Over the past 15 years, the Software industry has been through various changes, which positions technological progress under the influence of paradigms regarding software process, product, and resources used during its implementation. However, when comparing the development itself to the organizational structure, we could elaborate even more on how knowledge becomes a critical asset that a given company values and highly considers when making decisions.
So why does knowledge matter?
And more importantly – how does it affect the overall performance on different levels of management? We could see the results of applying knowledge in the first place. For that reason, we could define three types of relationships within a given project: between the process and the product, between the process and the team, and between the product and the team.
In terms of the process-product relationship, when we apply our knowledge, we get client ideas implemented and normed as a ready-to-use product, contributing to the company's connection with the stakeholders involved. This we can call progress since we develop new functionalities via our way of working, and it directly influences the company's performance. Progress can be measured and reported by different metrics, such as the number of successful projects, the number of employees with more than three years of experience in the company, and the reputation on the public market.
When we talk about the process-team relationship, the result of knowledge application is the organizational culture – from the working environment, through internal bonding experiences and traditions, to knowledge-sharing initiatives and care. Companies with well-established policies and corporate culture tend to be more recognizable among the community and have a better knowledge-sharing process among the employees.
Lastly, we have the team-product relationship, where the focus stays on the applied solution and decisions made regarding functionalities and software architecture. This is critical for the results and makes teams more connected and motivated to bring the project to its successful end. After all, the product you are developing represents the intellectual capital you are working with, not only in terms of technologies but in style, approaches, and ways of managing the upcoming changes.
From a management perspective, several critical risks could cause a delay in the software process and potential knowledge loss. What are the chances of not knowing all of this mentioned above? Let's take a look at some of the most common risks managers face during the development processes:
Personal shortfalls and knowledge loss
From a project management point of view, it is essential to define the technological profile we would be working with during the development phase to cut off any obstacles regarding the implementation itself. However, the technological profile needs to be more noticed or vaguely described. In that case, there is a risk of needing more expertise to tackle the problems we want to solve, which could lead to overall delay, especially in case of dependencies through the software structure and frustration in the team because of low performance. To avoid this kind of risk, we need knowledge not only about the project's domain but also about the company's assets and the expertise it needs, which is essential for morale-building within the team. Having this innovative way of thinking clarified and spread among the employees builds a stable atmosphere where people work with the sense that their contribution is valued.
Developing the wrong functionalities
If we talk about business analysis, we should highlight that many projects fail because of bad requirements management – this means miscommunication between the product owners and their stakeholders, which results in knowledge gaps. Developers try to fill these knowledge gaps by applying methods based on their previous experience. However, if those methods are not coordinated with the client, the development process may end up with software users would not use. If your company is product-based, this increases the potential end-users churn.
If your company is client-based, this harms your reputation and could cost you connections to other possible clients. The solution would be to establish a new communication plan that relies on feedback and introduces shorter sprints for delivery and prototyping in case of developing new UI components.
Shortfalls in maintenance
Software products with enormous scope need supporting processes that could identify bugs, define possible missed or not implemented functionalities, suggest possible solutions, and pick up the best one based on some predefined criteria. These processes often need to be defined or documented, which could cause bad performance, especially when hiring new employees with less expertise. Another problem is the need for a knowledge-sharing process which is critical when someone with great experience leaves the company. In these cases, a good approach would be establishing an onboarding and knowledge transfer practice. Thus, we can mitigate the potential loss and integrate new employees more quicker.
Whatever you plan for your projects, you should dedicate some time to identifying what kind of knowledge you would need to fulfill the plan. This may require you to reach out for other people's opinions, but at the end, you will be more aware of possible outcomes when executing the project and take actions beforehand to mitigate risks. Such a way of thinking guarantees a stable environment where you and your colleagues would like to work.