» Archive for the 'Expertise Systems' Category

Seeking the Forest of Experts Through the Trees

Thursday, October 29th, 2009 by Jonathan Spira

The problem of Information Overload has significantly exacerbated the problem of finding an expert.

Where are the experts?

Where are the experts?

Do a search and you’ll get 564,768 results.  Of course searches only address explicit information.  Most information is tacit knowledge that resides in the minds of experts.  When those experts leave the office in the evening, they take that knowledge with them.  Of course, some may never return and take their expertise to a new job and/or employer.

There are myriad ways knowledge workers use to locate an expert, but two stick out in my mind:  1.) asking a few close colleagues and getting a limited number of answers, and 2.) sending an “all-hands” e-mail to hundreds or thousands of colleagues in which one’s query is stated.  In thousands of companies across the land, e-mail messages that state “does anyone know anything about…” or “does anyone know anyone who knows the VP of marketing at…” are commonplace.

Of course, the all-hands method is very disruptive and adds to the problem of Information Overload.  An e-mail query that should only have gone to a handful of colleagues but went to 500 cost the company 1.7 days (ca. 40 hours) in lost man-hours when you calculate the impact of the interruption to 488 people who didn’t have to receive it.  Of course, that e-mail dance probably happens multiple times a week despite the results of this search technique being modest at best.

Expertise location tools, which have been around for well over a decade, have been unable to keep up with what people know (no surprise there) and who the experts are.  A Basex research report from 2002 profiled expertise location and management platforms from eight companies.  Five of them have disappeared, one was purchased by Oracle, and the other two (Lotus and Sopheon) were not focused solely on solving the problem.

Social software may give us more breadcrumbs in determining the answer to the “who knows what” question but much work is still needed to create a platform that integrates expertise location into commonly-used enterprise tools (both to locate as well to rate experts).

Before that, however, one should focus efforts on lowering the overall amount of Information Overload within an organization, as doing that will make it much easier to see the forest of experts through the trees.

A wealth of Information Overload resources including a three-minute movie on the topic featuring senior executives discussing how Information Overload impacts them may be found on our Information Overload microsite.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

Enterprise Social Networking: Some thoughts from the Online Community Unconference 2009

Thursday, February 19th, 2009 by Cody Burke

Last week I moderated the Social Networking in the Enterprise session at the Online Community Unconference East 2009 in New York.

The theme for the session was Social Networking in the Enterprise.  We discussed trends in social networking that are both internal and external to the enterprise.  In attendance were over 15 knowledge workers from a variety of organizations including Crowd Fusion, IBM, Leader Networks, Leverage Software, McKinsey, MediaVision, Ramius, SAP, Social Intent, Symphonic Consulting, and Time among others.

Here is what we discussed.

Despite the proliferation of social networking, many organizations remain clueless in this area.  Ultimately most companies want to use social networking to improve collaboration and knowledge sharing but they are not sure as to how to proceed.  In addition, many organizations feel pressured to use public social networks for marketing purposes, but they typically do not have a clearly defined set of goals in mind.

It is also important to recognize that building a social networking presence requires a lot of work behind the scenes.  Just because everyone else has a corporate Facebook page does not mean that it is right for your company.  Clearly, more thought needs to go into the benefits of developing a social networking presence in the context of an organizations identity and its own requirements.

One thing was clear (at least to me), companies that develop social networking tools for the enterprise will need to educate decision makers about the benefits of social networking tools in order to gain traction in the marketplace.

Another interesting topic was that of expertise location, something Basex has reported on extensively.  Many knowledge workers experience difficultly in finding subject matter experts, i.e. a Russian speaker or someone who understands how to deploy a specific software solution, and view social networking tools as a possible solution.  Another interesting trend is that some companies are considering deploying fairly sophisticated social networking tools although they have not yet deployed fairly basic community and collaboration tools (such as instant messaging).  That type of leap may not work very well for their knowledge workers.  Social networking tools add an additional level of complexity that some may not be quite ready for.

