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The palest ink is better than the best memory

(Published on behalf of Vishal Narsa)

Enterprises operating multiple testing environments often fail to realize the need for a comprehensive knowledge management solution which can cater to the information needs of the users and support groups for the test environments or non-production environments as they are called. As the effort and money spent on building these complex test environments is exorbitant, it makes complete business sense to quantify the value extracted from these investments.

One of the principal criteria for quantification is the availability and uptime of these non-production environments for the testing teams. Any downtime on non-production environments will lead to the releases getting delayed and testing resources being underutilized - a serious implication for the business itself.

Consider the case of the testing environment for a systems integration project wherein there are multiple teams jointly responsible for building and testing the entire business solution. The stake holders range from applications to infrastructure teams, from environment architects to development teams, 3rd party vendors to testing teams. It is not surprising, that the environment information exists in silos given the diverse set of teams involved.

Any downtime on an integrated testing environment means that an individual or a group of components malfunction and this hampers testing of the complete business functionality. Restoration of this environment needs a coordinated effort by different component teams involved.
But a lack of comprehensive knowledge base of the environment landscape springs up as one of the major challenges at this juncture. The component teams often tend to depend heavily on each other's personnel for their respective component configuration information and other technical details about the environment. This information is absolutely critical for the component teams and their ability to restore the environment.

Lack of a consolidated environment knowledge base leads to a delay in restoring the environment which in turn, has a far reaching impact on development/testing schedules, release schedules resulting in unplanned costs to the business.

Given the criticality of knowledge management and the positive influence it can have on achieving overall business objectives, it is important for organizations to deploy a standardized and well governed methodology to capture and reuse environments related knowledge assets. In organizations with mature ITIL practices in place, the environment knowledge base can be incorporated as a subset of enterprise Service knowledge management system (SKMS). Some of the palpable benefits of a matured knowledge management system include:
• Accelerated application delivery contributing to reduce time-to-market
• Reduced environment provisioning time due to readily available baseline configuration information
• Early resolution of environment incidents leveraging past knowledge
• Improved staff productivity due to enhanced knowledge sharing

The title of this post says it all - Knowledge written down and captured in a proper format will always be more accurate and valuable than referring to a collective organization memory.

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