Why You Need a Database of Experts

Organisations spend a great deal of time looking for the right expert at the right time in the right context. The idea of profiling and maintaining an updated database of domain and technical experts has become a mantra for success rather than an organisational process. There are many organisations that have benefited from an enterprise-wide expert profiling initiative and this article will explain the importance of the same through a brief narrative.

The story below, told from the perspective of a knowledge manager, explains how collaboration and knowledge management successfully helped one organisation, and one specific employee, to meet the requirements of their role and contributed to the success of the organisation:

Case study

This is the story of Susan, who entered our office on a cold Monday morning having forgotten that she needed to respond to a request for information from Mark, the sales head of IT services, who was visiting a potential customer for a deal that day. Susan received a reminder email for the content she was supposed to send to Mark that stated: ?Hi Susan, Could you please let me know our expertise in MS SharePoint practice and the number of our SharePoint experts?? The question was very simple and to the point.

The request therefore was for two specific pieces of knowledge: Our experience in SharePoint Projects and our total number of experts in SharePoint. Susan?s deadline to collate this information was 10:00am which meant that she had roughly one hour to locate it. Susan?s first response was to call the management information system team (the MIS team) to get this information. The reply she received was: ?We only have information on who is working on each project. And, we do not have details of their experience?.

Next Susan called the human resources team for this information and the reply she received this time was: ?We do have the experience details of all our resources but in MS Word Documents?. Susan knew it was not worth the time it would take to go through each and every resume to get this information because of her deadline.

At a loss as to what she could then do, Susan happened to open an email from the knowledge management team. What team? The KM team who help the organisation to create, store, and share contextual knowledge. This vaguely rang a bell in Susan?s mind. The email she has received was to reinforce the importance of the expert database. She called the contact number provided in the KM email which brought her through to me.

Susan explained that she was from the IT solutions pre-sales team and that she needed information on our SharePoint expertise and the number of experts we had in SharePoint. I assured her that she was talking to the best possible person in the organisation to retrieve that information, as I am the anchor for the enterprise-wide expert database system (the EEDS). Our mission was to ensure the capture of our collective experience and maintain it in a centrally located yet accessible by all system. We call this system the Pinnacle Expert Database (also known as PED).

My understanding was that Susan needed some case studies on our project experiences on SharePoint, current whitepapers from some of our experts, our SharePoint strategy for the year and the total list of SharePoint experts ? all of which she confirmed . I explained that as SharePoint was our organisation?s flagship practice, we are ensuring to leverage this expertise to gain competitive advantage. Susan was surprised to hear that the KM team?s knowledge was that of a customer-facing professional. She was shocked to get the insight she needed from the KM team! I explained that Susan would receive the required information within five minutes.

In my opinion we all are customer facing. All of our actions are towards reaching organisational goals and the KM team is no exception to this. While some departments face our customers directly ? such as sales and CXOs ? some also face them indirectly ? such as presales, KM, etc.

Driving collaboration

Anyone working in an organisation that operates across borders and domains will have potentially come across a scenario similar to the above. Collaboration across departments and borders is a necessary feature of today?s business world. The collaborative knowledge network in this example was an expert database that helped an employee to access important business information which helped with a client meeting.

Knowing what we know as an organisational memory is extremely important. Having a dedicated team or an automated system to take care of this, with timely reviews and updates of the database, makes life easier for all members. An expert database system with up-to-date experience details WILL help any organisation in knowing what it knows and what it does not. With this knowledge, a business can build on its strengths and eliminate its weaknesses.

The above article is based on materials published in the Open Journal of Knowledge Management, Issue VII/2013.

Photo: Mai Le

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