost will be reduced. After the rubber-stamping of roles and responsibilities, and the definition of the outsourcing team’s goals and intentions, we can move onto the written knowledge transfer.

Stage 3: Outlining clear, ambitious goals

An outsourcing team getting lost in the everyday processes of the IT project and losing track of that mountain top you’re all working towards? We’ve all been there. It’s crucial to articulate what the end goal of the team is before the delivery of documentation. Once that’s established, mark out a path to that target with properly written guidelines.

To remind the outsourced team of what they’re aiming to achieve, the goals must be front and center of the knowledge transfer. Whatever the measurement, be it sprints, KPIs or OKRs, you must make the outsourced team aware at the beginning of the process of what they’re there to deliver come the end of your business together.

Stage 4: Documenting the current process in detail

This is the third stage of the process all together, but the first point of engagement for the outsourcing team, so they need to — literally — be on the same page, so having complete, well-written and detailed documentation of the company’s current processes is a must. To begin with, define the terminology and workflows of the project, but don’t assume any knowledge. This can be tough to bypass when those compiling the documents are so involved with the project itself.

After a straightforward definition of the tasks and terms, you can start to introduce the details of the processes and services in as molecular a way as needs be. We can’t stress enough the necessity to be as removed as possible from the current knowledge when writing, and the documents should be proof-read imagining that the person reading is following what is written as gospel. Once you have transparent documentation, you can deliver it to the outsourcing team through the mediums of calls, meetings or training.

Stage 5: Giving the new guys tasks and responsibilities

Depending on the logistics, the outsourcing team may be taking control of the entire project, or just working in tandem with the in-house organization, but whatever the situation, they have to be treated like they are full-blown members of the main organization, and a good way to achieve that is through regular, two-way communication. Unfortunately, this is an often-neglected aspect.

Make sure you arrange regular meetings to touch base with the outsourcing team to assess if the knowledge transfer is properly complete. If there is still any ambiguity or confusion, consistent dialogue will guarantee everyone stays on the same wavelength and will remain on the straight and narrow for the foreseeable future.

Stage 6: Measure goals and assess objectives

Day-to-day or short-term alignment can be observed with regular check-ins, but long-term success needs more than intermediary steps, so measuring objectives and goals is crucial. Again, whether it’s OKRs, KPIs, sprints, or anything else you use for your measurements, it doesn’t matter, as long as they’re frequently used to ensure the outsourced group is meeting the targets set, they’re a great indicator of how well the knowledge transfer was carried out. If any deterioration exists in performance or ability to meet goals, they can be reviewed and improved for the next knowledge transfer.

Why take unnecessary risks with your project? Contact us today and we’ll guide you and your organization on to achieving your goals.

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