In terms of knowledge sharing, we heard that many knowledge workers are still information hoarders and have not learnt that there is tremendous value in sharing information with colleagues.  If an organization can’t get past this obstacle, it will not be able to compete successfully in the knowledge economy, where knowledge sharing is, of course, de rigeur.

The foregoing was just a brief overview.  As with most good discussions, more questions were raised than there was time to answer them, but the quality of both people and ideas that were present was refreshing, and we at Basex look forward to continuing this conversation.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.

Three Visionary Views: Basex Strategic Thinkers Conference, September 2004

Friday, October 1st, 2004 by Jonathan Spira

As frequent attendees of Basex Strategic Thinkers conferences know, one won’t find the VP of marketing from an IT company on the podium presenting his company’s 12-18 month roadmap.  Most speakers are end users, seasoned executives with experience in selecting, deploying, and managing Collaborative Business Environments (CBEs) and they speak about their experience in the trenches.

It is, however, equally important to hear from the companies that supply the tools used to build Collaborative Business Environments.  To round out the program, Basex invites senior executives from vendor companies to participate in the Visionary Vendor panel.  Each of the selected companies thrives on innovation and we ask executives to detail their long-term views on how Collaborative Business Environments will evolve and what the collaborative workplace will be like in a three to five year timeframe.  We also proscribe their presenting a 12-18 month product roadmap or infomercial.

So what did the Visionary Vendors have to say?  Elizabeth Eiss, president and chief operating officer of Xpert Universe, an expertise location company, pointed out that undocumented knowledge will be key to successful Collaborative Business Environments.  Basex’ own research demonstrates that most knowledge (as much as 80%) is stored in people’s heads, and that this resource leaves the building at the end of the day.  Managing it  – and making it accessible throughout the enterprise – will be a key challenge.  Moreover, creating rich tools with a CBE – possibly even replicating a face-to-face meeting virtually – will make all the difference.  When deploying such tools as expertise location, companies, Eiss pointed out, will need to adhere to Basex’ One Environment Rule to provide a rich user experience.

Graham Glynn, founder and CEO of Learning Management Solutions, pointed out that knowledge workers really need a single environment for accessing and organizing information – one that essentially follows them from cradle to grave, making it as simple to go to last week’s presentation file as course material from university a decade earlier.  This type of tool should serve the individual user, first and foremost, he noted, and should cover both personal and professional activities.  The challenge ahead is to connect information from multiple sources into information sets appropriate for projects and special interests.  Who hasn’t wanted to go back five or ten years, to coursework from university or notes from a chance meeting?

Eric Winsborrow, senior vice president, corporate strategy, for Cloudmark, an e-mail security company, stood in at the last moment for Cloudmark CEO Karl Jacob, and pointed out that many companies are still caught in an unsuccessful battle against spam e-mail.  If this scourge is not resolved sooner rather than later, the very effectiveness of the tools we rely upon on a minute-by-minute basis, such as e-mail, will be significantly diminished.  Spam e-mail represents a grave risk for the future of CBEs if not contained.  Attendees might’ve imagined they were suddenly in a university biology class, when Winsborrow turned his attention to the DNA of spam e-mail messages.  E-mail – as well as other documents – has a genetic map and each message a DNA.  Classifying e-mail messages by genetic similarity may provide a new means of identifying spam e-mail more accurately.  Spam e-mail has, in effect, “SpamGenes.”

The outlook for the future of Collaborative Business Environments, according to our speakers, is bright.  CBEs will allow knowledge workers to tap experts and tacit knowledge, and will maintain that knowledge and more from cradle to grave.  The CBE will be spam free, for the most part, as tools which identify spam based on a message’s DNA will get knowledge workers the messages they need and relegate junk mail to the dustbin.

Ellen Pearlman is a senior analyst at Basex.


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