Today's Wall Street Journal has an article on How to Find In-house Experts in a Big Company by researchers Izak Benbasat, Dorit Nevo and Yair Wand. The traditional approach is the centralized credentialing of experts, which fails with dynamic organizations adapting to change. Expertise-location systems also fail to share less formal attributes of expertise such as trustworthiness, communication skills and propensity to help.
They believe the answer to this problem is, no surprise, enterprise social software:
Activities and interactions that occur in blogs, wikis and social networks naturally provide the cues that are missing from current expertise-search 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. And social networks can help employees use existing relationships to not only reach out to distant experts but also trust them more than they would complete strangers.
In what follows, we explain in more detail why social computing can help companies manage their in-house expertise more effectively.
To build upon their conclusions, it is important to note the role of Microblogging and Activity Steams in social software platforms. Microblogging offers a lower threshold for participation that both helps onboard new people to social software and allows more granular social signaling. Activity Streams help pull together events not just from social software, but other enterprise systems where experts are active.
From a systems point of view, social software out performs traditional expertise-location systems. But the important point is it doesn't create byproducts for getting things done, waste at the center and can be transformational for organizations beyond expertise.
UPDATE: A more detailed article by the above researchers is available in the MIT-Sloan Management Review, including this infographic: