E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

From the blog

Finding Experts in Your Company … Through Micro-Sharing

Tenerife - Mount Teide & SurroundingsThere is no doubt that one of the big challenges in the corporate world that every single business faces more often than not is the ability to find experts successfully in a timely manner. It’s probably, next to finding information, the number one challenge that every single knowledge worker faces on their day to day workload routines. I’m sure that every company out there has been trying, over and over again, to come up with successful solutions that would help tackle such problem over the course of decades. So as part of those solutions which role do you think social software tools play in helping out solving such issue(s)? Do you think they would help make things easier for us? Make things worse perhaps…?

My good friend, the always insightful and forward-thinking, Gil Yehuda has put together a very comprehensive blog post where he is actually coming up with what could be a really worth while trying effort on tackling this problem of finding experts (I agree with him that using a locked out database won’t be very helpful…). He actually uses the example of Web 2.0 consumer offering Aardvark, that allows people to ask questions, wherever they may well be, to experts in multiple various ways, at the same time that the experts have got plenty of choices on how they would want to respond back. A very interesting and fascinating method for Q&A, which I would agree with could also work very well in an Enterprise environment.

Have a look and read it through over at Finding Experts in Your Company and you will see how Gil’s approach is not so crazy, after all, of moving the working principles from a consumer related social software offering into the corporate world and making it work rather successfully. Here, at IBM, like in many other businesses, we also have this challenge of finding experts, specially when you come to think the IBM entire population (Including contractors) is up to 500k people. And we have taken a whole bunch of different approaches to try to find the best solution. Some of them *do* work, some others are not so efficient. But we keep trying …

Here’s my favourite one though; one of various options, but one that’s starting to grab more and more traction and become an indispensable solution to that everlasting issue of finding the right people at the right time with the right level of information / skills to help us answer even the toughest questions: Enterprise Social Software Micro-sharing/-blogging (Yes, I know, I’m one of those folks who still makes a distinction between micro-sharing and micro-blogging…)

Most folks out there would probably know by now how for a good while we have been exploring the world of micro-sharing/-blogging behind the firewall with research projects like BlueTwit in order to instigate that ambient intimacy, that Leisa Reichelt coined a while ago; or that declarative living that James Governor has been talking about all along or that narrating your work that Dave Winer coined a while ago as well. And it proved to be rather successful for the several thousand people who use it on a regular basis.

But then came our internal deployment of Lotus Connections Profiles and its Boards feature that took the whole concept of micro-sharing/-blogging into a new level. Day in, day out, thousands of micro-messages get shared across and a good chunk of them are interactions taking place directly between experts and seekers of information. And all of that out there, in the open, public and transparent to everyone (Behind the firewall, that is…), so that people have got an opportunity to chime in accordingly, if there would be a need for it, or just learn along the lines.

We are starting to see how plenty of the Q&A interactions that used to take place through traditional, more private & secretive tools, like email, are starting to be moved into such open space as Profiles Boards, with the immediate result that information that was hidden before till the next iteration would take place, now it’s available to everyone through great real-time search engines like SaND. Never mind the transparency that’s been happening all along allowing multiple networks to benefit from the social interactions of, perhaps, a few…

There are plenty of benefits that I could list from fostering this kind of behaviour, and perhaps in a follow up blog post, I will go and list a bunch of them, but for now, I would want to leave you folks with what I think is the main one and which, more and more, knowledge workers are identifying as the real gain for micro-sharing behind the firewall: an opportunity to create a direct, uninterrupted, connection, the spark of a starting and always growing fruitful relationship, between subject matter experts themselves and those seekers of information to help them solve those problems. So that, eventually, SMEs can spend more of their time working on more complex questions / queries, since those relatively simple ones have already been answered in the various social networks making all of that new information available to everyone.

Like I said, I will be coming back to this particular topic, since it’s one of those areas that has always fascinated me all along, coming from a traditional KM & Collaboration background, specially seeing the kind of impact that social software tools are having in helping solve one of the longest, still standing, problems we have been facing from all along in the enterprise world.

If you have ever been thinking about what could well be a good, solid business case for Enterprise micro-sharing/-blogging, I guess this is as good as it gets. And I haven’t even touched the subject of the multiple informal learning processes involved all along through those various open and public social interactions. Even if they are just a few characters at a time …

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  1. My favorite expert locator to this day is still Fringe aka BluePages+1. It was an IBM internal tool developed by a tiny team. It used the standard white pages directory lookup (called BluePages at IBM) and allowed any user to tag any other user with any keyword.

    While only a small subset of people used it, that subset used it extensively and thus a large portion of the population got tagged. As someone gained more tags their tag cloud grew. It was so easy right after you looked someone up to call them to just key in a few keywords about the topic you were discussing.

    I left IBM in 2007 so I am not sure what became of that system, but I loved it.

    @klowey22 is going to lead a discussion on “Expertise Location at #KMers March 30th 12pm ET http://www.kmers.org/topicsuggestion/expertise-location-latest-greatest-ideas-and-approaches

    Hope to see everyone there.


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