How Testers can benefit from Shared Knowledge

Lejla Hadzimahovic

Posted On: July 27, 2022

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Read time11 Min Read

Let’s start our journey into the world of knowledge and QA testing with this question:

What is knowledge?

Definition of knowledge noun from the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary: “the information, understanding, and skills that you gain through education or experience.”

By understanding this definition, you can see how necessary knowledge is for individuals and enterprises.

Now about some well-known types of knowledge; how we can define knowledge types, and their use:

Common, Individual, Personal, Organizational, and Shared Knowledge

Common knowledge is group knowledge. Common knowledge is the facts that an average educated person knows and doesn’t need to check (you can easily find them in 5 or more different sources).

Now, when talking about individual knowledge, we are talking about knowledge that belongs to only one person. To have personal knowledge, you must gain it through practice and experience. Habits are part of personal knowledge too. This unique knowledge possession is often hard to share with others.

Organizational knowledge is altogether something different. For an enterprise to gain organizational knowledge, one must have employees with unique individual knowledge.

And there is one more “catch”: an organization must distinguish people’s tacit and explicit knowledge. If you have a lot of employees with tacit knowledge, it is an asset to your company. But this knowledge can’t be shared, can’t be recorded, or taught.

On the other hand, explicit knowledge is personal knowledge you can write down or record. Meaning that once it is stored in a database, it can be shared, so it becomes shared knowledge.

With this transition, individual “explicit” knowledge becomes organizational knowledge.

So to summarize it in a few words:

To establish shared knowledge, the organization needs people with explicit knowledge.

1. Enterprises, knowledge, and QA Testing

There are two main approaches to how organizations manage their knowledge base. The first one is the “enterprise knowledge management” approach, and the second is a “knowledge base organization”, the KBO approach.

Looking from the point of the QA community, the KBO approach to the development and success of a company is interesting. I will explain why this is the case:

KBO – Knowledge-based Organization encourages people to learn, develop new skills, and share them among their team. Bear in mind that the KBO Company is ready to invest in new knowledge, experience, new ideas, “exploration” of mistakes, and day-to-day training.

For a company to maintain its KBO approach, all new ideas, skills, and tools must be tested. And this dynamic environment is a great opportunity for any QA tester, either Senior QA testers or QA testers just starting their career, to thrive.

2. Knowledge Base

Now, to manage “something”, that “something” needs to exist in a company. And it is a reason why every company needs to build its knowledge base.

The right approach to understanding the knowledge base is to look at it as a collection of documents, information, answers from the FAQ, instructions, and how-to-use guides. All this data is kept, arranged, and sorted in one place, the company’s knowledge base.

This knowledge base is of great help for a company in a time of expansion and growth since new employees will have the ability to use shared knowledge. It is also an excellent place for testers to see how some software, tools, or products, were developed.

Luckily, to create a company knowledge base, you can use various tools and software. Creating manuals, such as technical manuals, training manuals, or white papers is quick and easy using tools.

The knowledge base is of great help for every team in the company, including the QA team. It is important to define the level of access for users of the knowledge base. With this, the company will ensure that only competent users can edit content in the knowledge base. And this is the way to keep the knowledge base accurate and up-to-date. Others will use this base as a place for seeking solutions to problems, and as a place to learn from.

From a QA perspective, look at a Knowledge Base as a company library.

Imagine this scenario: you just started as a tester on a new product for an established company. You need to test the usability and help find bugs before its release to the market.

If that company has a knowledge base, you will have access to information about other product development in that company. Seeing recorded cases of previous “problems” in product development will be an excellent starting point for testing the new product. And it will help you, as a QA tester, with writing the test cases.

3. Knowledge Management

By now, you know “what is knowledge” and how different types of knowledge can be used. Now let’s see what is important for an enterprise to successfully manage knowledge.

The below steps are the most important to have top knowledge management in a company:

1) Real-time knowledge

You are probably familiar with a term that defines real-time: “speed at which a computer receives and processes information” (Britannica Dictionary definition). A knowledge base needs to have its data or video recordings inserted and updated in real-time.

To have an up-to-date knowledge base, information flow in the knowledge base needs to be undisturbed and quick. A real-time knowledge base will allow users to have access to any information without delay.

2) Make knowledge management a dynamic one

Another step is managing a dynamic knowledge base in the company. In a dynamic knowledge base “data and set rules” are changing over time. A dynamic approach will make your knowledge base one that has a learning curve. QA teams will be able to delete or disable bugs and recognize changes made in a knowledge base over time.

3) Importance of the right knowledge storage place

Storage place is extremely important. There is a huge difference in accessibility and storage capacity if you use cloud-based or on-premises storage places for your knowledge base. For managing a usable knowledge base conduct deep research about available options and prices for knowledge storage places.

4) Using the right KM solutions

Carefully decide which KM solution to use in your company because the complete development of your knowledge base will depend on this step.

With Knowledge Management software or KM, you will save and store the knowledge of your organization and your employees in one place.

Advanced KM software can turn team conversation into actions so lasting knowledge will be built, and all ideas will be saved. All information flows, from ideas to product documentation to blogs, can be organized in one place.

