Re: Identify subject matter experts by information consumption? #expertise-location

Tim Powell

The range of experience thoughtfully represented in this discussion is impressive!


Expertise Mapping and Location (EML) is a huge untapped resource in many organizations — true low-hanging fruit. As reflected in the comments here, it’s typically easier to envision than it is to execute.  There’s an ROI-focused EML case experience described in my new book, which is summarized in the attached article from Baseline magazine.  The payouts can be substantial.


The three main approaches being discussed here are:

(1) deducing expertise through scans of documents produced and/or sought;

(2) building databases/repositories of self-reported and/or assigned expertise/SME status; and

(3) building networks/CoPs that are largely self-defined and transactional (“Who knows about X?”).


In my experience, these as listed are in ascending order of effectiveness.  (2) and (3) can be combined, and this hybrid approach is probably the most powerful.


At best, this results in a sustainable internal “knowledge market” characterized by a vibrant ongoing exchange between knowledge users (i.e., seekers, “buyers”) and knowledge producers (i.e., providers, “sellers”).


The paradox I have observed is that whereas in most (non-knowledge) markets, the buyer pays — in knowledge markets, the seller too often “pays” through giving up his or her time/attention to provide the expertise.  The institutional challenge of providing sufficient rewards and/or recognition to render the effort self-sustaining is the hill that many of these effort stall on, in my experience.





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From: <> on behalf of "Robert L. Bogue" <rbogue@...>
Reply-To: "" <>
Date: Wednesday, February 24, 2021 at 8:15 AM
To: "" <>
Subject: Re: [SIKM] Identify subject matter experts by information consumption?


Wow, those are big topics.


With regard to granularity the problem is a set of conflicting requirements.  If you make things too fine grained the complexity increases and the number of items per category drops – sometimes to irrelevance (one item.)  On the opposite side, if the taxonomy isn’t granular enough then you’ll end up with too many items in a single category and retrieval becomes difficult.  So the answer to your question is fundamentally about finding the balance between the opposing forces.


Experience / Expertise is illusive.  I wouldn’t try to capture except in the broadest scales (1-5) and then assume that it’s mostly wrong.   (ala Dunning Kruger Effect)  I’ve seen lots of attempts to capture experience/expertise and misses the point.  I don’t care how much you know about a topic if you have the answer that solves my problem.


For SME networks the balance is between power gradient and expertise.  Senior people will likely contact senior people first and the second person will do a referral to more specific experience.  Junior people will generally contact other juniors and mid-level people rarely reaching out to senior people because of the power gradient.  Of course culture has a strong impact on this.





Robert L. Bogue

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From: <> On Behalf Of Sam Yip via
Sent: Tuesday, February 23, 2021 10:02 PM
Subject: Re: [SIKM] Identify subject matter experts by information consumption?


Thank you all for the great comments and insights. A lot of valuable insights and there are a few points I’d love to learn more about:  


  • How do you determine the granularity of the taxonomy, which will be used as topics? In general is it always better to have fine-grained terms for taxonomy e.g. “SharePoint data migration” (fine-grained) vs “Information management” (very broad).  Also how do you strike the balance of letting taxonomy evolve on its own (which may be pulled in different directions by different offices across different regions) vs having a closely monitored and centralised taxonomy (at the risk of not keeping up with evolution of expertise/knowledge)?
  • it makes a lot of sense to differentiate experts - expertise - experience. How do you capture experience, or even just familiarity of a process, short of having a full-blown CoP or Q&A forum which requires a coordinated effort? To illustrate by way of example, say I am a project manager at a healthcare corporation at its Chicago office, and have previously looked into the process of applying for patents in Norway. I have spent 40 hours gathering information & requirements before the project was put on hold, but my effort will still be useful for for someone in say London office who is looking to apply for patents in Norway. How do you transfer that? 
  • In your SME networks, is there usually an inherent bias for senior staff, because they have built up sufficient expertise on topics? 

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