Thursday, July 22, 2004

Expertise management Still Waiting in the Wings

CIO Insight has a well-rounded introduction to Expertise Management: Who Knows About This?. The tone of the article pitches EM as a trend apart from KM, rather than a sub-topic of it "Because expertise management promises to deliver where knowledge management hasn't, it will have to overcome some bad PR". This is a little dangerous as, whilst the technology may be different, it still needs to fit in a KM framework and not dismiss the KM thinking that has gone before. There's no point in being really good at finding experts that are loathe to share, something the latter part of the article touches on with the issue of incentives.

As a concept its been around about a decade, but its slow uptake is frustrating. One reason given is, as always, power:

"the people who are more traditional in their view of the old command-and-control stuff don't like this. It's peer-to-peer, so it's very threatening to the traditional organization, just like the Web was very threatening."

It is a barrier, but I think there's an earlier barrier of even finding funding for a pilot, and that's getting senior managers (with budgets) to understand there's a problem to be addressed at all. Senior managers have a much easier expertise space to navigate:
1) The knowledge they need tends to be about the organization, so who the 'expert' is normally well-specified by the org chart whereas once you get down to the level of 'Engineer', this does not differentiate what they know.
2) Senior managers have influence so when they ask a question its easier for them to mobilise the organisation to generate a response
3) They trend to travel more so can network face-to-face. In many orgs, those who are naturally talented at networking also get promoted, so those near the top have no empathy with what its like to find it hard to access the right people

[Thanks to Ed Jones for the pointer to this article]

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