Use the KM solution that integrates with the software and tools you already use, and you will instantly see performance improvements.

5) Use integrations

A great approach in knowledge management is to use integrations. Use integrations that can be easily blended into the existing company system. Integrations that are easy to use would be welcomed by all employees. Employees who have worked for a long time in the company will easily accept smaller changes in the existing system and be more willing to share their knowledge.

6) Protect employees’ private data

Use KM systems that will protect your employees’ private data. When sharing information and knowledge, your staff must be confident that their private data is 100% protected and safe from intruders. QA teams will make this possible, by constantly testing knowledge base safety.

7) Use AI

Use AI and automation. Data transfer, collecting, and recording will be faster, and you will reduce time waste by implementing automation in your knowledge base management approach.

Now, let me show you what you need to choose the right KM approach. You can use these four “pillars” as a starting point:

– Accessibility

Make your company knowledge base accessible to all employees, this way you will encourage them to share knowledge and skills. “Locked” knowledge base is of no use to anybody.

– Collaboration

A great approach is to create a Learning Hub within your knowledge base. Users, like employees, customers, or stakeholders will be able to ask questions, get different answers and learn from various examples. Open communication is the best way for knowledge sharing and knowledge management. Testers will have the opportunity to collect the user experience of the products and use this info when creating test cases.

– Customization

Try to make your knowledge base customizable. Management of knowledge will be more efficient when your database is customizable. When you begin with establishing the knowledge base, experienced employees, who are in your company from the beginning, will fill the foundation of the knowledge base. As time goes by, new employees, customers, or users will add their knowledge. By allowing customization, the knowledge base will be flexible and easy to manage.

– Recognition

Successful knowledge base management must include recognition of innovations and best-practice ideas. With a recognition approach, employees will be willing to share their knowledge, knowing that you appreciate it. Set a reward system to fit your company culture, or try some new ways of recognition.

I will list in short some other important components of knowledge management. In knowledge management you will need:

1. People – to lead
2. Processes – to be defined
3. Content – the right one
4. IT tools – to connect the right content to the right people
5. Strategy – ask yourself this question “How to use KM to meet the company needs”

4. ERP, QA Testing, and Knowledge Base

In this part let me share my experience on why having a knowledge base is important, and what happens if the company doesn’t practice knowledge management.

A couple of years ago, I accepted a new job, in the Supply Chain Management department (Sales dep.) of the automotive industry. And my journey with implementing ERP and testing began. If you are not familiar with ERP software, let me quickly explain what is ERP, and where is used.

“Enterprise resource planning (ERP) is defined as the ability to deliver an integrated suite of business applications. ERP tools share a common process and data model, covering broad and deep operational end-to-end processes, such as those found in finance, HR, distribution, manufacturing, service and the supply chain.” – Gartner Glossary

ERP Software Systems are developed for large enterprises. ERP is tailor-made, and can’t be customized. Implementing an ERP software system in a company with a long and successful history isn’t easy.

“Critical challenges include disbanding the project team very quickly after implementation, interface issues, lack of proper testing, time zone limitations, stress, offshoring, people’s resistance to change, a short hyper-care period, and data cleansing.” – Menon

The first obstacle would be in the case when the company doesn’t have a knowledge base. To implement any new process or product, you can use ERP Test Environment. And that is great, in regards to ERP systems. But, those systems are non – customizable from a user point. To work with ERP, you must strictly follow a set of rules. For an advanced user of ERP, you need to be a tester too.

And to successfully introduce and test the processes in ERP, you would need a company knowledge base. And if a company doesn’t have a knowledge base and doesn’t practice knowledge management, the ERP system won’t work properly. If the company doesn’t have a knowledge base, all knowledge, skills, and experience will belong to a couple of employees. Then “life happens”, and years of experience and knowledge disappear.

To use the ERP system, companies must have a knowledge base and manage knowledge properly. These are the advantages:

– In the knowledge base, documents, recordings, drawings, and test cases are stored and available for learning.

– When the company is in transition and development, the QA Tester can easily pull out useful info from the knowledge base. The new product will be developed with ease and would meet customer requirements

– Using the company knowledge base, the new product will be branded. All inputs will come from previous internal designs.

– By using already recorded processes and test cases, redundancy is eliminated. QA Tester will dedicate time to testing new product features.

To wrap this up:

Personal knowledge is power, but shared knowledge is even more powerful. Everybody will benefit from the right knowledge management approach in a company. As a person who inputs their knowledge into a knowledge base, you will have the opportunity to use shared one to improve your work even more.

I am a huge supporter of automation. Especially in testing, since once it is successfully set it saves a lot of time. I can see that there is a concern that automation will erase the knowledge of how to test manually. But with the knowledge base and knowledge management, knowledge of manual testing and experiences would be stored and recorded.

Include testing in your knowledge base, and share the importance of software testing, it will certainly push enterprises to become better.

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Lejla Hadzimahovic

If there is a Disneyland where books would ride their roller coaster, then it is definitely under Lejla's management. A person whose words will lead you to an imagined and justified goal and someone who will manage to make the economy interesting as well. Economist graduate, blogger, and programmer with many years of experience, and with over 117 published articles and a gallon of coffee drunk because of those.

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