Relevance of knowledge management for testing center of excellence

Knowledge management (KM) in simplistic terms can be defined as a collection of strategies and practices used to assimilate, articulate, share, sustain, reuse and retirement of knowledge. Undoubtedly KM is very vital for prolonging the life of knowledge. Many of the beliefs we have today (ranging from religious to understanding how the prehistoric humans lived) are strongly influenced and arrived at by reading and understanding the documentation (scriptures, carvings and drawings) created by the early KM pioneers. KM very much applies and is relevant to the present day context. In this new economy, the achievement of a sustained competitive advantage depends on organization’s capacity to develop, deploy and efficient use of its KM strategies.

Every piece of knowledge that is managed through KM is a Knowledge Asset (KA). In the context of the current day organizations, these knowledge assets can include anything from business processes, innovative ideas, lessons learned to FAQs. Industries like manufacturing, logistics, health care have employed KM since centuries. In the modern world, many of us have seen the importance and relevance of the KM for operations like Help Desk and customer care. But, it is equally important and relevant for the whole IT Services industry and particularly Testing Organizations (TCoE).
Many organizations setup TCoEs with the intent to create a centralized team that can independently verify and validate the IT solutions from the business standpoint. While there are many advantages in having a TCoE
(like sharing of best practices, tools, techniques, standards etc which are knowledge assets that can be efficiently managed using KM), one biggest advantage is that, they are the team that understands and evaluates IT solutions from the business stand-point. This very premise gives this team an undue advantage of gaining greater understanding of the business processes and their interdependence.

So, in my opinion, TCoEs are well equipped to champion the KM for the ‘business processes’ knowledge assets (with review and approval from business). TCoE can roll ‘business processes’ into their KA portfolio along with full life-cycle management for the TCoE related assets (like processes, innovations, tools, best practices and lessons learned).

In my personal experience, I have setup and worked in many TCoEs. I have seen a tremendous change in the way the TCoEs work over the last 15 years. Some of the challenges the TCoEs face include: flexing up and down in resourcing (just-in-time resourcing) to meet changing business needs, optimize the cost and improve the quality of delivery. While the above challenges are business driven, there is another challenge that plagues the IT industry especially the offshore companies; constant churn in the resources. One solution that can effectively address all the above challenges is the efficient implementation and use of KM.

The following are some of the key points that must be kept in mind for KM:
1. Defining what KAs will be managed through KM
2. Work closely with Business to capture the Business Processes and get them reviewed and approved before managing them in KM
3. Map Business processes and IT solutions/architecture so there is a correlation between both these KA
4. Assign champions for each KA area who is responsible for managing the life-cycle of the KA
5. Use a platform that can enable the publication and sharing of the KA(there are many commercial and open source tools that can be customized for this purpose like SharePoint, Redmine etc )
6. Use KM portal as a key source of knowledge acquisition for new entrants to the project/program
7. Make sure the KAs are constantly reviewed to ensure they are accurate and up to date

The bottom line is, successful TCoEs have a strong KM framework and practices in place and the world-class TCoEs include Business Process KA as part of their KM strategy.