Knowledge sharing is an often overlooked or underestimated part of a remote consulting engagement. That’s partly because people typically think about it as part of the onboarding process where loads of files are exchanged and things kick off. This initial knowledge transfer is a major component, but knowledge sharing as an activity isn’t a one-and-done kind of thing (and we bet you have a few less-than-optimal project stories that prove it).
It’s vital that companies understand that knowledge sharing extends beyond the beginning of a project — and that the information exchange goes both ways. From the client perspective, there’s almost always new info that pops up or items someone forgot to mention along the way, whether directly project-related or about internal organizational structures that can impact how a project progresses.
On the flip side, your partner team will take in a whole lot of unique knowledge as they work, and the prospect of “losing” critical in-house knowledge to an external team is a common concern (one that could be amplified by that information going to a remote team they don’t see every day.) So, knowledge sharing has to be a constant, not a discovery-phase-only activity.
At DockYard, we know firsthand how critical certain information is to the success of a project and to the company that owns it. With that in mind, we’ve put in place some practices that make knowledge sharing an embedded part of the workflow so it’s easily maintained throughout the engagement. Let’s take a look at a couple of best practices here so you can make sure both teams get the info they need and nothing is lost in between.
Designate point people
You’re probably doing this anyway; most engagements are going to have at least one key point of contact on each team — whether they’re project managers, product owners, or department leads, like for engineering or design — who are the go-tos for communicating information between teams and facilitating conversations around the project. The key here is to make sure the knowledge sharing responsibility is well defined within these roles; be clear about who is responsible for providing what type of information to whom for each phase of the project and disseminating it appropriately across your team.
As a client, you have the extra charge of making sure any information is shared across your internal departments as necessary (especially if they’re not actively a part of a project, but their work is impacted by it), as well as up the chain of stakeholders.
The Dockyard way: At DockYard, we make sure to maintain this information exchange through our Client Partner role. Part project manager, part product owner, all communication extraordinaire, this role serves as the main point of contact for both teams and is responsible for regularly communicating project status and facilitating any knowledge transfer as needed.
We created this position to work together with our clients and fill in the gaps when and where needed, depending on the specific requirements of each project. If your team already has a dedicated project manager, for example, that might mean our Client Partner is there to help keep things moving and act as a liaison between teams. On the other hand, if your team doesn’t have a lot of internal support or isn’t familiar with the product delivery process, our Client Partner can step in and own the product roadmap, collaborating closely with you to help drive strategy, prioritize needs, and oversee the design and development stages. Either way, they’ll provide continued communication and knowledge sharing support from kickoff through delivery.
Schedule regular touchpoints
Consistent communication is, of course, vital to the success of any project. But while status updates and quick check-ins play an important role in keeping things running smoothly, they’re not enough to translate to real knowledge sharing for a simple reason: A major part of knowledge transfer is the back-and-forth dialogue that goes with it. Sometimes, no matter how intentional we try to be about sharing all the appropriate information, much of it stays locked in our heads — especially when we’re working remotely. But more collaborative types of touchpoints — like working sessions and product demos that provide an opportunity to actively explain the work or engage in discussions about it — help all that info come out naturally.
The Dockyard way: One way we make sure to maintain this kind of touchpoint is by following the two-week sprint Scrum methodology. We hold a review meeting with a product demo via video (which we always record to promote accountability and async communication) at the end of every sprint and showcase what our team accomplished. That review helps keep the client up to speed on the project, but it’s also a time when all of those important knowledge sharing conversations get to happen. The team walks everyone through the completed work, but they also share things about the process: what went well, what challenges they encountered, and how those were resolved. They can also address any questions, or have conversations about the choices they made, and talk about how they might impact the next steps. There is no PowerPoint presentation; this is really about scheduling a time for conversation, and getting everyone together consistently for these types of meetings helps keep the learning flowing in both directions.
Keep documents up to date
One last thing that’s important when it comes to knowledge sharing: Keep your documents up to date. Without a doubt, you’re going to send and receive a ton of documentation throughout a remote consulting engagement, especially at the beginning of a project, and while it’s an efficient way to not only share info, but also have a go-to reference for that info, it can get outdated quickly. Take the time and effort to keep things current so you can avoid any potential confusion later on — and be sure to share the updated versions with everyone!
Sign up for the DockYard newsletter so you don’t miss out on more best practices for working with a remote consultancy. And if you happen to have a project in mind, share what you’re thinking with us, and we’ll share how we can help! Contact DockYard today.
DockYard is a digital product consultancy specializing in production-ready apps that scale wonderfully as companies grow. We offer a range of consulting services with capabilities in product planning, design, user experience (UX), full-stack engineering, and QA. Over the last decade, DockYard has solved complex product challenges for visionary companies like Netflix, Apple, Nasdaq, and Harvard. We’re also dedicated to advancing open-source web development technologies, such as libraries and tooling built around the Elixir programming language. From idea to impact, DockYard empowers ambitious teams to build for the future. Visit us at www.dockyard.com.