Reference Database Question #expertise-location


Emily Hoelting <emhoelting@...>
 

Hi Everyone,
I was asked this question by someone in my company.  Does anyone have any additional information or insight on this subject?  Any feedback is greatly appreciated!  Thanks!
 
Below is the email that was posed to me:
 
Emily,
 
I was given your name and told that you might be able to answer a few questions I have regarding knowledge management.  If you could provide any assistance I would really appreciate it.
 
I work in core estimating and we're working on developing a database (using Microsoft Access) to track all IDS Estimating employees and their past work experiences.  The purpose of this database is mainly two fold:
            1. to be able to assess where we need to develop training plans
            2. as a reference database to locate individuals with necessary skills.
 
Do you think this fits in with knowledge management?  Do you know of any resources, either people or applications, that might be able to assist in our development so that we don't have to reinvent the wheel?  Do you have any other advice/comments on this?
 
Please let me know your thoughts when you find the time.  I am very willing to get into more detail if you require it.


 


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Jack Vinson <jackvinson@...>
 

Emily-
 
Welcome to the world of "expertise location" and "corporate yellow pages" and probably several other names.  This kind of topic has seen quite a lot of play in KM efforts over the years.  Sadly, just as frequently, these kinds of efforts fall rather flat.  When I worked at Searle / Monsanto, there were tons of "expertise" databases in the Lotus Notes system.  As far as I could tell, very few of them were actively used / updated.  I've heard similar stories from many others.
 
Sorry to be so negative. 
 
The spirit behind these services is good, I think.  People recognize that everyone has different skill sets / competencies.  And they want to find ways to match "what people know" to "what we need."  The concern is that it is not a little difficult to record even baseline information on what people know and keep it up to date.  And then match that with the even harder work of prognosticating "what we need," and you get the situation I saw at Monsanto.
 
I suppose the next question is how does one make something like this work.  I think one path is to work with the HR organization develop a competency map / plan, and move from there. 
 
I would also wonder what are the underlying business issues that are driving the perceived need for such a system. 
 
Regards,
 
Jack Vinson, Ph.D.
Knowledge Jolt, Inc.
 


From: sikmleaders@... [mailto:sikmleaders@...] On Behalf Of Emily Hoelting
Sent: Thursday, July 26, 2007 5:21 PM
To: sikmleaders@...
Subject: [sikmleaders] Reference Database Question

Hi Everyone,
I was asked this question by someone in my company.  Does anyone have any additional information or insight on this subject?  Any feedback is greatly appreciated!  Thanks!
 
Below is the email that was posed to me:
 
Emily,
 
I was given your name and told that you might be able to answer a few questions I have regarding knowledge management.  If you could provide any assistance I would really appreciate it.
 
I work in core estimating and we're working on developing a database (using Microsoft Access) to track all IDS Estimating employees and their past work experiences.  The purpose of this database is mainly two fold:
            1. to be able to assess where we need to develop training plans
            2. as a reference database to locate individuals with necessary skills.
 
Do you think this fits in with knowledge management?  Do you know of any resources, either people or applications, that might be able to assist in our development so that we don't have to reinvent the wheel?  Do you have any other advice/comments on this?
 
Please let me know your thoughts when you find the time.  I am very willing to get into more detail if you require it.

 


Matt Moore <laalgadger@...>
 

Hello,

I have seen these databases work well where people's
jobs depend on them - e.g. as resource management
tools for staff in a consulting organisation - having
up-to-date details helps you get resourced onto work
and clients often ask for recent CVs. Even then, some
consultants claimed never to have got work through
standard resource mgt but always through their own
contacts.

I think these systems work well with clearly defined &
easily assessed skill sets that are strongly aligned
to the work that people actually do.

The problems arise when they move outside those narrow
parameters (as many of them do) into less-charted
waters. And let's not even get into the difference
between the ability to identify expertise, accessing
it and utilising it.

Maybe the critical questions to ask is: "What existing
business decisions will be impacted by this exercise?
How will participants directly benefit in the
short-term? What will happen to them if they don't?"

N.B. The investment in creating & maintaining these
databases is not zero. If you are billion-$-a-year
consulting business then they can be worth it.

Matt

--- Jack Vinson <jackvinson@comcast.net> wrote:

Emily-

Welcome to the world of "expertise location" and
"corporate yellow pages"
and probably several other names. This kind of
topic has seen quite a lot
of play in KM efforts over the years. Sadly, just
as frequently, these
kinds of efforts fall rather flat. When I worked at
Searle / Monsanto,
there were tons of "expertise" databases in the
Lotus Notes system. As far
as I could tell, very few of them were actively used
/ updated. I've heard
similar stories from many others.

