Finding In-House Experts Isn’t Easy

Why is it so difficult to quickly find someone in my organization to answer a pressing question, provide advice about a procedure, explain how to use some software, or tell me where to find an expert, course, or document?

I rely on my network to connect me to other people and information because I cannot know and will not try to know everything.  I use the internal “knowledge management” and “learning management” systems.  I am not completely helpless.  But sometimes I just don’t know what I don’t know and I need input from an expert.

I know there are in-house experts in my organization.  What can my organization do to help me connect to and leverage these experts more easily?  Experts with specialized knowledge and skills are an invaluable resource for me.

No t leveraging the in-house experts seems like such a waste.

How many problems go un-solved, how many new ideas never get imagined, how many experts feel underappreciated because people like me cannot easily tap into the in-house pool of experts?

My organization deployed a “expert locator” and “social networking” system in order to help employees quickly find and leverage in-house expertise but these systems provide a half baked solution.  I need to know more about the experts and not just their organizational affiliation, work experience, competencies, and certifications.  I also need to know some “softer” qualities such as their trustworthiness, communication style, personality traits, and willingness to help others in need.  I would also like to know how others feel about the experts when they tapped into them.

What do you look for in an expert and what “tools” are best suited for conveying the information you want to know about experts?

Dorit Nevo, Izak Benbasat and Yair Wand conducted a study to answer this question.

Dr. Nevo is a professor of management information­ systems at Schulich School of Business, York University, Toronto. Dr. Benbasat is a Canada research chair in information­ technology management at Sauder School of Business, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. Dr. Wand is a Canfor professor of management information­ systems at Sauder School of Business.

This following illustration (click on “key findings”) summarizes the key findings of the survey distributed to users of “expert locator” systems:

Key Findings

Some key conclusions from the research:

  • Activities and interactions that occur in blogs, wikis and social networks naturally provide the cues that are missing from current expert locator systems.
  • A search engine that mines internal blogs, for example, where workers post updates and field queries about their work, will help searchers judge for themselves who is an expert in a given field.
  • Wiki sites, because they involve collaborative work, will suggest not only how much each contributor knows, but also how eager they are to share that knowledge and how well they work with others.
  • Tags and keywords, which are posted by employees and serve as flags for search engines, can reveal qualities in an expert that are far from transparent in any database or directory.

I like this study because it demonstrates the hidden value of blogs and wikis.

This study also helps us further understand that the formal organizational chart and company designated experts are not necessarily the best “maps” for finding expertise or the most qualified experts in the company.

Social media such as blogs and wikis will help us to identify the established and emerging experts and to go beyond the “usual suspects.”

Here is a link to an online article with more details: Source for this post


5 responses to “Finding In-House Experts Isn’t Easy

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  2. This can also be turned on its ear. If you’re considered an “in-house expert”, do yourself a favor and document everything you know on the internal wiki to save yourself the trouble of constant questions. And for their managers – codify their knowledge of business processes before they move on to another job!

  3. cleavefast

    Noted that a few people on Twitter posted comment, “I don’t agree.” I’m curious what they don’t agree with – anybody know?

    I think I’m being naive – it seems ‘obvious’ to me.

    Thanks for the post, useful information. (@bfchirpy)

    • daretoshare

      Thank you for your comment and question.

      LIke you, I am uncertain what was meant by the few people who posted the comment “I don’t agree.” My educated guess is that these few people believe it is easy to find in-house experts.

      The two main points of the blog post were 1) it’s difficult to find the “best” in-house experts especially when you do not have knowledge of their “softer” qualities and 2) standard “expert locater” systems do not provide information about the “softer” qualities.

      I was not suggesting that it’s difficult to find so called in-house experts full stop.

      Perhaps my blog post was too vague and failed to bring forth the two main points.

      Before I follow the advice of an in-house expert that I have never met or that has never worked with me, I want to know whether that person is trustworthy, has a track record of helping other people, has a compatible personality – in addition to the characteristics and capabilities generally available on the “expert locater” system (such as has certain certifications, has years of experience, has sufficient community endorsements, etc.). I would therefore go and read what the in-house expert has included on Wikis, Blogs, and discussion forums and not rely just on the information provided by the “expert locater” system.

      Sorry for such a lengthy reply…..I hope this was helpful.

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