Building communities of practice on a business social platform makes it easy for employees to quickly gather solutions from their peers, thereby reducing problem resolution times.
Every large organization tends to contain many employees who do similar or even identical tasks, but who are poorly connected. By forming role-based communities of practice, a business social platform can make it easy for people in similar jobs to share learning. Forums in these communities allow staff with problems or challenges to easily tap into the experience of their peers, and peers are often happy to help, as doing so shapes their reputation and opens opportunities for them. These digital communities allow people separated by distance or divided by department to cooperate as easily as if they were sitting side-by-side.
In this article we consider the difficulties of locating subject matter experts in a corporate setting and look at several digital solutions.
Despite all the FAQs, the tutorials, the walkthrough videos, the information databases, the reference resources, the troubleshooting databases, the searchable help indexes, and the advice blogs, there are still times when it’s necessary to find a real person. Perhaps an expert opinion is required on a specific topic, or a solution is needed to a problem that no one else has experienced before. When these occasions arise, users need methods of locating actual people who are experts in these fields.
Unfortunately, the phonebook is no longer a reliable option. Attempting to search the internet directly from Google is akin to the proverbial hunt for an honest politician: it’s hard to distinguish actual experts with real knowledge from those who fake it for financial gain. While these fakers will always sneak their way into the mix, there are two methods emerging on the internet for identifying real experts with sound advice. Both of these systems can be employed within a corporate setting, allowing people from all corners of a company to seek and share the best of their knowledge.
The first and more obvious solution takes its cue from LinkedIn. Originally imagined as a Facebook for business professionals, LinkedIn has become the phonebook of the internet, allowing users to list their areas of expertise and find other experts based on an assortment of criteria. Translating this to a corporate environment makes a certain amount of sense: having a method of finding all the experts on a particular subject who work within a company can make the process of consulting such experts faster and easier.
Having a “directory of knowledge” within a company isn’t difficult, but it isn’t always enough. Anyone who has tried to manage a collaborative effort knows that the process of emailing multiple people and getting pages of contrasting advice can be a headache and a half. It’s hard to tell on a directory who might be too busy, or away, or simply unwilling to help for any number of valid reasons. Thus, while an up-to-date directory that includes areas of expertise is an important tool, it doesn’t quite solve the problem of drawing on expert opinion.
A better solution is to form what some term “communities of interest.” These are groups of people connected through a forum or other social collaboration medium, united by an expertise and interest in a particular topic. In such groups, a question can be posed, discussed, and answered by any and all members who are available to address the issue. Additionally, such groups can direct more specific queries to experts in those areas.
Such communities are already widely popular on the Internet, and highly useful. Technology companies often create such forums and open them to the public to help users collaborate and troubleshoot issues. Other groups are formed out of a desire to discuss topics with other interested parties and inadvertently become problem resolution teams. Programmers, developers, artists, and writers have carved their own spaces on the internet in which to share their expertise and collaborate on difficult issues.
In a corporate setting, such collaborations can be invaluable. By organizing people of expertise into collaborative groups, they can aid each other, bringing their combined strength to each of their individual tasks. Instead of hunting down and meeting or emailing a dozen different experts, those who seek help can turn to a group that already exists, and use the benefits of a forum setting to work out the best solution to their issue. What’s more, the employees themselves are happy to help, as so doing helps them form their reputation within the organization, which can lead to new opportunities.
There’s an old saying: two heads are better than one. By employing these strategies, an individual gains not a second point of view, but a dozen, allowing any smart employee to quickly brainstorm issues with those best suited to solve them. Human resources are amplified through the power of social collaboration, sparing everyone a good deal of time, effort, and aggravation.
For an enterprise, utilizing a enterprise social network to create Subject Matter Expert directories and focused communities of interest creates essential repositories of knowledge that not only benefits users attempting to locate SMEs but also eliminates the time and effort often wasted as traditional email and in-person requests are passed around from one contact to another. Creating an SME database as well as collaborative communities of interest connects seekers directly to the correct expert, getting questions answered, requests processed, and problems solved with speed and efficiency.
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