- by Matt Watson
Agile development has ushered in the norm of rapid iterations and change within products. One of the biggest challenges for agile development is educating the rest of the company. At my last company our biggest challenge was trying to continually train 100 employees in our customer support and training departments. It's easy to write release notes and email them to everyone. But for complex software products, release notes are not usually enough detail. You really have to educate your employees on the WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHY, WHEN of every item. If you don't do this, you end up with customer service people who know less about your product than your users do. Ever call a company and feel like you know more about their product than their customer service people do? Yeah. I'm talking about that problem.WHO does the change effect?WHAT was the actual change?WHERE do I find the change in the product?WHY was the change made? (It's hard to support something if you don't know why it was done.)WHEN will the change be released?One thing I want to stress is the importance of the WHY something was done. For customer support people to be really good at their job, they need to understand the product and how people use it. Knowing how to enable a feature is one thing. Knowing why someone would want to enable it, is a whole different thing and the difference in good customer service. Another challenge is getting support people to better test and document potential bugs before escalating them to development. Trying to fix bugs without examples is always fun... NOT. They might as well say "The sky is falling, please fix it!"We need to over train the support staff about product changes and continually stress how they document and test potential product bugs. You also have to train the sales staff and the marketing team. Then there is updating sales materials, your website, product documentation and other items there are always out of date. Every product release causes this vicious circle of trying to educate the rest of the company about the changes.Do we need to record a simple video explaining the changes and email it to everyone? Maybe we should use a simple online training type app to help with this problem. Ultimately the struggle is taking the time to do the training, but it is time well spent. It may save you a lot of time answering questions and fixing bugs later. How do we efficiently transfer key product knowledge from developers and product owners to the rest of the company? How have you solved these issues at your company?