21(116) 2015
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HR & Professional Training

How many people in your team would have to be hit by a bus to stop a project?

by Kinga Przepiórka, head of human resources at Cognifide
Header kinga przepiorka

Knowledge is humans’ most powerful tool. But knowledge trapped inside one person’s brain is pretty useless. Its real power lies in it being shared. 

Sharing the skills that we have pushes us forward, makes us hungry for new areas of expertise and boosts our own self-development, or the development of our living and working environment.

Have you heard about a parameter called ‘the bus factor’? It’s the number of people in one software development project that a bus would have to hit to stop the progress of the whole plan. In general, this factor forms a picture of the level of knowledge-sharing across the company. A high value means that many individuals know enough to continue the project even if the team is incomplete due to random events. 

At Cognifide we often say that the bus factor in any given project is 99% because of the good system of know-how management within our firm. New technologies are things that we face every day. To be sure that we’re up to date, we use different tools to support knowledge sharing. Now we want to share our knowledge with you too. Are you prepared for learning new things?

Step 1: Have a good start!

The first days in the new job can be really tough. Imagine - you come to the office for the first time, you don’t know the people, you have to learn how to use new tools and programs - well - you actually have to learn how to use the coffee machine properly! To make the transition as smooth as possible and to shorten the time of introduction, we have prepared an induction programme. It’s a two-week set of training sessions and workshops for starters. During that time they get the chance to acquaint themselves with the company and its values better, feel the atmosphere and the climate. They’re also trained in our technologies: they can learn about the tools that we use and the projects that we run. Also valuable is that the induction is run by Cognifide employees themselves. People from different departments who are truly involved in introducing their new colleagues to the company’s secrets of knowledge, who once upon a time had their own first days at Cognifide

Step 2: Take a look around

One of the components of a company’s success are the people who really know their jobs. Experienced individuals willing to share their knowledge. In fact, they sometimes need only 10 minutes to transfer valuable ideas.
At Cognifide we have a meeting called lightning talks each Friday. It is a short, 10-minute presentation during which we are able to talk very briefly about interesting subjects or ideas. People present whatever they want: hobbies and passions are as good as advanced IT tools or project updates. It is a half of an hour full of knowledge sharing, open to everyone in the company. More than 170 different presentations we have had over the last two years absolutely prove that people are enthusiastic about teaching – and learning.

Lightning talks are meant to give someone just a glimpse, and that is great! But what if someone would like to learn more and explore the topic? There is a wide offer of various training courses nowadays. But they usually sell ready-made solutions, not best matched to a company’s needs. At Cognifide we have all agreed that the best way to learn unique things, especially those connected with the technical tools that we use, is to prepare internal training in all departments. More experienced employees help their colleagues to gain new competences. For now we have 83 different streams and the count is still rising.

Step 3: Create and support

Have you ever heard about Rails Girls event? The concept, developed by Linda Liukas and Karri Saarinen, was born in 2010 in Finland. The main idea was to create a space, where girls and women can start to learn coding for free in a friendly and supportive atmosphere. Since 2010, events have expanded all over the world. As you can see the recipe for success is simple - if you don’t have a place where you can develop your skills, create one!

This theory was also followed by front-end developers at Cognifide. They were looking for an offline user group with whom they could sometimes meet after work and discuss technical issues. It was impossible to find one, so they created their own group. Now Frontownia (that’s what it is called) convenes every two months. Each time it gathers about 100 people focused on graphic design, UI and UX technologies. The meetings are open to the wide front-end community. 

Such meetings can also be organised internally. Inspired by a bunch of people that are keen on Agile and SCRUM methodology in Cognifide, Agile Centre was called into being. The group meets once a week for one hour to share Agile concepts and improve working on projects. The meetings are open to all employees so everyone who wants to know that methodology better is more than welcome. 

Step 4: Spread it!

Let’s talk about attendance at various external sector-wide events now. It is a kind of a final step that is also about creating your own brand and impacting people outside the organisation. Excellent content must be accompanied by great soft skills and presentations skills. At Cognifide, people are happy to share their technical know-how during conferences or lectures. They just feel more comfortable being supported by a professional presentation trainer. Thanks to that they are well prepared to share and exchange their knowledge with other people.

Many things are also happening in Cognifide’s R&D department. The team is working on new solutions and spreading their achievements not only within the company, but also in the whole community via Github portal, a platform for sharing open source software. A different external communication channel is Cognifide’s blog stream where people write about technology and marketing solutions and tools to support the IT community.


“What about the uniqueness of my knowledge? Will I still be an expert if I share it?” you may ask. “Yes” is the answer. Sharing your experience is also gathering new experience. Platforms of discussion may inspire, push us forward and make us open to new challenges. 

There are many benefits that a company can receive through being open to knowledge sharing activities. The bus factor will rise to a really high level and the people who form the organisation will develop their skills and perform better and better. The organisation will also improve its position on the market - it will become the most wanted employer and be known as an excellent expert. Finally, it is a good option for reducing the company’s budget. Instead of hiring a high-cost training company, it’s better to give an opportunity to your own people. At the end of the day, an external trainer will never know the company as well as its employees.

The activities and tools we present are only a part of our all knowledge management efforts. In fact we are still implementing new solutions which we want to share with you. Stay in touch!

I’m one of the lucky ones who can combine passion with everyday work. Since 2012 I’ve been responsible (together with my team) for Cognifide’s employer branding strategy.

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