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Why Your Knowledge Base Needs Automated Dependency Management

By Matt June 13, 2022

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Your organization’s knowledge base is the foundation upon which your technologies, processes, and data co-exist. It plays a key role helping developers build and maintain the software solutions your organization depends on.

As your IT infrastructure becomes more complex, your knowledge management needs do as well. The more information gets stuck in emails, chats, forum posts, and support tickets, the harder it will be for your development team to use those insights to drive value.

Almost all modern development teams rely on third party code to some degree. it’s much easier to build new software using existing libraries, modules, and frameworks. However, this ease comes at a cost. To ensure its software solutions work reliably, your organization has to continuously dedicate resources to managing its third party dependencies.

Third Party Dependencies Come With Risks

Managing third party dependencies always involves some degree of risk. In most cases, the productivity benefits of using pre-existing code far outweigh the potential downsides, but the responsibility for weighing those decisions falls on IT leaders. These risks include:

  • Code updates that break your software build.
  • Unsecured connection protocols that undermine your security posture.
  • Productivity losses due to delegating employee-hours to remediating conflicts and patching vulnerabilities.

Enterprise IT leaders can avoid many of these risks by encouraging software best practices. These include avoiding deprecated interfaces, using abstractions whenever possible, and keeping your code loosely coupled to third-party dependencies in general. You may also wish to use similar sets of dependencies across development, testing, and production environments.

These strategies will prevent some of the most critical dependency-related issues, but they can’t absolve your IT team of its knowledge management responsibilities. Your developers still need to spend a great deal of time manually managing dependencies instead of working on high-value features and functionalities. 

You can’t simply stop using third party code, either. Paying your developers to reinvent the wheel simply doesn’t make economic sense. Instead, you need to establish and enforce an efficient system for dependency management in your knowledge base.

Software Vendors Can’t Shoulder the Responsibility Alone

The US government began adopting open source software in the mid 2010s, prompting vendors to make dependency management easier for enterprise and institutional users. Most of these new initiatives resulted in automated solutions for:

  • Policy-based Dependency Reinforcement. This approach prevents developers from adding unauthorized dependencies, and provides them with a process for seeking dependency approval from administrators.
  • Vulnerability Identification. Security leaders could use these tools to understand the known security risks associated with their current tech stack.
  • Vulnerability Mitigation. These solutions suggest recent dependency versions that include patches that fix known vulnerabilities. 
  • License Compliance. IT leaders need to know how their current slate of third party dependencies are licensed. License compliance tools provide a solution for visualizing this data easily.
  • Build Services. In an open source environment, build services help construct the dependency from source code, ensuring its security and integrity.

While all these features are undoubtedly useful, they do not absolve IT leaders of the responsibility for proactively managing knowledge base content. In practice, these solutions generate a flood of emails and notifications that end up getting lost in an inbox if they are not of immediate critical importance.

Start Driving Value Through Knowledge Management

Effective knowledge management can boost productivity by reducing the amount of time it takes for employees to find, access, and process the data they need. It can streamline the process of managing third-party dependencies and enable a wide range of application analytics benefits that reduce costs across the board.

To make the most of your knowledge base, you need to answer three simple but challenging questions about how your system works:

  1. How do you find things?

If users can’t find data because it’s stored in an arbitrary place, productivity will suffer as a result. This can happen even when your internal data is well-structured. One employees’ idea of good folder structure may not coincide with another’s. Your knowledge base has to make it easy for people to find the information they’re looking for, regardless of where or what it is.

When the data in question involves a third party dependency, obtaining this information can be even more difficult. You can’t easily guarantee the availability of third party data, so you need to incorporate that information as completely as possible in your own internal knowledge base system.

Search functionality is one of the most useful solutions you can integrate into a knowledge base, but it can’t do everything on its own. Duplicate content, ownership issues, and broken dependencies can interfere with knowledge base functionality if not addressed.

  1. Who owns your content?

The wiki format is a powerful solution for maintaining up-to-date information, but it has its drawbacks. It tends to blue ownership rights of individual pages and files, discouraging users from changing content authored by someone else. Instead, most users will simply add a slightly modified copy. 

This confuses later users, who have to choose between multiple copies of the same file. They may not know which one to trust. If they have to make their own changes, a highly disruptive version control conflict may erupt.

Your knowledge base must incorporate a well-defined hierarchy of roles equipped with specific privileges. This will go a long way towards helping users understand content ownership and responsibility.

  1. What happens to obsolete data?

For your knowledge base to remain relevant, it must contain accurate, up-to-date data. Content ownership must transfer along with changing roles within the organization, and individual administrators must be equipped with the appropriate tools to effectively curate data.

There are several ways you can address problems related to obsolete data. Giving users the ability to flag outdated documents is one. You may also wish to support content moderation so that administrators can verify and categorize new content before it gets published. However, these are both time-consuming manual processes with limited capacity to handle third-party dependencies.

To truly streamline your knowledge management capabilities, you need to integrate an application analytics solution capable of automating dependency management across third-party dependencies. This will provide you with accurate, timely information your developers can use without having to spend valuable time on obsolete versions.

Automate Your Knowledge Base with DeltaForce

DeltaForce is an application analytics solution that provides IT users with complete insight into enterprise applications and databases. It boosts developer productivity by establishing a comprehensive knowledge base that can automate complex dependencies between multiple technologies and programming languages. Find out how you can gain insight into the way your IT infrastructure works with our help.

 


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