Sorry to be so negative.

The spirit behind these services is good, I think.
People recognize that
everyone has different skill sets / competencies.
And they want to find
ways to match "what people know" to "what we need."
The concern is that it
is not a little difficult to record even baseline
information on what people
know and keep it up to date. And then match that
with the even harder work
of prognosticating "what we need," and you get the
situation I saw at
Monsanto.

I suppose the next question is how does one make
something like this work.
I think one path is to work with the HR organization
develop a competency
map / plan, and move from there.

I would also wonder what are the underlying business
issues that are driving
the perceived need for such a system.

Regards,

Jack Vinson, Ph.D.
Knowledge Jolt, Inc.
http://www.jackvinson.com


_____

From: sikmleaders@yahoogroups.com
[mailto:sikmleaders@yahoogroups.com] On
Behalf Of Emily Hoelting
Sent: Thursday, July 26, 2007 5:21 PM
To: sikmleaders@yahoogroups.com
Subject: [sikmleaders] Reference Database Question


Hi Everyone,
I was asked this question by someone in my company.
Does anyone have any
additional information or insight on this subject?
Any feedback is greatly
appreciated! Thanks!

Below is the email that was posed to me:

Emily,

I was given your name and told that you might be
able to answer a few
questions I have regarding knowledge management. If
you could provide any
assistance I would really appreciate it.

I work in core estimating and we're working on
developing a database (using
Microsoft Access) to track all IDS Estimating
employees and their past work
experiences. The purpose of this database is mainly
two fold:
1. to be able to assess where we need to
develop training plans
2. as a reference database to locate
individuals with necessary
skills.

Do you think this fits in with knowledge management?
Do you know of any
resources, either people or applications, that might
be able to assist in
our development so that we don't have to reinvent
the wheel? Do you have
any other advice/comments on this?

Please let me know your thoughts when you find the
time. I am very willing
to get into more detail if you require it.




____________________________________________________________________________________
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Stan Garfield
 

Hi, Emily.

 

>Developing a database to track all IDS Estimating employees and their past work experiences:

> 1. to be able to assess where we need to develop training plans

> 2. as a reference database to locate individuals with necessary skills.

 

>Do you have any other advice/comments on this?

 

Jack and Matt have provided good advice.  I want to add a suggestion based on my experience.

 

Community discussion forums are excellent for locating expertise.  If there is already a forum or distribution list for IDS Estimating employees, then it can be used.  If not, you can recruit a thought leader, activist, or respected individual to create, launch, build, and maintain such a forum.

 

In order for such a forum to function as an expertise locator, it should have a critical mass of experts in the topic, an active moderator, and a community norm that questions and requests posted to the forum will receive timely replies.  If these criteria are met, then you don't need to know who the IDS estimating employees are - you just need to know that they belong to the forum, and how to post to it.

 

As Jack and Matt pointed out, even if you work with HR to create a skills inventory database, you will have a challenge in getting employees to enter their data and then to maintain it.  Even in consulting firms where it is in the consultants' interest in order to stay billable, they tend not to like updating their skills profiles.

 

If your company already has a training history database, you can use it to see which courses have already been taken and by whom.  To develop training plans, you can ask the members of the community forum for their suggestions and requirements.  A combination of collection (databases) and connection (communities) can yield the desired results.

 

Regards,

Stan


Tom Short <tom.short@...>
 

FWIW, here is a link to a list of software vendors offering dedicated
expertise location/social networking packages for business use:
http://www.cioinsight.com/article2/0,1540,1621847,00.asp

The fact these exist might provide an insight regarding the merit of
trying to "roll your own" using database software.


Valdis Krebs <valdis@...>
 

My experience is very similar to Jack's. Having worked on several skills data bases and skills matching apps in Fortune 500 companies [as an employee, before I started my business] I can not point to one that succeeded for its intended use. Oh, we got the technology right -- on time, and within budget -- but the systems were never used as intended and sadly never used much... period. Techology worked, sociology did not.

There is a lot more to using expertise than matching skills needed to skills offered... even if they are updated. The more complex and fuzzy the knowledge/expertise to be utilized the more difficult this is. I can see an effort like this working amongst accountants -- whose work products are much more "chunkable" based on laws and established accounting practices -- than amongst scientists, designers, or anyone else that must "create within context".

