Why Expertise Locator for KM for SMEs?
It is often true that knowing who knows what is more valuable than knowing how to do. It is why Expertise Locator has been one of the key tools for Knowledge Management. Expertise Locator has fit typical problems that large corporations with thousands of people have faced: can’t find the right knowledge that should exist somewhere in the organization or somebody’s head. It often leads the organization reinventing the wheel to solve the same problem, just because they don’t know whom to ask what.
Readers may wonder why Expertise Locator for SMEs. If we just focus on sharing who knows what in one small firm, probably we do not need Expertise Locator. You can be familiar with all other employees’ skills, experience, and knowledge, if the number of your colleagues is small. However, how about knowledge sharing among people at many SMEs, or what we call “knowledge cluster?” (For more information, refer “Knowledge Cluster” section.) In a knowledge cluster, you cannot know all people’s skills, experience, and knowledge in all SMEs, but it is strongly needed to connect various expertise to achieve the objectives of the knowledge cluster. This situation is similar to the one of large corporations that requires Expertise Locator. It supports finding the right people with right knowledge at the right time among many SMEs to effectively and efficiently do business together.
What is Expertise Locator?
Expertise Locator (Expert Locator, Who’s Who) is an IT tool to enable effective and efficient use and/or share of existing knowledge by connecting people who need particular knowledge and people who own the knowledge. Sometimes, the system helps building new teams/projects by finding various expertise needed. Expertise Locator can be simple electronic yellow pages, more sophisticated systems to automatically search expertise, or even mixture of IT and people (often called Knowledge Brokers) who support finding and connecting the person who want the knowledge and the person who has the knowledge.
The picture above is an example of Expertise Locator. It usually contains general information of experts such as name, photo, title, and phone number etc, and key knowledge such as project experience, key knowledge domain, and connections with customers etc. The indices of key knowledge depend upon what kind of people/knowledge users want to find; it can focus on technological, operational, or relational knowledge.
How to design and use Expertise Locator?
The usage of Expertise Locator is quite simple. When you want to find someone who has certain knowledge or experience, you access the Expertise Locator, and insert key words of the knowledge to find the right person. To make the system work, however, is not that simple.
1. Define Objectives of KM
Expertise Locator is, eventually, just a tool to connect people with knowledge to people who need it. Before building Expertise Locator, you have to define the objectives (or goals) of KM and to position Expertise Locator as one of the tools only when it fits the objectives of KM.
2. Designing User’s Interface
Like all other IT tools for KM, Expertise Locator needs easy and friendly user’s interface to let people buy in. Especially, the design of indices of knowledge will be the key for users. To avoid no-way-out situation, you have to keep flexibility to change the indices and other interface based on user’s feedback, because you cannot build perfect system from day one.
3. Registering User’s Expertise
This would be the most difficult part of building and utilizing Expertise Locator; there are many Expertise Locators that was built well but couldn’t attract users well to registering their expertise. You can provide incentive for registering. And the best incentive is, probably, the real stories of benefits from registering and using the system. For instance, if one person (or small firm) received a business transaction or get involved to a new project based upon the registered expertise, such a story will spread out over users and let them voluntarily register their expertise and use the system.
4. Maintain the system
Somebody has to watch the usage and reaction of users to improve the system as well as to increase the effectiveness of the system. Maintaining the system to attract and sustain people use it is more important than building it.
When to use / not to use Expertise Locator?
If you know who knows what, there is no reason to build Expertise Locator. Just ask right questions to the right people at the right time. When one of the key problems in your organization is you do not know who knows what or to whom ask what questions, it may be the opportunity to consider Expertise Locator. Again, to find the right people in Knowledge Cluster with many SMEs would be a good opportunity to use Expertise Locator among SMEs.