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How to capitalize on in-house experts -- Inmagic Year in Review 2009

Last week we kicked off our Inmagic Year in Review 2009 series by recollecting the "Is enterprise 2.0 a crock?" idea. Today I want to revisit another hot topic of 09: In-house experts, and how organizations can best benefit from them.

Finding an expert is an informal process, as this Wall Street Journal article explored in October. That's because in-house experts aren't just the usual suspects, such as lead scientists, executive technologists, and head researchers. They're many employees -- amateurs, even, as Ross Dawson highlighted in August.

In-house experts are a crucial form of knowledge within an organization. Just as we need to find and extract information from books, articles, documents, etc., we need to find and extract information that lives within employees' minds.

For instance, a sales associate might know that slides 3, 5, 11 of a new PowerPoint presentation resonated well with a certain prospect. This is important information for the sales team moving forward. When other salespeople use the presentation, they'll know to be sure to go over those slides, and expand on the information contained in them.

This PowerPoint presentation, as well as books, documents, etc., are forms of explicit information, and can be searched in a fairly structured way. But information that resides within employees is tacit, fluid, and constantly changing.

Continuing with our example, say several salespeople use the PowerPoint and discover that slides 3, 5, and 11 only resonate well with prospects within a particular industry. The tacit knowledge surrounding the PowerPoint presentation has been refined.

The challenge for organizations, then, is to find, collect, and share this knowledge that exists within in-house experts -- whether those "experts" are senior executives or junior associates. This was a common theme we found among organizations in 2009. Our take on it, as you'd expect, is that this is an opportunity for social media in the enterprise.

Social technology is fluid in nature, and can make the expert seekers and the experts themselves self-sufficient in finding and providing information. For instance, when employees have the ability to add their knowledge directly to implicit information, such as with comments and ratings, they can share their knowledge with others. This is the nutshell of social knowledge management.

Social knowledge management acts as a connector of people -- with all of their thoughts, ideas, and opinions -- to relevant content. Putting context around content is what will enable organizations to quantify, analyze, and experience collaboration improvements around their knowledge strategies.

One major improvement is knowledge retention, which is a natural by-product of social knowledge management. Capturing implicit knowledge that is tied to relevant content relieves companies of the aging workforce and turnover rates that challenge knowledge retention.

More hot trends and topics of 2009 to come ...

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