Knowledge transfer plan: Now is a good time to get one

What is knowledge transfer, and what role does it play in project management?

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The term knowledge transfer (sometimes abbreviated to KT) simply means transferring knowledge from one person to another. This can happen when a new person is coming on board or a person or group of people are changing positions and need to transfer knowledge of an application or a project to another person or group.

Knowledge transfer is a more formal process when large groups of new people are involved, such as application outsourcing projects. A good project manager will put together a training plan for the person or team that is learning the application. There may be a period of overlap where the people who are learning shadow the people who are currently involved in the project.

The best time to do knowledge transfer is continually, as part of the job. It's wise to cross-train to ensure that knowledge of a particular area of an application is spread among multiple people. This way, you will always a backup plan in place when employees take vacation or leave the company unexpectedly.

If employee departures are expected, make sure those employees train a replacement, transferring knowledge of the project or application before they walk out the door. A good project manager will take steps to ensure that the application is well documented, so that there are appropriate resources available for everyone throughout the lifecycle. Tools such as wikis allow for teams to easily share documentation and resources, so this should be done continually.

Project managers should ensure that cross-training is happening between team members and application documentation is being kept up-to-date throughout the project. If knowledge transfer to a new team is necessary, the project manager will have the resources at hand to help ensure that training go smoothly.

This was first published in January 2013

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