Expertise Location and Social Sofware

Today’s Wall Street Journal has an article on How to Find In-house Experts in a Big Company by researchers Izak Benbasat, Dorit Nevo and

Yair Wand. The traditional approach is the centralized credentialing of experts, which fails with dynamic organizations adapting to change. Expertise-location systems also fail to share less formal attributes of expertise such as trustworthiness, communication skills and propensity to help.

They believe the answer to this problem is, no surprise, enterprise social software:

Activities and interactions that occur in blogs, wikis and social
networks naturally provide the cues that are missing from current
expertise-search systems. A search engine that mines internal blogs,
for example, where workers post updates and field queries about their
work, will help searchers judge for themselves who is an expert in a
given field. Wiki sites, because they involve collaborative work, will
suggest not only how much each contributor knows, but also how eager
they are to share that knowledge and how well they work with others.

Tags and keywords, which are posted by employees and serve as flags
for search engines, can reveal qualities in an expert that are far from
transparent in any database or directory. And social networks can help
employees use existing relationships to not only reach out to distant
experts but also trust them more than they would complete strangers.

In what follows, we explain in more detail why social computing can
help companies manage their in-house expertise more effectively.

To build upon their conclusions, it is important to note the role of Microblogging and Activity Steams in social software platforms. Microblogging offers a lower threshold for participation that both helps onboard new people to social software and allows more granular social signaling. Activity Streams help pull together events not just from social software, but other enterprise systems where experts are active.

From a systems point of view, social software out performs traditional expertise-location systems. But the important point is it doesn’t create byproducts for getting things done, waste at the center and can be transformational for organizations beyond expertise.

(Cross-posted @ Ross Mayfield's Weblog)

Chairman, President & Co-founder of Socialtext, a leading Enterprise Social Software provider. Previously  VP of Marketing for a Fujitsu spinout and CEO of an enterprise risk management software company. Co-founded RateXchange (AMEX:RTX), the leading B2B commodity exchange for telecom, founded an ISP, a web-design company, and has served on a number of Advisory Boards of high tech startups. Mayfield is a former advisor to the Office of the President of Estonia and began his career in the non-profit sector. He is a noted blogger, industry expert, conference speaker. 
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