I found this article from my new colleague, Carol Rozwell. It is an interesting article and worth reading. Perhaps though, it is too enthusiastic about social tools (blogs, wikis, social networks, tagging) in-and-of-themselves solving a complex challenge in many large organizations (finding experts/expertise). My comments might make more sense after you read the article (link below) - and it is worth reading by the way. I do believe that social environments can have a powerful impact on an organization's "lateral connectivity" so to speak (vs. top-down). As background, I've looked at expertise location/automation systems since they emerged in the late nineties with Tacit (recently acquired by Oracle) perhaps being the most well-known.
1. Scarcity: In many situations - "the expert" is already very busy and/or there are not enough experts to go around. Having experts more easily discoverable and accessible may make matters worse for that individual.
2. Accessibility: In other situations, the expert is not visible due to policies that prevent communication between different business units, or for reasons related to security. That is why some expertise location products supported single-blind and double-blind filters to handle sensitive use case scenarios.
2. Ownership: Management might not want to make the expert visible, or share the expert with others in the organization. There could be a variety of reasons for such a situation. Politics of course could be one reason.
4. Incentives: The way managers (and expert for that matter) are incented to complete a project or task-at-hand may make that activity a higher priority than helping colleagues. Not all requests for expertise are simply Q&A resolved in a few minutes over the phone. Some interactions might span days and take up a noticeable amount of time or even a deliverable of some sort -without some type of compensation / reward / incentive / recognition (formal or social), the manger and/or expert may not engage with the requestor.
5. Time: It takes more time to participate in social tools. While it's nice to think that people will blog frequently, take on the role of a wiki gardener, etc - these activities are often voluntary. Since participation in communities and social network sites are often at the discretion of employees - they may not have the time to contribute on any type of regular basis.
6. Personal Value: De-valuing personal brand might be another reason for these tools to be less-than-perfect. There is a very good argument that participation and contribution improves your personal brand but that argument is somewhat dependent on the culture of the organization. In some organizations that are highly competitive, or live in a world of sensitive intellectual property - there may be barriers to the type of open and transparent sharing that makes expertise easily discoverable. In "unhealthy cultures", or when job longevity is a concern, people may believe that they are over-sharing what might be one asset that keeps them around. In environments that are "need to know" - information silos may prevent the type of lateral connections social environments might promote.
These are some of the reasons who organizational factors need to be considered in addition to tooling. I do agree the with main gist of the article and the proposed benefits in a general sense can be compelling. However, I typically find "expertise" over-sold when framed in techno-centric manners or when it is based on altruistic participation and contributions that may not exist in many workplace environments. I would also point out that participation and contribution in social environments is opening up an exciting area around social analytics. Topics such as social identities, social roles, reputation, and community equity will be fascinating to watch unfold.
Who Knows What? - Business Insight - Wall Street Journal / MIT Sloan - MIT Sloan Management Review
Every company has in-house experts. So why don’t they use them more?
In-house experts, with their specialized knowledge and skills, could be invaluable to both colleagues and managers. But often workers who could use their help in other departments and locations don’t even know they exist.
Talk about a waste! Because of an inability to tap expertise, problems go unsolved, new ideas never get imagined, employees feel underutilized and underappreciated. These are things that no business can afford anytime—let alone in this tough economic climate. Which is why so-called expertise-locator systems have become a hot topic in corporate IT.