Particularly in Agile shops, it's critical to grab information opportunistically: when that subject matter expert finally comes up for air long enough to discuss that new implementation you've heard was coming, drop everything and grab a basket to catch that brain dump.
By "brain dump" (dump as in download) we mean a person-to-person transfer of knowledge, often under a tight deadline (such as your expert leaving the company!) Sometimes brain dumps are live software walkthroughs, during which the SME flies through the online process, parenthetically rattling off dangers and limitations as well as future enhancements and open issues. It's what we lovingly call "drinking from the fire hose" because the information density is too high to be consumed, much less retained. In short, you're doomed: If you pay attention enough to formulate good questions, will you have taken sufficient notes? If you take good notes, will you have missed seeing the GUI process flying by on the screen?
In my experience, the best way to benefit from a brain dump is to make it a person-to-media transfer, to capture both the audio and visual information to disk so that you can review it after the fact and harvest out screenshots for reference. Use the time with the SME to pay attention actively and ask for clarification, and let the recording software do the work of capturing the details.
But how to record it? Aren't demo recording tools complex and expensive? Yes, those that are geared for formal training deliverables or commercial webinars cost real money; worse, they won't necessarily be easy to use in a brain dump situation, which won't likely take place on your computer (with your licensed recording tool) and your microphone. It can be even crazier when your SME is remote.
Here are a few tips and tools to get you started:
Don't make the SME do anything but dump.
- In my experience, it doesn't work to ask SMEs to install special software on their systems or to be responsible for managing the recordings. Find a way that is completely hands-off on their part. They're harried enough.
- The MP4 video format is easily shared, uploaded, and viewed across platforms. From your Google account, you can upload this format to an unlisted YouTube video for quick distribution to team members. Done.
Start with what you already have, technology-wise.
- If your company uses Skype for chat and video calls, just use Skype for the demo. Install the Evaer recorder ($20 for unlimited videos), start a video call with the SME, have them share their screen, and record just the remote video along with the combined audio. The SME can demo this way distraction-free, since they aren't doing the recording.
Seek out cross-platform browser-based services.
- Most web conferencing services require a monthly subscription to record demos, but Zoom allows for local MP4 recordings on the free subscription. Create your account, invite your SME to your webinar, and let them share their screen and talk. If it's just the two of you, it's unlimited; for 3-50 participants, you're capped at 40 minutes.
If you've found other cheap solutions for capturing brain dumps, please share!