In a 2013 survey, the APQC found that while a great deal of effort is being put into expertise finding within organizations, the results could be more effective. The study revealed that even after 10 years, only 36% of these programs were judged as “very effective,” and that was the highest percentage rating of programs from years one through 10.  At the same time, 60 percent of respondents reported using SharePoint. Tools included searchable profiles, discussion forums, collaboration sites, social networking, micro blogging and centralized ask the expert services. The challenge, I believe, is that people leave traces of their knowledge everywhere, not just in a system designed to locate expertise.

Knowledge traces

All of the tools listed above have roles to play, and form parts of the expert profile. However, people leave traces of what they know and are working on, everywhere they work in your organization. In every document they author or edit, every system they work in, every IM and email they send or to which they reply, every piece of information with which they engage. Their mobile device is also a human sensor, tracking what they do, where they are, what their interests are.

Together, this “cloud” of knowledge traces forms a dynamic, always up-to-date, real-time expertise profile of each and every employee. Combined with the original profile and/or resume, it becomes a well-rounded basis for employee connections.  The information itself becomes a candidate for re-use, without going through the KM “capture” phase.  “Capture,” in this sense, becomes “Connect,” as in connecting individuals with information, and through that information, with other individuals.

Understanding Context

People and systems define context, and context qualifies the value of information and knowledge, or its relevance to a particular situation or individual. This includes:

  • who they are (physical)
  • what they are working on (situational)
  • what they know (intent)

An individual’s context may be derived through a combination of information, from their level of implicit knowledge and expertise in a given area to their own background, to the work they are doing at any point in time, within a given system, and even where they are in their work-journey. Add to this personal motivations and aspirations, learning styles and goals, and you have well rounded context.

Content into Context

On the one hand, we have traces of implicit and explicit knowledge spread throughout all systems within an organization, from the desktop to the CRM and everywhere else in databases and the cloud. On the other hand, we have traces of the context of each individual.

What’s left is to connect the dots – to recommend experts within the context of each employee, directly in the system or systems in which they work most.  This way, the engineer in Jacksonville will learn about the engineer in Amsterdam, who has been working on similar products and has some ideas, the combination of which will lead to a new innovation that can create immense value for your organization.  The connection may appear serendipitous, but it will be informed by the traces each employee leaves throughout their work and engagement with your organization.

How does your organization uncover and recommend experts? Does it require employees to go outside of their flow of work to find experts? Is that important?