Another human trait also works against the perfect matching of skills and needs... most people would rather work with a "good enough" match that they "get along with" than the perfect expert who is difficult to talk to or understand. We have seen this often in various social network mapping we have done around expertise and "go-to" people.

Much of learning is social and informal. I just started working with an organization that has taken part of the formal [classroom] training budget and is using that money to focus on informal/social learning. Their working hypothesis is that in "key knowledge for the firm", most of the learning is expert/mentor/peer driven through informal/social learning. They will be using social network maps to show where these patterns exist.

Valdis

On Jul 27, 2007, at 12:09 AM, Jack Vinson wrote:

Welcome to the world of "expertise location" and "corporate yellow pages" and probably several other names. This kind of topic has seen quite a lot of play in KM efforts over the years. Sadly, just as frequently, these kinds of efforts fall rather flat. When I worked at Searle / Monsanto, there were tons of "expertise" databases in the Lotus Notes system. As far as I could tell, very few of them were actively used / updated. I've heard similar stories from many others.

The spirit behind these services is good, I think. People recognize that everyone has different skill sets / competencies. And they want to find ways to match "what people know" to "what we need." The concern is that it is not a little difficult to record even baseline information on what people know and keep it up to date. And then match that with the even harder work of prognosticating "what we need," and you get the situation I saw at Monsanto.


Valdis Krebs <valdis@...>
 

Yes, the more clearly defined skill sets, the simpler the jobs, the less contextual the jobs, the easier it is to use a reference database. Your last sentence is key, Matt:

the ability to identify expertise, accessing it and utilising it.
Context, availability, overlap, EQ, personality, media available, all come into play seeking knowledge/assistance/learning inside or outside the organization.

Rob Cross talks abut several factors that are necessary to effectively transfer knowledge between people.
1) I must be aware of what you know -- here an updated data base can help.
2) I must have access to you. I must know you, or have the opportunity to be introduced to you. You must be available.
3) I must feel comfortable with you, and you with me... there must be some level of trust
4) We must both have the time, energy and commitment to see this through. Most knowledge transfer is not: "The answer is 42."

Valdis

On Jul 27, 2007, at 9:41 AM, Matt Moore wrote:

I have seen these databases work well where people's
jobs depend on them - e.g. as resource management
tools for staff in a consulting organisation - having
up-to-date details helps you get resourced onto work
and clients often ask for recent CVs. Even then, some
consultants claimed never to have got work through
standard resource mgt but always through their own
contacts.

I think these systems work well with clearly defined &
easily assessed skill sets that are strongly aligned
to the work that people actually do.

The problems arise when they move outside those narrow
parameters (as many of them do) into less-charted
waters. And let's not even get into the difference
between the ability to identify expertise, accessing
it and utilising it.


Emily Hoelting <emhoelting@...>
 

All of you guys are giving me some wonderful inisght and great feedback.  I really appreciate your time and honest advice on this.  There is much to consider.  Thank you all very much,
Emily

Valdis Krebs wrote:
Yes, the more clearly defined skill sets, the simpler the jobs, the
less contextual the jobs, the easier it is to use a reference
database. Your last sentence is key, Matt:

> the ability to identify expertise, accessing it and utilising it.

Context, availability, overlap, EQ, personality, media available, all
come into play seeking knowledge/assistance/learning inside or
outside the organization.

Rob Cross talks abut several factors that are necessary to
effectively transfer knowledge between people.
1) I must be aware of what you know -- here an updated data base can
help.
2) I must have access to you. I must know you, or have the
opportunity to be introduced to you. You must be available.
3) I must feel comfortable with you, and you with me... there must be
some level of trust
4) We must both have the time, energy and commitment to see this
through. Most knowledge transfer is not: "The answer is 42."

Valdis

On Jul 27, 2007, at 9:41 AM, Matt Moore wrote:

> I have seen these databases work well where people's
> jobs depend on them - e.g. as resource management
> tools for staff in a consulting organisation - having
> up-to-date details helps you get resourced onto work
> and clients often ask for recent CVs. Even then, some
> consultants claimed never to have got work through
> standard resource mgt but always through their own
> contacts.
>
> I think these systems work well with clearly defined &
> easily assessed skill sets that are strongly aligned
> to the work that people actually do.
>
> The problems arise when they move outside those narrow
> parameters (as many of them do) into less-charted
> waters. And let's not even get into the difference
> between the ability to identify expertise, accessing
> it and utilising it.



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