What’s missing from social media efforts: Expertise Management

Way back in 2001 and 2002 I published a couple of research report at Giga about what I saw as an emerging area: expertise management. All the enterprise CRM and PRM vendors were just beginning to talk about enterprise collaboration, and it seemed to me that expertise management was a missing link. In most companies, the team that originally develops a product module is reassigned to other projects when the product ships, so when a customer encounters a problem months or years down the road,  tracking down the correct set of expert participants to brainstorm a solution to a complex problem will be difficult–if not impossible.

That problem is worse today, but I think the solution may be easier. Why is the problem worse? Because now social networking has added a million more experts to the mix. Customers who know the products backwards and forwards. Implementation partners who have run into similar problems in the past. 3rd party experts, including ex-employees of the company, who are happy to chime in with advice. And, as the world of customer communities and internal communities begin to merge, we have a mass audience of potential experts to help solve any problem.

But how do you find them?

It is time to renew my call for expertise management. With all the tracking done on social media activity, it shouldn’t be a big deal to mine online conversations, tag clouds, subject matter expert ratings, etc., to identify experts on any topic. In fact, marketing is already using ‘social listening’ tools to identify influential community members, and support is now evaluating community user rankings and ratings to help identify “power users” among the customer base. So how about going one step further, and provide a mechanism for support techs–and maybe even customers–to find experts on a topic quickly and easily?

I’ve only found one company among our partner network who is tackling this problem with innovative technology: Coveo, known for their enterprise search platform and customer information access solutions. Coveo offers a feature called Expertise Finding that enables users to locate colleagues that hold specific knowledge or expertise by identifying the authors of documents and files related to certain projects, issue resolutions, and more. As Coveo also supports social search, they can mine your customer and employee communities as well, identifying people who frequently post on a topic, or whose online conversations on the topic have been highly rated by the community.

Here’s a description from Coveo:

Coveo finds experts intrinsically, through their work. At the top of the screen you see experts in a certain area, “Oil funding report management,” who are shown due to the work they have done in this area, captured through documents, emails and other types of information.  By highlighting one of the experts, “Lauren Boyle,” you can see exactly what she has been working on related to the topic.  You can quickly see if Lauren is the expert you need, you can review her work in this area and you have her contact information to reach out to her.

Some of Coveo’s customers also integrate unified communications with this, so that you can also see availability, and with just a click, connect with that person. With online availability now captured in more communities, this means you can reach out to anyone, anywhere, in real time, to solve a customer problem.

What is your company doing to streamline the location of experts? Does your definition of experts include customers and other external folks? As companies continue to build out communities, I would encourage you to keep expertise management in mind, and find a way to mine your corporate and community content to find subject matter experts and leverage their expertise. With today’s tech support issues growing more complex each year, expecting a single tech support analyst to know everything–even with knowledge tools at their disposal–is not realistic.

Bottom line: looking forward, it may take a village to diagnose and resolve more complex issues. The village already exists–now we just have to start using the villagers. As always, thanks for reading!

Explore posts in the same categories: Best Practices, knowledge management, social media, Technology

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4 Comments on “What’s missing from social media efforts: Expertise Management”


  1. […] new capabilities for quickly identifying experts on specific topics. As John Ragsdale points out in this blog post, as social media and self-help communities become omnipresent, vast seas of experts will form to […]


  2. […] new capabilities for quickly identifying experts on specific topics. As John Ragsdale points out in this blog post, as social media and self-help communities become omnipresent, vast seas of experts will form to […]


  3. […] new capabilities for quickly identifying experts on specific topics. As John Ragsdale points out in this blog post, as social media and self-help communities become omnipresent, vast seas of experts will form to […]


  4. […] element–is how to know who the expert is to ask. This is where expertise management comes in. I have blogged before about the importance of expertise management, and I’m hoping more companies begin to include requirements for this in their KM/enterprise […]


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